MINISTER of Niger Delta Affairs Godswill Akpabio on Tuesday said endemic corruption is the cause of the problem in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
He said over 8,000 documents have been given to forensic auditors looking into the books of the agency.
He said with the announcement of the forensic audit, 70 contractors have gone back to sites.
Akpabio said effecting reforms in the commission is not a personal thing because he will not be a minister for long.
He said no money was missing in NDDC because the commission’s 311 accounts have been reduced to one, which is with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
He confirmed that the liabilities of NDDC have risen to N2trillion.
He, however, avoided comments on alleged spat with a former Interim Managing Director of NDDC, Ms. Joi Nunieh, because he preferred to address official matters as a minister.
Akpabio, who spoke with reporters in Abuja, said: “I see a major change coming out of the rumbles in the Niger Delta.”
He said: “The Niger Delta is in need of your support. It is time for the modus operandi to change.
“We are very determined to reposition the NDDC. I think the root cause of the problem in the commission is about its years of corruption; endemic corruption. Mr President is very determined to leave a legacy of having an NDDC that is free of corruption. For me, I believe strongly that we shall achieve the objective.
“About the story you heard about the missing money, there is nothing like that. Money could have been missing in those days in NDDC when they had over 311 accounts across all banks in Nigeria and when they had the culture of foreign accounts.
“But today, they have only one account with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) because of the Treasury Single Account (TSA).
“It is no longer possible for somebody to go to the CBN and take out N40billion without a trace. I am aware that when you are coming to a commission, you will inherit both the liabilities and the assets. And in this case, their liabilities include a pile up of debt to the tune of over N2trillion.”
Speaking on the rot in the NDDC, which has slowed down the development of Niger Delta, Akpabio said: “Sometimes, people do the job and they are not paid, and in some other instances, those who were paid, did not do the job. And those who have the papers in their hands, they did not perform but they have signed the contracts. That means they have indulged in what is called contingent liabilities.”
The minister also opened up on why forensic audit was necessary in the NDDC.
He said: “As of today, the Federal Executive Council has approved a forensic Lead Auditor, Olumuyiwa Bashir and Co, and we have started work. Over 8,000 documents have been given to them.
“The first contract was the appointment of the forensic auditor and off course; the Federal Executive Council (FEC) approved that. The second contract was the COVID-19 intervention of the NDCC. I didn’t know I will meet you here (referring to the journalists), I would have brought the list of what was being supplied to the nine states of the region.
“So, I want to see the NDCC with a balance sheet. That is, the forensic audit will throw it up. We want to know which one was laid, which one was not laid. Who collected money that did not execute the job, who has money to refund, who has the job to go back and do.
“Even, when they announced the forensic audit, over 70 contractors have gone back to sites. Today in the Niger Delta, people have seen over 50 completed roads in the nine states in the last six months because of the fear of the forensic audit,
“For 19 years, we can’t point out one project, we cannot point out one industry from the NDDC and we cannot point out one hospital for the NDDC. What we can point at is the cash probably in the pockets of those who had the opportunity. But for me, I want to see the total turn around. When we finish the forensic audit, it is not meant to witch hunt anybody. It is meant to reposition the NDDC.
On the alleged fraud in NDDC with his involvement, the minister said: “In the NDDC one of the things we have done is that, since I became a minister, I have not given out a contract but I only have been involved in the execution of two contracts.
Akpabio said: “As the minister of the Niger Delta, I am committed to those objectives of changing the narratives in the Niger Delta and I am working towards them. But I can’t achieve all these if the only parastatal under my ministry, NDDC still remains the way we all know it. I am not a fugitive from reality, people used to pretend that such does not exist, but I will not.
“I know as a governor, I didn’t like the NDDC, I know as the Minority Leader in the Senate , I did not like the NDDC because of most of the things that were going on there. The major projects there are not the projects that can turn the lives of the people around.
“They believe in the projects that would put money in people’s pockets. They are more interested in retreats, training and re-training. They supply equipment to hospitals that they do not need.
“They started three specialist hospitals, one in Port Harcourt, one in Ondo and up till now, they have not completed them.
“I want an NDDC where the final budget that comes out will be the one that will bring infrastructural development to the region. I like to see an NDDC that has its international headquarters where people can come and negotiate investments. I like to see an NDDC with a balance sheet that is careful of going to everyman but it will develop the Niger Delta region. That is the agreement we had with the International Food and Agricultural Development (IFAD) to give $173m for farming and a request for $5m as the counterpart funding but that was not possible, it was thwarted by the budgeting process.
“As the Minister of the Niger Delta, I want to see a Niger Delta region where employment opportunities created for the people. I want to see major bridges connecting from Okirka to Yeneogoa. I want to see are NDDC specialist hospitals.”