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NDDC denies allegations of fresh fraud, defends Pondei



The management of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) has reacted to reports that fresh financial infractions have been uncovered at the commission.

The NDDC, in a statement on Monday by its Director of Corporate Services, Charles Odilli, said the reports were false and a mere rehash of allegations which led the National Assembly, on May 5, to order a probe of the administration of Kemebradikumo Pondei, the acting Managing Director at the Commission.

The NDDC has been in the eye of the storm lately, with accusations and counter accusations bothering corruption and fraudulent practices.

This led the Senate and the House of Representatives to embark on probes into the allegations of fraud at the commission, recommending amongst other things, the sack of the Interim Management Committee (IMC) at the commission; refund of over N4 billion spent outside of budgetary provisions by the IMC and the removal of the agency from the Niger Delta Affairs to the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (OSGF) for supervision.

The NDDC management, in the statement, however defended the Acting MD, Prof. Pondei, insisting that he runs a transparent administration since he assumed the leadership of the commission.

In the statement titled ‘Let NDDC Serve the People of the Niger Delta’, the interventionist agency said: “Less than two weeks after an exhaustive and exhausting public hearings by both chambers of the National Assembly, another round of false reports have surfaced in the media alleging all manners of improprieties by the management of the Niger Delta Development Commission.

“One of the reports alleges that a fresh massive fraud has been uncovered in the Commission. Reading through the story, there is no evidence of fraud in the commission. The report is merely a rehash of the allegations which led the National Assembly, on May 5, to order a probe of the 74 day administration of Prof Kemebradikumo Pondei at the Commission.

Read also: NDDC: Niger Delta group asks Buhari to stop delaying Akpabio, Pondei’s sack

“Lest we forget, that probe was set up to uncover the sum of N40 billion missing from the Commission. In order to allay the fears of our stakeholders, we took the unusual step of publishing the list of payments made by the Commission since Pondei came into office. With that publication, the rug was pulled from the feet of our accusers.

“When the hearings proper started, there was no talk of the missing N40 billion any more. It was now about financial recklessness. As we pointed out in an earlier release, the issue of missing money is one needing objective proof. The issue of financial recklessness is a matter of subjective judgment. The reports of the hearings have been submitted and it is clear there was no money missing at the Commission.

“The response of the Commission to the new reports is that there is no fraud at the Niger Delta Development Commission. Prof Pondei has run a very transparent administration and this transparency is now apparent after the searchlight put on his administration in the past one month.

“Another report rehashed the claim of the Contractors Association that the management demands between 20 per cent and 30 per cent kickback before paying contractors. We wish to state categorically that this is false. This allegation was made at the hearing of the Ad hoc Senate Committee which probed the affairs of the Commission.

“The management of NDDC was at the hearing when the allegation was made and challenged the man who did so for evidence. There was no single case that he could allude to. Without any evidence, the allegation became so outlandish that not even a single newspaper reported it the following day. Prof Pondei famously said that if any contractor can prove he paid him any money, he would resign. Four weeks since that challenge was thrown on July 9, no one has come out with any proof. It is instructive that the Senate report did not adopt the allegation as valid. It beats the imagination why any newspaper will report a baseless claim, four weeks after it was made and for which no one can prove. The reporter claimed to have lifted the report from the report of the Senate Committee. We need to know why he did not report it four weeks ago when he was at the hearing.

“We suspect that after the scheming of the past four weeks failed to achieve the purpose of sacking the management and scuttling the work on the forensic audit exercise, the schemers are out again to heat up the polity. The point they miss is that the forensic audit exercise is a project of Mr President. Hounding and haunting an innocent academic who is merely on a national assignment will not scuttle the audit.

“We appeal to those who are putting their personal interests over and above that of the people of the Niger Delta to have a rethink, pull back and allow the Commission the space to serve the people of the region.”

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