The acting Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC has just collapsed at the National Assembly.
The acting NDDC MD passed out while answering questions from the House Committee probing financial activities of the NDDC. He was being put to task on if the expenditure of the NDDC were drawn from the 2019 appropriation act.
The MD, Professor Kemebradikumo Daniel Pondei had been evasive of questions from the Lawmakers. Questions on procurement processes and extra-budgetary expenditures were not clearly answered by him.
He has however been revived and taken to the hospital.
Recall that the acting MD worked out on the committee last week insisting the Chairman of the committee should recuse himself. He said the chairman has allegations against him on the NDDC and can’t be a judge in his own case.
President Mohammadu Buhari reacted and ordered appointees to respect the National Assembly and appear before them. Prof, Pondei appeared today after the former MD, Joi Nunieh had leveled serious allegations against his team and the Minister of the Niger Delta.
The House Committee has adjourned for 30 minutes to decide whether to continue with the sitting as the Minister was available. The House committee resumed with the speaker Hon, Femi Gbajamila on a surprise appearance. He came in to boost the morale of his members carrying out their oversight functions. The honourable speaker disclosed that Prof. Pondei was receiving medical attention at a hospital and the clerk of the national assembly would pay him a visit.
Shortly after he left, the Minister of Niger Delta, Senator Godswill Akpabio took an oath to testify before the committee.
Let’s take a look at some of the exchanges between the collapsed MD and some members of the committee. I would report on the part i met the session and summarise the questions from the House Committee.
On Money Being Owed Contractors
Pondei: “The Transcorp Hilton is being owed 13 million naira for over one and a half years. The media houses are being owed ….. & Co have not been paid for over 3 years. . . Sir i am just explaining the recurrent so that” . . . ( he gets interupted)
If Money Spent by NDDC is Budget Approved by National Assembly
Committee Member: “Mr. Chairman, we need to lay the foundation properly. Pursuant to the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, you cannot touch a dime unless manner prescribed by the National Assembly. . . I expect that you should lay your approved budget to show where you derived the strength to spend the money which you are telling us. When did you resume work?”
Pondei: 20th of February
CM: So it is important if we have your approved budget.
Pondei: The funds from NDDC comes from two parts In the federal government budget that was signed in December 2019, approved 80 billion naira for NDDC.
CM: We want that document of the budget which you are operating. I know you resumed work some time in February. We got your letter for budget 20th of March. For which year?
Pondei: For the 2019 budget.
CM: So you are operating 2019 Budget. Isn’t it?
CM: So we need to have that document. If you have it, can we have it? (Prof. Pondei goes through his files). We have record of what you have spent. Both on personnel, both on overhead and capital. ( Prof. Pondei presents a document).
The committee goes through it and says it is not the budget and insist he tenders the 2019 approved budget for NDDC.
CM: Prof you cant built something on nothing. So the foundation, the ground work is where is your approved budget. then we will have a cross checking whether what we have spent is contained in the budget.
Pondei: We will make that available sir.
CM: Mr. Chairman just take note that we need to have the approved budget.
Pondei: I am not going into the other things except i am asked. I just wanted to lay a foundation.
CM: You have told us what you have spent on overhead. You have told us a scenario of contractors who have worked and have not been paid for years, you have talked about people who have their bonuses, ETA outstanding for years which you have cleared. Where did you take those money from? If you show us the approved budget, we will see what provision was made for the payments you’ve meda including the historical payments,
Pondei: We will show you. No problem sir.
On Scholarship Awards
Pondei: Those who have been coming to accuse us, have come. Another one is coming and he has some extra information. People are given chance but i am just put in a straight jacket. Just do only this. Please sir. Please sir, allow me to do my presentation.
Chairman: MD go ahead with your presentation.
Pondei: Thank you very much sir. When i started, i was trying to lay a background of everything that happened. I am going to handle a file containing the reasons why we asked the chairman recuse himself. Then i will go straight to the point. We’ve been accused of the scholarships. We didn’t give scholarships but we heard a report that Dr. Karo and myself paid ourselves scholarships. The basic truth is that we were processing these scholarships for the students before the late EDFA died. Before we were able to submit it, we were accused that ourselves and our children were on the scholarship list. This has to be brought back and scrutinized. What basically happened is that the universities invited the NDDC to visit and for verification. . . estacodes were prepared. This started before i got to the NDDC. I only approved it and it was paid on the 16th of April. . . You cannot pay somebody estacode the day the person is gong to the airport. . . if the journey is not made, it is for us to return it. But somebody will come here to say Karo paid millions to his account for foreign scholarship. . . . As we speak the scholarship is being processed and we will clear the scholarship from 2016.
On Forensic Audit
Pondei: The forensic audit is ongoing. i will not go into that. The NDDC does not have control over the forensic audit. Our job is to provide the enabling environment and provide the requisite document and whatever they need.
On Headquarter and Staff Morale
Pondei: Somebody said the headquarter is 74 whatever. Please, i would have put it on slide to show the state where this is now. Myself and Dr. Karo occupy the 12th floor. That’s where we work from. When we came in, staff morale was very low. Staff have not been promoted for four years. We cleared backlog of this secretariat. . . The environment in the NDDC headquarters is very poor, if you’ve been there. . . somebody is talking that there is no justification in moving to a headquarter building that has been on for the past 20 years.
Lassa Fever Kits
Pondei: Lassa fever kits. maternal delivery kits. science equipment for secondary schools, all those contracts and payments were before the IMC team came on board. . .
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