By Ebi Perekeme
The forensic audit of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, was said to be aimed at restoring sanity and prudence in the management of the Commission, and would ensure the rapid development of the Niger Delta region.
Speaking on Wednesday, April 22, in a press release by Charles Obi Odili, Director, Corporate Affairs, while handing over the preliminary report and documents of the verification exercise to the lead consultants of the audit, Olumuyiwa Basiru & Co., at the NDDC headquarters in Port Harcourt, the Acting Managing Director, Professor Kemebradikumo Pondei, disclosed that over 8,000 projects were captured throughout the nine states.
The NDDC Chief Executive Officer said that the report, containing contract documents covering projects captured during the NDDC’s verification exercise, marked the take-off of the critical next phase of the forensic audit. Present at the ceremony were the Acting Executive Director, Finance and Administration, Chief Ibanga Bassey Etang and the Acting Executive Director Projects, Dr Cairo Ojougboh.
Pondei noted that one of the key mandates given to the Interim Management Committee, IMC, was to prepare the grounds for the Forensic Audit of the activities of the Commission for the period 2001 to 2019.
He said: “Between January 20th and February 7th 2020, the Commission (under the previous Interim Management Committee) carried out a verification exercise in which contractors with claims of genuine contractual relationship with the NDDC were invited to come with relevant documents supporting their claims, for verification.
“In all, over 8,000 projects were captured during the periods of the capturing/verification exercise and documents submitted were captured against pre-defined criteria on a data sheet per project (Contract Verification Checklist) which were thereafter uploaded on the Commission’s server and cloud-based system.”
The NDDC boss thanked President Buhari for listening to the pleas of governors of the Niger Delta states and other stakeholders to conduct a forensic audit on the commission, noting: “This audit is not for auditing sake. It is an exercise which will change the trajectory of the region. It is an objective undertaking to account for the resources available to the Commission over the years.”
“It will enable us bring to account those who misappropriated the commonwealth. It will equip us with the relevant insight to institute procedures and processes to guarantee that the Commission realizes the vision of its founders. That vision can be interpreted as the rapid development of the Niger Delta to create an economy that will serve the needs of its people long after the oil resources are gone.”
Pondei said: “Since the forensic audit was announced, the attacks on the interim management committee as the Hon Minister has reached fever pitch. 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.
“We wish to commend the Minister of the Niger Delta Affairs and Chairman of the Presidential Monitoring Committee on the Commission, Senator Godswill Akpabio, for his doggedness and determination to bring this exercise to light. His uncommon passion for the development of the region is already changing the narrative of attitude on the part of other stakeholders.”
Responding, the Principal Partner and Lead Consultant for the forensic audit, Mr Kabiru Ahmed, lamented that the amount of resources poured in to the NDDC over the years did not match the development recorded over the period.
He said: “Hopefully after the exercise, a new chapter would be opened for the region’s rapid economic development, as well as reversing the failures recorded in order to recover these resources recoverable and plug the gaps and stop the waste that is keeping the region under developed.
“The forensic audit, therefore, should be seen as an opportunity and not a witch-hunt, it is an important process that will apart from righting the wrongs that kept the region in penury and under development, it will at the end provide a strong base upon which a new Niger delta development commission will be built.”
He said that work on the project commenced since January 2020, stating: “It is our belief that at the end of this forensic audit exercise in nine months’ time, a new development agency will eventually emerge. This is the vision and mission of the forensic audit exercise. It is a rescue mission that must be allowed to succeed for the betterment of the good people of the Niger delta region.”
Speaking on the work plan for the forensic audit, the Managing Partner of the lead Consultants, Mr Olumuyiwa Basiru, said that the activities would be carried out in two parts with several stages. He said that the final report would be submitted by the lead consultant to Mr. President, through the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs in January 2021.