The Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, says he does not have knowledge of any contract allegedly awarded to the Chairman, House of Representatives Committees on Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo.
At the investigative hearing on the alleged N40 billion irregular expenditure in the NDDC, Akpabio said that he was yet to see contract documents made to Tunji-Ojo’s company.
“I am not sure if NDDC awarded contract to the Chairman, House of Representatives Committee, Rep. Olubumi Tunji-Ojo.
“For me to say that, I need to see that contracts were awarded to his company; may be the contract was awarded in the area where he comes from in Ondo,” he said.
Tunji-Ojo was accused of executing contracts by the Interim Management Committee of the NDDC.
As a result of the allegation, Tunji-Ojo stepped aside as chairman of the committee to allow for a free and fair hearing and not to be a judge in his own case.
The acting Managing Director of NDDC, Prof. Kemebradikumo Pondei, had accused Tunji-Ojo of corrupt practices in the commission.
Pondei had earlier slumped while trying to answer questions from committee members.
He was immediately rushed to the hospital.
On the rift with the former acting Managing Director of NDDC, Ms Joy Nunieh, Akpabio alleged that she was sacked for insubordination.
On the forensic audit, Akpabio said that the forensic audit directed by President Muhammadu Buhari is ongoing and that the process had not been hijacked as alleged in some quarters.
He explained that the NDDC draws its funds from two sources, the Federal Government and oil companies.
Akpabio recommended that the budgeting system for NDDC be changed so that it will reflect budget lines in the Appropriate Act.
He also recommended some amendments to the NDDC Act to prevent the management from spending beyond its threshold by splitting big projects into small components.
Akpabio said that management of the NDDC had spent N4.2 billion, which is beyond its threshold by splitting projects into small components of N49 million to evade the approval of the supervising minister.
The minister said that no member of staff of the NDDC had been sacked under his watch, saying that even those on leave got COVID-19 allowance.
Contrary to allegations claiming that the IMC had spent N81.5 billion between February to May, Akpabio said only N23 billion had been spent.
The minister said that only three contracts had been approved since he was appointed as minister of the ministry.
According to him, the contracts include the procurement of forensic auditors, purchase of official cars for NDDC and the award of emergency project on the control of COVID-19.
He told the lawmakers that all contracts were approved by the Federal Executive Council (FEC), except the emergency COVID-19 project.
Akpabio said that at the time of his appointment, there was no budget running and could not have compelled the then IMC to pay N10 billion for Christmas largesse to all workers.
He said, prior to the implementation of the TSA account, the NDDC had over 300 accounts across commercial banks saying that with such systems, monies could get missing.