President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, vowed to launch criminal investigation into 13,777 compromised projects of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, as he received the final report of the forensic audit of the commission.
This came as the Pan-Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, expressed indifference to news of the submission of the report of the forensic audit carried out on the NDDC but called on the Federal Government not to be selective in punishing those behind the compromised projects.
Buhari, represented by Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami, received the documents, which were conveyed in sacks and presented by the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio.
In his remarks shortly before he handed over the report, Akpabio, said the forensic audit uncovered a total of 13,777 contracts that were awarded from 2001 to 2019 but not completed.
He put the value of the contracts at over N3 trillion, disclosing that the commission also operated 362 bank accounts which lacked proper reconciliation.
Responding after he received the report, the AGF said: “I welcome you all to the presentation of the report on the forensic audit on the NDDC, which report I am to receive on behalf of President Buhari.
“You will recall the President had ordered a holistic forensic audit of the activities of the commission from inception to August 2019 in response to the yearnings of the people of the Niger Delta to re-position it for effective service delivery.
“It is imperative to state that the call for the audit by the people of the Niger Delta arose from the huge gaps between resources invested in the region vis-a-vis the huge gap in infrastructural, human and economic development.
“It is on record that between 2001 and 2019, the Federal Government has approved N3,375,735,776,794.93; as budgetary allocation and N2,420,948,894,191.00 as income from statutory and non-statutory sources, which brings the total figure to the sum of approximately N6 trillion given to the NDDC.
“Consequently, the Federal Executive Council, FEC, approved the engagement of a Lead Forensic Auditor, as well as 16 reputable audit firms to conduct the audit exercise.
“The President is delighted that the auditors have now completed this exercise and the report is today (yesterday) being presented.
“Furthermore, the President is not oblivious of the interest generated by stakeholders towards the forensic audit exercise and the agitation for the constitution of the Board of the NDDC.
“However, this administration is determined to address challenges militating against the delivery of the mandate of the NDDC to the people of the Niger Delta.
“It is in the broader context of the foregoing developments that the President recently signed into law the Petroleum Industry Act, PIA, which has been a contentious issue over the years for successive governments, to bring about the prudence and accountability in the petroleum sector and to give a sense of participation and ownership to the host communities.
“The report on the forensic audit of the NNDC and your recommendations will, therefore, be critically analysed for necessary action and implementation. It is evident that considerable resources had been channeled by the Federal Government to the development of the Niger Delta from 2001 to 2019.
“It is, therefore, important for the Federal Government and the public to be properly informed of what has been spent and how that has been spent. The essence of the forensic audit is to ensure probity and accountability in the use of public funds.
“It is against this background that the Federal Government will without hesitation strategically implement all aspects of the audit exercise that will promote probity and greater prosperity for the Niger Delta and Nigeria as whole.
“The Federal Government is particularly concerned with the colossal loss occasioned by uncompleted and unverified development projects in the Niger Delta, despite the huge resources made available to uplift the living standard of the citizens.
“We have on record over 13,777 projects, the execution of which is substantially compromised. The Federal Government is also concerned with the multitudes of the commission’s bank accounts amounting to 362 and lack of proper reconciliation of accounts.
“The Federal Government will in consequence apply the law to remedy the deficiencies outlined in the audit report as appropriate.
“This will include but not limited to initiation of criminal investigations, prosecution, recovery of funds not properly utilized for the public purposes for which they were meant for review of the laws to re-position and restructure the NDDC for the efficiency of better service delivery, among others.
“In all these instances of actions, legal due processes will strictly be complied with. The President has directed that the forensic audit report be forwarded to the Federal Ministry of Justice for a legal review and relevant Ministries, Departments and Agencies, MDAs, of government will be engaged in doing justice to the findings accordingly.”
Malami commended the Minister of Niger Delta, Akpabio, the Interim Administrator and staff of the NDDC for their support towards the completion of the audit.
He equally commended the lead forensic auditors and the 16 field audit firms for completing the exercise, as well as the security committee for securing the lives and properties of the audit firms throughout the duration of the forensic audit.
Don’t be selective in punishing culprits — PANDEF
Reacting to the government’s threat to prosecute those who compromised NDDC contracts, the Pan-Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Ken Robinson, said: “At last, it is okay that the forensic audit is concluded and the report has been submitted.
“So, it is okay that the endless forensic audit has finally ended. The audit which started in 2019 was initially said to be for six months, but this is September 2021, so, that is over two years.
“Concerning the content of what is contained in the findings of the audit, PANDEF would want to take time to study it, there could be variations in conclusions that are unacceptable to us, conclusions to perhaps make Niger Delta look unserious but fact remains that those who get contracts from Niger Delta, from NDDC in particular, go to Abuja to get a note from one person in Aso Rock or from one Emir for you to get a job in NDDC.
“There are some insinuations that what comes to NDDC through the front door goes back to Abuja through the back doors, so with all that kind of background, PANDEF will carefully study the report and we hope it will be made public.
“They should try and make it public for those who want to see it, in case nobody comes up to give any judgment to blackmail Niger Delta people. We won’t accept that, no matter who is doing it.
“We know a lot of critics have been involved, a lot of drama has been involved in this NDDC matter and there are attempts to perpetuate illegality. Now that the audit report has been submitted, we hope there would be no excuse again to delay and keep in place the interim arrangement in the NDDC.
“We want a substantive NDDC board to be immediately nominated and inaugurated, we want it to cease being a place of political patronage and rewarding royalties. He (President Buhari) should appoint people with integrity, people with good track record of commitment to community development.
“To the content of how much has been given to the Niger Delta, or how much project has been compromised, there have been phantom projects, projects that do not exist, or projects that exist only paper, people awarded projects just on paper and then collect money, those are not new gist, we are aware of all that.
“Who are the people doing all these, these are politicians, those in the corridors of power, people appointed to be MD or board chairman because they are friends of those in Aso Rock, not because they can do the job and then they check around and play politics. That narrative must stop.
“This is true because we have been saying things that are just not baseless statements, these are verifiable statements that we knew went on in the Niger Delta. It is a commission for political patronage, a commission for a reward for loyalty, it was a cash cow for elections, so projects were thrown up, imaginary projects, phantom projects were thrown up just for people to divert the money for political purpose.
“That is what has been going on. And all of them are involved, the Presidency is involved. I advise the Presidency not to be selective, it should not be in the usual discriminative and bias manner.
“Anybody that is involved, no matter how highly placed, whether he is a friend of the president or not, whether he is an APC chieftain or not, if the law should be applied, it should be applied dispassionately without bias and discrimination, there should be no sacred cows.
‘’PANDEF, from inception, has said that the audit report should be made public and all those who have defrauded the Niger Delta should be punished, we want to see the names of the companies and those behind the companies, that is our position. If it is selective, we will resist it.”