…Spent N1.045bn on coronavirus fight
Newly established interim management committee (IMC) of Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), inaugurated barely weeks back to go through the books and clean the commission’s Augean stables, having operated for two decades with a less-than salutary performance, has itself fallen into a N5.55 billion contracts controversy even before its activities were to come under public assessment.
The IMC headed by Kemebradikumo Pondei, a professor of microbiology, is now struggling to extricate itself from wide criticisms being levelled against it, if truly it has the moral capacity to undertake the arduous task of ‘forensic audit’ of a vilified government quango.
The IMC says it, vehemently, didn’t pay out anything more than N4 billion in contracts for procurement of personal protective equipment (PPEs) for fight against the novel coronavirus pandemic, and supply of kits and drugs for prevention of lassa fever outbreak in parts of the country late last year.
“We wish to unequivocally deny that contract,” the management committee claimed. It described the document as “simply fake or at best unauthorised.”
It said letters for all contracts awarded by NDDC are signed by the executive director, projects on the authority of the acting managing director who is the chief accounting officer of the Commission. “Neither of the officials is aware of the contract letter,” the IMC said.
Sounding loud with a rebuttal: “there is no fraud at NDDC,” the IMC produced a list of its expenditures on COVID-19 and Lassa fever since February last year, which amounted to N775 million to assist the nine NDDC member-states in fight against COVID-19; another N270 million disbursed as palliatives to youths, women and physically challenged persons in 27 senatorial districts of the oil states.
Other expenditures of the IMC are: N903 million for a contract for the procurement of 21,000 Lassa fever prevention kits for the region. 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. It said, the last contract for Lassa fever was awarded on April 16, 2019 at 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,” the interim management committee claimed.
It also said that it has just secured presidential approval for an undisclosed amount to be spent in assisting the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) in the supply of kits and building of isolation centres across the nine NDDC states.
A letter is now in circulation purporting to be issued by NDDC’s director of procurements, awarding a contract of N5.55 billion for the procurement of PPEs and other kits to fight COVID-19 spread in Nigeria, which as at Sunday, 26 April, has over 1,182 cases of the novel virus in 29 states, with 222 recoveries and 35 deaths.
The IMC said it is determined to chart a new course for the NDDC; hence it was duty bound to respond to series of inquiries into its activities barely weeks into the start of its operations at the commission.
It claimed that there had been an upsurge in attacks on the Commission, the IMC and the Minister of the Niger Delta Affairs since the launch of a forensic audit into the affairs of the commission; adding that the attacks are meant to distract the commission from the task of holding those who looted our commonwealth to account. And that the minister and the IMC are determined to see through the audit.