By EricJames Ochigbo
Abuja, July 15, 2020 The House of Representatives has commenced investigation into the alleged N40 billion irregular expenditure in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) with a view to reposition the commission for better service delivery.
The investigative hearing which was organised by the House Committee on NDDC on Wednesday in Abuja, commenced even in the absences of officials of the commission.
In his opening remarks, the Chairman of the Committee, Rep. Olubumi Tunji-Ojo (APC-Ondo), said that the committee would summoned the Interim Manageent Committee (IMC) of the NNDC to appear unfailingly on Thursday.
The chairman said that documents obtained from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation showed that NDDC had spent N81.5 billion between January and May.
Giving the breakdown of the sum, Tunji-Ojo said that the NDDC had spent N1.3 billion on community relations, N122.9 million on condolences and N122.9 million on consultancy.
The lawmaker said that the commission had spent N31.4 billion on COVlD-19, N486 million on Duty Tour Allowances (DTA) N790.9 million on impress and N1.956 billion on Lassa fever.
According to him, the NDDC has spent N900 million on legal services, N220million on maintenance, N85.6 million on oversea travel while project public communication took N1.121 billion
Tunji-Ojo said that the documents also showed that N744 million was spent on security, N20.9 billion on staffing related payments while N248 million was spent on stakeholder’s engagement between Feb. 18 and May 31.
The chairman, however, read a letter sent by IMC of the NDDC asking the committee to reschedule the invitation to enable them to attend Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting.
The Speaker of the House of Representatives Femi Gbajabimila said that the Federal Government created the NDDC as an interventionist agency to bridge critical development gaps in oil rich region with years of underinvestment in infrastructure.
He said that the damage from fossil fuel exploration had a severely deleterious effect on the lives, livelihoods and wellbeing of the people of the region.
According to the speaker, it is intended that the commission will begin the long-overdue process of making good on our nation’s obligations to the people of the Niger Delta.;
Gbajabiamila said that for more than two decades of the existence of the NDDC, the promise had not been kept in spite of the vast sums that have been appropriated by the Federal Government.
“The Niger Delta region continues to score exceptionally low on many of the major human development indices.
“The statistics reflect the reality of disease and deprivation, lack of opportunity and broken dreams that is the plight of many of our fellow citizens in the region.
“It is therefore particularly disturbing and quite frankly, embarrassing that every other news report about the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) seems to centre around escalating allegations of corruption and malfeasance.
“Our purpose today, and over the cause of this Investigative Hearing, is to ask why this failure persists and to do so with a determination to understand the causes of that failure so that we can act to redeem the NDDC and remove those factors that imperil the commission’s noble mission,’’ he said.
Representatives from the CBN and Office of the Accountant General of the Federation present at the hearing, confirmed that the N81.5 billion had been withdrawn by the NDDC over the period