• IMC speaks on list of contractors
President Muhammadu Buhari has finally come to the aid of stranded scholarship students of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) studying abroad, ordering the payment of their outstanding fees and stipends with immediate effect.
The commission’s Interim Management Committee (IMC) has also said it stood by the list of NDDC contracts handled by members of the National Assembly, which was submitted by the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio.
It would be recalled that the Chairman of the Nigerians in Diapora Commission (NiDCOM), Abike Dabiri-Erewa, recently wrote Akpabio to see to the payment of the fees, after the students protested over non-payment of their fees by NDDC.
Confirming the latest development on Tuesday, NDDC Director, Corporate Affairs, Charles Odili, in a statement, said the President has directed Akpabio to pay the students.
Odili assured that the students would be paid by the end of the week, explaining that the delay was caused by the sudden death of NDDC then Acting Executive Director, Finance and Administration, Ibanga Etang, in May.
“Under the commission’s finance protocol, only the Executive Director (Finance) and the Executive Director (Projects) can sign for the release of funds from the commission’s domiciliary accounts with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
“With the death of Chief Etang, the remittance has to await the appointment of a new EDFA. Senator Akpabio, the Honourable Minister, said President Buhari who has been briefed on the protest by students at the Nigerian High Commission in London, has ordered that all stops be pulled to pay the students by the end of this week. We expect a new EDFA to be appointed this week. As soon as that is done, they would all be paid,” the statement explained.
On the list of NDDC contracts handled by members of the National Assembly, Odili noted that the list submitted by Akpabio was not compiled by the minister but came from the files in the commission.
He said the list submitted to the National Assembly was compiled by the then management of the commission in 2018, adding that there was another set of list for emergency project contracts awarded in 2017 and 2019 but were not submitted to the National Assembly.
According to him, “The Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the commission stands by the list, which came from files already in the possession of the forensic auditors.
“It is not an Akpabio list but the NDDC’s list. The list is part of the volume of 8,000 documents already handed over to the forensic auditors.”
He said prominent indigenes of the Niger Delta whose names were on the list should not panic as the commission discovered that people used their names to secure contracts, adding that the ongoing forensic audit would unearth persons behind the contracts.
He said the intention of the list was to expose committee chairmen in the National Assembly who used fronts to collect contracts from the commission, some of which were never executed.
Odili added that the list did not include a case of 250 contracts, which were signed for and collected in one day by one person for members of the National Assembly.
He said the forensic audit exercise was on course and the commission positioned 185 media support specialists to identify the sites of every project captured in its books for verification by the forensic auditors.
Odili advised members of the public to discountenance the “avalanche of falsehood being orchestrated by mischief makers,” regretting that “more insinuations and accusations may be thrown into the public space by those opposed to IMC.”
Meanwhile, NDDC had extended an invitation to Buhari to inaugurate a 29-kilometre Ogbia-Nembe Road in Bayelsa State.
This was disclosed by NDDC Director of Corporate Affairs, noting that the road was built in conjunction with Shell Petroleum Development Company, (SPDC) to create a land link to the ancient city of Nembe for the first time.
Odili explained that the road project, which cost N24 billion, cutting through swampy terrain to connect 14 other communities, needed 10 bridges and 99 culverts.
“To conquer the swampy terrain, the construction involved digging out four metres of clay soil and sand filling it to provide a base for the road. The road has cut the journey time to Yenagoa, Bayelsa State capital, from three hours to one and a half hours.
“This project is not only a flagship intervention project in the Niger Delta region, it is also a model of development partnership between the commission and international oil companies in the region,” he said.