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Group Petitions Buhari, EFCC, Alleges N700 Billion Rip-off at NDDC




Group Petitions Buhari, EFCC, Alleges N700 Billion Rip-off at NDDC

Aggrieved social formations in the Niger Delta, Nigeria’s main oil and gas basin, have started to call for the heads of public officials allegedly involved in plundering the oil region’s interventionist agency, Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).

The size of looting in the supposed development commission is put at N700 billion.

Apparently scandalized by the huge amount, a transparency advocacy group, Young Professionals for Peace, Transparency and Development (YPPTD) has called on President Muhammadu Buhari and the Chairman of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Abdulrasheed Bawa, to swing into action immediately.

The group wants President Buhari to order EFCC to carry out a thorough probe into the alleged monumental corruption at NDDC to the tune of N700 billion.

Though there is an audit report available to the authorities on the plundering of the commission, the group says they are looking forward to the arrest and prosecution of the immediate past Niger Delta Affairs Minister, Godswill Akpabio, who is battling for the All Progressives Congress’ (APC) 2023 presidential ticket.

They also want the Interim Administrator of the commission, Effiong Okon Akwa, to be picked up too, for allegedly working for the interest of the presidential aspirant.

Besides arresting the NDDC chief, they also want President Buhari to fire him as the interim administrator of the interventionist agency, citing the expiration of the three months tenure and lack of renewal and for the immediate setting up of a substantive Board for the commission.

In a petition to President Buhari and the EFCC boss, the group alleged that the N700 billion fraud was perpetrated under various systems and passed through conduit pipes including the allegation by the Ijaw Youths Council (IYC), linking Akpabio in connivance with others to acts of forgery and illegal payment of N20 billion to ghost contractors for the fictitious contracts of distilling purportedly awarded by NDDC.

IYC, according to them, provided evidence of the alleged sleazy process where the signatures of a former Acting Managing Director of NDDC, Prof Nelson and former Executive Director (Projects) Samuel Ajugbe, were forged in order to pay the ghost contractors between N300 million and N400 million in the last three months.

Continuing, they claimed Akwa ‘’illegally’’ signed payments and documents at NDDC because the last extension of his appointment as interim administrator, expired about a year ago, adding, ‘’Akwa has no constitutional authority to remain at NDDC where he continues to sign and make alleged fraudulent payments to their cronies. He should be removed immediately.

“We have it on good authority that most of the fraud perpetrated at NDDC by Akpabio and Akwa were done through a corrupt process of fictitious payments to ghost contractors and the monies end up in the accounts of Burea De Change operators in Lagos and Abuja. This was corroborated by the Ijaw Youths Council where they described the allege pattern of fraud.

“It was discovered that out of the over N20 billion paid out illegally by NDDC, 60 percent is going back to Abuja through the bureau de change in order to service the pockets of non-Niger Delta political leaders that will facilitate his presidential ambition.

‘’While he has failed to pay genuine indigenous contractors that have finished their projects awarded by the Commission, he is rather hiring thugs to chase away protesting contractors who are demanding for their payments”.

They are equally pressing President Buhari to take a second review of the forensic audit ordered to review the accounts of NDDC, alleging that the forensic audit has been tampered with and used as a negotiating wand to exonerate some members of APC, National Assembly members and others to delay and sabotage the appointment of substantive NDDC board.

“There is a high level of suffering among the people of the Niger Delta due to lack of development despite the trillions of naira that has been deplored into the NDDC. Hundreds of petitions have been submitted to the EFCC against Akpabio and Akwa, therefore in the interest of Justice and Equity, the EFCC should arrest and prosecute Akpabio and Akwa over the alleged N700 billion fraud in line with the anti-corruption laws.

“We call on the commission to identify corrupt officials and punish them. We also expect the probe to engender radical restructuring of the country’s civil service with a view to freeing it from the fetters of graft and ineptitude that diminish administrative efficiency. NDDC under the supervision of Akpabio has become very predictable in its corrupt ways.

“The imposition of Akwa as interim administrator is not only illegal but an affront to the Niger Delta people. We want to state categorically that we and all progressive organizations are opposed to this thoughtless imposition in yet a further flagrant disobedience of the NDDC Act, which spells out the manner of appointing the commission’s executive management.

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“We call on Mr. President and his advisers not to take the patience of the Niger Delta people for granted with the continued flagrant disregard for the NDDC Act. They should reverse this illegal appointment and follow the guidelines on appointment of the executive management of the NDDC as spelt out in the law setting up the commission”, the group said.