President Muhammadu Buhari has vowed that the federal government will take necessary measures to recover the over N6 trillion allegedly misappropriated in the running of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) between 2000 and 2019.
To this end, the president has directed that the report of the forensic audit on the NDDC be forwarded to the Federal Ministry of Justice for necessary action.
The president who spoke shortly after he received the Forensic Audit Report from the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, claimed that there had been evidence of substantial compromise in the execution of 13,777 as well as the existence of, “multitude of NDDC’s bank accounts amounting to 362” which lacked proper reconciliation of accounts.
The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami, who received the report on behalf of the president, therefore assured that the report would be critically analysed for necessary action and implementation.
Buhari had in October 2019, ordered a holistic forensic audit on the activities of the NDDC from when it was established till August 2019, in response to the yearnings of the people to make the commission more effective and result oriented.
According to the president, there was nothing tangible on ground to show in the region for the huge funds committed over the years through the Commission, which many had described as a conduit pipe for politicians in siphoning trillions of naira.
The president noted that his administration was however concerned about the colossal loss occasioned by uncompleted and unverified development projects in the region, in spite of the huge resources made available to uplift the living standard of the citizens, hence the forensic audit of the Commission.
According to him, “It is on record that between 2001 and 2019, the federal government has approved N3, 375, 735,776,794.93 as budgetary allocation and N2,420,948,894,191 as Income from Statutory and Non Statutory Sources, which brings the total figure to the sum of approximately N6 trillion given to the NDDC.
“It is evident that considerable resources have been channeled by the federal government to the development of the Niger Delta from 2001 to 2019. It is therefore important for the federal government and the public to be properly informed of what has been spent and how that has been spent.
“The essence of the forensic audit is to ensure probity and accountability in the use of public funds. It is against this background that the federal government will without hesitation strategically implement all aspects of the audit exercise that will promote probity and greater prosperity for the Niger Delta Region and Nigeria as whole,” he added.
Specifically, Buhari disclosed that his administration would apply the law to remedy the deficiencies outlined in the audit report as appropriate.
“This will include but not limited to initiation of criminal investigations, prosecution, recovery of funds not properly utilised for the public purposes for which they were meant for review of the laws to reposition and restructure the NDDC for the efficiency of better service delivery amongst others. In all these instances of actions, legal due processes will strictly be complied with,” he added.
Earlier, the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, while submitting the report stated that the exercise was not done to witch-hunt anyone, but to ensure that the huge sums of funds committed to the area yearly are justified.
He lamented that the region had remained backwards since 1958 in spite of successive governments’ efforts through the creation of various interventionist programmes and projects.
According to him, the report of the audit committee showed that their were over 13,000 abandoned projects in the Niger Delta, adding that even before the submission of the report some contractors have returned to site on their own and completed about 77 road projects. According to Akpabio, the name and identity of a vast number of beneficiary companies were also captured in the report.
“Via Field Verification, the Forensic Auditors established the exact status of all contracts for projects and programmes in all constituent states during the period under review classified into completed, ongoing, abandoned, terminated, taken-over and non-existent, ” he declared
The Minister disclosed that the auditors also focused on funding gaps, irregularities, mismanagement and due process violations/conflicts of interest.
He added: “A Personnel Audit and Review of the governance and organisational structure of NDDC was also carried out. An operational guideline/manual and a fit-for-purpose organogram that would aid the transformation of NDDC to a globally competitive development agency has been developed as well.
“Available financial records of the commission were analysed with the aim of establishing the total amount of funds received by the Commission from all sources, both statutory and non-statutory and the total funds and other resources paid to contractors as well as the total amount outstanding as debts with regards to such projects within the period under reference.
“The auditors have also provided policy recommendations, in terms of measures that should be taken to ensure the prevention of such irregularities and mismanagement, going forward.”
The Lead Forensic Auditor, Alhaji Kabir Ahmed, in a brief overview of the report, said that the team recommended managerial as well as structural changes, chief of which was the downsizing of the NDDC’s board.
He also said to reduce cost, the team recommended that members of the Board should henceforth be appointed on part time basis.
While disclosing that oil companies in the country were still in default of their contributions to the Commission, Ahmed recommended that the government should withdraw the licence of any oil company that defaults for a period of three years.
The report also recommended the deduction of 50 per cent ecological fund at source, which should be paid to the Commission because both the federal and state governments had failed to make payments to the Commission.
In addition, the auditors recommended as a measure of effective revenue collections, the Federal Inland Revenue Services should collect funds on behalf of NDDC from oil companies in the country. The report further called on the government to recover from contractors and former and present staff of the NDDC, who have been indicted for short changing the NDDC.
Nseobong Okon-Ekong in Lagos and Alex Enumah in Abuja