N40bn fraud: Uneasy calm at NDDC as Pondei, Akpabio hang on

Akpabio and Pondei

…as calls for removal of IMC subsides

The job of the Acting Managing Director, Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Professor Daniel Pondei, appears not to be threatened despite the Commission being investigated by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over alleged diversion of public funds.

Both Pondei and the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, had been accused of N40 billion fraud in NDDC.

However, life has returned to normalcy at the Commission, according to an insider, as the tension and panic which enveloped the Commission during the call for the removal of the IMC (Interim Management Committee), has subsided.

The source, however, said that deep within top NDDC staffers, there is still fear that President Muhammadu Buhari can wake up one morning and dissolve the IMC. “The staffers at the NDDC are now a bit cautious in the way they handle the affairs of the Commission. The impunity that reigned before the probe is no longer there.

“But there is still fear that the IMC can be sacked. So, there is still tension within the Commission.”

Pondei had dismissed the allegations against him, stressing that, “the accusations/allegations were laughable. From N40 billion missing, the probe now became extra-budgetary spending. After accusing the EIMC of embezzlement of N40 billion, nothing was substantiated.

“I am not part of any cartel. Instead, I have tried to eliminate this by reducing interaction between staff and contractors. Gratification had been going on as a routine procedure. Nepotism in processing of files and payments also exists. Before all these distractions, the EIMC was working seriously on this issue of people being asked to pay percentages to staff.

“NDDC’s Director of Corporate Affairs, Charles Odili, said that the lead consultants, Olumuyiwa Basiru & Co. in charge of the forensic audit at the commission has started the takeover of all original contract files relating to projects and programmes awarded by the NDDC between 2001 and 2019, as directed by President Buhari.

Odili in a statement added: “The takeover of the contract files by the Forensic Auditors will mark the commencement of the next stage of the exercise which started with the handover of contract documents covering projects captured during the verification exercise in April 2020. “It is important to emphasis that the forensic audit is being carried out in phases and we are now ready to kick-off the Field Forensic Audit. To ensure the success of this exercise, we are making available all required documents needed by the field auditors to enable them discharge their duties efficiently and effectively.

“The NDDC management will meet with the forensic auditors to formally release the files which have been sorted in 16 lots as segmented for the forensic exercise.

“We wish to inform the public that all contract files are no longer in the office of the Acting Executive Director Projects, as they are now in the custody of the auditors