The Niger Delta Development Commission has been inundated with enquiries on many negative reports in online publications alleging acts of impropriety on the part of the commission.
Given the extent of public interest and the determination of the Interim Management Committee to chart a new course for the commission, we feel duty bound to respond as follows:
1. COVID 19 Contract
The online publications are circulating a letter purportedly issued by the Director of Procurement awarding a contract of N5.55 billion for the procurement of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) and other kits to fight the spread of COVID 19 in the Niger Delta region. We wish to unequivocally deny that contract. The document is simply fake or at best unauthorised. The letters for all contracts awarded by the Commission are signed by the Executive Director, Projects on the authority of the Ag Managing Director who is the chief accounting officer of the Commission. Neither of the officials is aware of the contract letter. It is inconceivable that a contract and of such magnitude could be awarded otherwise. The Commission has launched an internal investigation into how such a letter came to be issued and on what authority.
For the purpose of transparency, we wish to confirm that the Commission has just secured presidential approval to intervene by assisting NCDC in the supply of kits and the building of isolation centres in the nine Niger Delta states.
Also, the Commission has disbursed N775m to assist the 9 Niger Delta States fight the plague. We have also disbursed N270 million as palliatives to the youths, women and the physically challenged in the 27 senatorial districts of the region.
2. Lassa Fever
There are claims that the present management has paid out huge sums for contracts to supply kits and drugs for the prevention of Lassa Fever. We wish to state that this present management has not awarded any Lassa fever contract. From the records, the Commission awarded three contracts for intervention against the Lassa Fever scourge and all these took place in 2019, at least one year before the present management came into office. For the purpose of transparency, these contracts are as follows:
In early 2019, there was an outbreak of Lassa Fever in Ondo and Edo states, which overwhelmed the capacity of the state governments to cope. The governor of Ondo State made a request to the Commission for intervention. As a result, the then management, headed by Prof Nelson Braimbaifa on 20th February 2019 awarded a contract for the procurement of 21,000 Lassa Fever prevention kits for the region in the sum of N903 million. The items were supplied and distributed. The contractor was duly paid. As the scourge persisted, there was need for further intervention. Another 1,000 protective kits were ordered for N1,092,283,500. This contract was awarded on March 11, 2019. The last contract for Lassa Fever was awarded on April 16, 2019 in the sum of N2,425,242,248. All the kits were supplied and distributed to the nine states. As at date, the Commission is yet to pay for this last contract. Payments had been suspended on ministerial order due to the need for verification of past contracts. At no time did the IMC pay out more than N4 billion for Lassa Fever contracts as alleged.
Having provided the facts, the Commission also wishes to state as follows:
We has noticed an upsurge in attacks on the Commission, the Interim Management Committee and the Honourable Minister of the Niger Delta Affairs since the launch of a forensic audit into the affairs of the commission. This attacks are meant to distract the commission from the task of holding those who looted the commonwealth to account. The Honourable Minister and the Interim Management Committee are determined to see through this audit. On Wednesday, April 22 when the relevant documents were handed over to the lead consultant for the forensic audit, the Ag Managing Director, Prof Kemebradikumo Pondei warned that this exercise cannot be truncated. To quote him: ‘Those who took part in the grand conspiracy to loot the commonwealth are jittery that their misdeeds will come to light. We wish we could sympathise with them. But it could have occurred to them that a day of reckoning will come. The fear of the impunity of their past misdeeds being brought to light is causing panic. In fact, the vultures are shivering. Let us place on record that no amount of intimidation, campaign of falsehood and ‘breakdancing’ will abort this exercise.’
The public should be prepared for more of these attacks against the commission. It is important to point out that most of the attacks use online publications, with no known addresses or physical assets, which can be sued for defamation of character by the officials they are clearly libelling. The mainstream media with standards have not joined this jaundiced plot.
The Commission also wish to warn those agents of darkness from the Niger Delta who are hell bent on destroying every good thing in the region to change course. The essence of the present IMC and the forensic audit ordered by President Muhammadu Buhari are to reposition the Commission to make it fit for purpose. Anyone with any evidence of wrong doing should reach out to the IMC or the auditors. The forensic auditors should be allowed to complete their assignment so those who failed the region can be held to account.
It is also clear that people who have political agenda against the Honourable Minister of Niger Delta Affairs are also seeing the Commission as a fair game. It is imperative to say that the commission is an agency for the good of the Niger Delta region. The greatest disservice that can be done is for political gladiators of today to make the commission a collateral damage in their contest for power and influence. Tomorrow will come. Besides, the Hon Minister’s uncommon passion for a new Niger Delta should be applauded and not attacked.