Group known as the Niger Delta Renaissance Coalition, has said that the forensic audit of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, should not stop board inauguration.
The group disclosed this in a statement by its National Chairman, Comrade Damian Nwikinaka, following the submission of Akpabio, that July 2021 ending would be the deadline for the conclusion of the ongoing forensic audit of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, ordered by President Muhammadu Buhari.
According to him: “It is the considered position of President Muhammadu Buhari that for us to have a properly constituted board for the NDDC, we should first take a look at what has happened to the Commission since inception.
“There was nothing our detractors have not done to stop the forensic audit and this has led some people to be left wondering if the forensic audit has been aborted.
“The President is resolute that he cannot leave the Niger Delta and the NDDC the way he met it. As a demonstration of this commitment, he is funding the forensic audit from the budget of the Presidency. The security component of the audit exercise is very important because of the safety issues in the Niger Delta region.
“We decided to start the audit exercise from the NDDC headquarters, while security arrangements were being firmed up. The field visit is a critical next step, after which we go into the office to produce the reports”.
Reacting to this, the Niger Delta Renaissance Coalition, described the latest development as an insult to good governance.
According to the group: “We consider this an insult to good governance and the Niger Delta people, that an external audit is not only taking place for over a year and a half now but that a development agency for the region is being run haphazardly, without a Governing Board as provided for in its Establishment Act, at the whims and caprices of Akpabio.
“Akpabio has turned the whole forensic audit exercise into a circus where the process is not only being micromanaged, but that the NDDC is being run by the minister’s handpicked proxies. Akpabio has used the excuse of the forensic audit to stop the Governing Board from being put in place. Now, he shifts the termination date of the forensic audit under spurious excuses to justify running the agency like his personal fiefdom.
“When he sold the idea of an Interim Management for the NDDC in October 2019, even after the names of the Governing Board had been sent by the President to the Senate for statutory screening, which persons the Senate subsequently screened and confirmed, Akpabio said the Interim Management Committee will only stay in office for six months to supervise the audit after which the Board will be inaugurated. Even then, we made the case that this was an unheard-of practice anywhere in the world, even Nigeria, where it is made to look as if having a legal Governing Board in place and an external audit are mutually exclusive. It was even pointed out by legal luminaries that the interim arrangement was patently illegal.
“By the time the expected deadline of March 2020 for the submission of the audit report was near, the then Acting Managing Director Ms Joi Nunieh was sack. Akpabio appointed a new Acting Managing Director, Prof Pondei who was his classmate at FGC Port Harcourt, and extended the stay of this IMC to December 2020, by which time he said the audit will be concluded and the Board put in place. Just when that was drawing near, he sacked the Interim Management Committee and appointed his personal aide, Mr Effiong Okon Akwa, as Interim Sole Administrator with a promised forensic audit completion date of March 2021.
“ Akpabio is now hinting that a ‘field’ forensic audit will commence and end in 3-4 months before the Board is put in place. So what have the auditors been doing for over a year? This is indeed a most ludicrous capture of an agency of government by an individual.
“What Niger Deltans want to know is why the President and the Presidency will keep quiet while the NDDC is run in violation of the law and common sense. How an agency of government is being run by the minister’s proxies under the guise of an audit that has lasted for over one and a half years is simply inexplicable but this is what Buhari has permitted under his watch.
“Akpabio has virtually administered the NDDC directly using his proxies as Interim Managements since October 2019 (over 18 months). During this period billions have been spent by the Interim Managements on several items as evidenced by whistleblowers and National Assembly investigations. Such waste and financial recklessness should never have happened if the right was done.
“We have pointed out previously that Akpabio has only employed the forensic audit as an excuse to directly run the NDDC using his proxies, because this is the first time in any public institution in this country that the external audit is being teleguided by the Minister with public relations appearances by the so-called auditors at the drop of a hat.
“Last Friday in Uyo, the so-called auditors were there to give a helping hand to the minister. Previously, at various times last year, he held similar inauguration ceremonies for these same auditors in Abuja and Portharcourt ( to buttress the fact that he is using them). Audits have been done in Nigeria previously, creditably and independently, such as the NNPC audit, which was carried out by Price Waterhouse a few years back while the legitimate Board and management were still in place. The board and management of the NNPC were not set aside for an IMC in order to do the audit.
“Similarly, when in 2016 the current selfsame Buhari Administration audited all revenue agencies, including the NNPC, NPA, FIRS and others, it did not set aside the Governing Boards.
“This is the first time an external audit has been employed as an excuse to suspend the law governing a public institution. Sadly, President Buhari had decided to hands off the NDDC and so the result is what we see today.
“The NDDC has not undertaken any development project over the last two years in the Niger Delta states, as attested to by the governors and the people, yet it has spent hundreds of billions of naira. This is unacceptable!
“President Buhari must save whatever is left of the NDDC now. Niger Delta leaders and people are unanimous in our position that the Governing Board of the NDDC should be put in place without further delay to provide for full and adequate representation of all stakeholders in the Management as provided for in the law setting up the Commission.
“Mr President needs to put in place the substantive Governing Board to return the agency to the path of law, broad representation, checks and balances, probity, equity and accountability to the Niger Delta people.”
Vanguard News Nigeria
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