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NEW TWIST IN NDDC CONTRACTS: Commission asks Nunieh, Nwaoboshi to refund N3.5bn





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`NDDC yet to pay contractors that handled road projects’-Orji Kalu…Pondei, Ag MD petitions IGP over controversial N2.552 billion contracts for desks, chairs

…I challenge NDDC to sue me, if… – Nwaoboshi

…Nunieh committed no fraud—Source

By Emma Amaize,Regional Editor, South-South

THE Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, has turned  the heat on its former acting Managing Director, Dr. Joi Nunieh and Chairman, Senate Committee on Niger-Delta, Senator Peter Nwaoboshi, asking them to refund N1.96 billion and N2.552 billion respectively, a total of over N3.5 billion.

NDDC’s Director, Legal Services, Peter Clever Okoro Esq. in the July 28 letter to Dr. Nunieh, giving her seven days to refund N1.96 billion in compliance with the order of Senate of Nigeria, noted that she approved payments of the money for Lassa fever kits against established due process principles and process and advice by the director, education, health and social services and director, planning.

On the part of Senator Nwaoboshi, Okoro Esq said the N2.552, 305.600 was money received for contracts for the production of plastic desks and chairs for primary and secondary schools in the Niger Delta region, which were not executed.

THE Senate, which upheld the report of its Ad hoc Committee set up to investigate alleged financial recklessness of the Interim Management committee, IMC, of NDDC, last month,    had asked  Professor Daniel Keme Pondei-led IMC to refund N4.932 billion to the account of the NDDC.

Meanwhile, the Inspector General of Police has ordered investigation into the N2.552 billion contracts for desks and chairs, following a petition to the Inspector General of Police by NDDC.

Acting Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, CEO, NDDC, Prof Kemebradikumo Pondei, had reportedly forwarded documents to the police chief in respect of on-going investigations on the matter.

Saturday Vanguard  efforts to reach Nunieh on Thursday and Friday were unsuccessful, but a source close to her denied any complicity on her part.   Senator Nwaoboshi, who, again, denied receiving contract from the interventionist agency, said he was already in court with NDDC, describing the letter as a diversionary ploy.

NDDC writes Nunieh, demands N1.96bn

Okoro, in the letter to Nunieh, entitled “Demand for the refund of N1.96 billion to the Niger Delta Development Commission” obtained by Saturday Vanguard, said: “You are invited to recall the memo in respect of payment for requests for Lassa fever kits dated January 17, 2020 from the Director, Education, Health and Social Services to you as Ag.MD/CEO of the Commission at the material time.”

“The said memo and the minute by the Director, Planning specifically advised that the programme should not be paid for as it was not captured in the commission’s budget. The directors further advised that the programme be included in the proposed 2020 budget to bring it within the ambits of the legal requirements.

“Contrary to the advice by the directors and against established due process principles and practice, you directed that the said payments amounting to N1.96 billion be made.

“I have been directed to demand and I do hereby demand that you pay  N1.96 billion within seven days of this letter to the account of the commission in compliance with the order of the Senate of Nigeria,”Okoro stated in the letter.

Nunieh, while speaking to journalists after the final session of the Senate Ad hoc Committee, last month, had stated that no payment was made by the NDDC under her watch without the knowledge of Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio.

According to her, only N8billion was expended by the agency from     October 29, 2019 to May 31, 2020, when she held sway contrary to the figure being bandied around.

The Chairman of the Senate Adhoc Committee, Senator     Olubunmi Adetunmbi, had said that based on record supplied to the panel by the IMC, the agency had so far spent N81.5billion.

He added that of the amount, the IMC, led by Nunieh, between October 2019 and February 18, 2020, spent a total of N22.5billion, while the current one, led by Professor Kemebradikumo Pondei, has so far spent N59.1billion.

But Nunieh denied spending such huge sum. The ex-acting MD of the NDDC further alleged that the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs frustrated her efforts during her tenure before she was finally removed from office.

  Nwaoboshi gets 2-wks to refund N2.552 billion

In the July 5,letter to Nwaoboshi asking him to refund N2.552 billion within two weeks, Okoro said: “That sometime in 2017, the Commission awarded contracts to certain companies for the production of desks and chairs for primary and secondary schools in the Niger Delta region under the 2016 budget of the commission. The list of the companies is attached as Annexure ‘A’. The total value of the  said contracts was

N2.552.305, 600.OO (Two billion, five hundred and fifty two million, three hundred and five thousand and six hundred Naira).”

“That the contracts were in furtherance of the commission’s education sector mandate as catalyst for the improvement of classroom and learning conditions in the Niger Delta region.

“That instead of supplying the chairs and desks to the Commission’s warehouse in Port Harcourt, or to any of the NDDC  offices in the nine Niger Delta states, the items were supplied to a warehouse described as Akuede Akwis’ located at Benin Expressway, Okpanam, before Wichetech Aluminum Company.

“That the 2019 budget of the commission also contains the following heads: a.) Provisions and supply of plastic chairs and desks for primary and secondary schools in Delta North Senatorial District (Lots 1-15) for  (Serial No. 21); b.) NDDC—Provisions and supply of plastic chairs and desks for primary and secondary schools in Delta North Senatorial District (Lots 1-20) for  (Serial No. 33); Production and distribution of desks and benches in selected schools in the Niger Delta Region for     (Serial No. 396).

“That despite having fully paid for the 2017 contracts for the production of chairs and desks, the items have not been supplied to the commission. The result is that the  commission and the Niger Delta region have been deprived of the use of the desks and chairs.

“That I have been further directed to demand that you refund N2,552,305,600.000 (Two billion, five hundred and fifty two million, three hundred and five thousand and six hundred Naira) to the commission being the contract sums paid in respect of the said contracts within 14 days of this letter,” he said.

Contractor has no link with Nwaoboshi—SPON

Senator Peter Nwaoboshi Media Team, SPON,in a quick response, yesterday morning, said: “Our attention has been drawn to the purported subject matter above, credited to one Peter Claver Okoro, Esq, posing as the Director, Legal Services of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), and we make bold to state the following:“That the purported matter is subjudice as it is already before two law courts of competent jurisdiction in Nigeria, wherein distinguished Senator Peter Nwaoboshi sued the NDDC, Mr Charles Odili and relevant newspapers for defamation of character. “The purported letter addressed to the distinguished Senator Peter Nwaoboshi was written on July 5,2020 and as at today, August 7, 2020, the said letter has not reached Senator Peter Nwaoboshi—either in person or office or by substitution.

“The purported letter, unlike any formal letter emanating from a recognized government Ministry, Agency or Department is not signed, therefore, can easily be denied.

“Nowhere in the contents of the purported letter was it stated that the contractor is directly linked to distinguished Senator Peter Nwaoboshi.

“Nowhere in the purported letter was it stated that the warehouse, where the plastic chairs were domiciled belongs to distinguished Senator Peter Nwaoboshi.

“The purported letter is absolutely fake as it was not conveyed through the official letter-headed paper of the NDDC—apparently for fear of being sued for divulgence of fake information to the general public.

“We are also not ruling out media urchins, who may have been recruited by the desperate members of the IMC of NDDC in an attempt to divert public attention from the humongous corruption charges hanging on their necks.

“Finally, we have always maintained that the IMC of NDDC are bunch of confused men without vision or direction. Initially, the alleged figure was pegged at N3.7 billion only for the confused IMC team to now come up with a totally different figure of N2.5 billion. Nigerians and the entire world could see the charades clearly. Even through the eyes of Steve Wonder!

“However, if the IMC of NDDC feel they truly have a genuine case against Senator Peter Nwaoboshi as contained in the purported letter, we are challenging them to go to the law court or make use of every legal procedure available to them,” SPON stated.

Findings by Saturday Vanguard, however, showed that there was incongruity in the signature of NDDC legal adviser, Peter Okoro Esq. in the two separate letters to Dr. Nunieh and Senator Nwaoboshi.

Okoro in the letter addressed to Nwaoboshi did not also directly mention that the contracts were awarded to him.

Senator Nwaoboshi, who spoke to Saturday Vanguard, challenged NDDC to go to court if it awarded any contract to him and they were not executed, saying: “All what you are seeing are diversionary tactics by the Commission.

Pondei  avails police contract documents   

NDDC MD, Pondei in a letter dated July 29 to the Inspector General of Police, however,said:“The commission has already forwarded some documents to you in assisting with your investigations.

‘In addition to the documents  given to your team, I hereby forward the attached documents to you.

“In or about 2017, the commission awarded contracts to certain companies for the production of desks and chairs for primary and secondary schools in the Niger Delta region. The list of the companies is attached.

“The contracts were awarded in furtherance of the commission’s  education sector mandate as catalyst for the improvement of classroom and learning conditions in the Niger Delta region.

“Instead of supplying the chairs and desks to the Commission’s warehouse in Port Harcourt or to any of the NDDC offices in the  nine Niger Delta states, the contractors supplied them to a warehouse described as Akuede Akwis, Benin Expressway, Okpanam, before Wichetech. The warehouse is located in Delta State and has no relationship with the commission. Waybills evidencing delivery of the desks and chairs at the said warehouse are hereby attached.

“Despite having been fully paid for the contracts, the contractors and the owner of the warehouse have refused to release the chairs and desks to the commission.

“The resultant effect is that the commission and Niger Delta region have been deprived of the use of the desks and chairs and neither have the contractors refunded the monies paid on the items to the commission as no money had been received.

“It is on the strength of the foregoing that the NDDC invites you to take a look at the facts culminating in this petition,” Prof Pondei stated.

Vanguard

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Chuka (Webby) Aniemeka

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