Over N3.7 billion and other assets have been recovered from former directors and contractors of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), President Muhammadu Buhari said on Tuesday.
He spoke while inaugurating the NDDC Advisory Committee at the Executive Council Chambers of the State House in Abuja.
Members include governors of the nine Niger Delta states, the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs and Minister of Environment.
The President said the recoveries were made by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and other anti-graft agencies.
President Buhari last year ordered a forensic audit of the NDDC and ratified the constitution of an Interim Management Committee (IMC) to oversee the probe.
According to a statement by Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina, the President said assets worth more than N6 billion have been placed under lien by government agencies.
“To date, the EFCC and other agencies of government have recovered over N3.7billion in cash as well as various assets worth billions of Naira from some contractors and former Directors of the Commission.
“Furthermore, I am told that government agencies have placed liens on over N6 billion of assets which are being investigated,” the President was quoted as saying.
The President told the committee that the abuses underscored the need for strict and diligent oversight, going forward.
He, therefore, charged them to discharge the new assignment diligently and effectively, working closely with the relevant ministries.
President Buhari recalled that in 2016, his administration launched the New Vision for the Niger Delta (NEVIND) aimed at bringing sustainable peace, security, infrastructure and human capital development to the region.
He said the medium to achieve this noble objective was through the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, NDDC and the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP).
The President, however, expressed regret that in the past, these institutions were unable to deliver their mandates due to mismanagement, resulting in abandoned projects and substandard social programmes.
“It is to reverse this trend that I approved, in February 2020, the constitution of a 10-man Presidential Monitoring Committee (PMC) as provided for in Section 21 of the NDDC Establishment Act,” he said.
He noted that the PMC, which will be chaired by the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs and its members drawn from various MDAs, will focus on monitoring the operations and activities of the commission, and will be reporting to him.
The President said the inauguration of the NDDC Advisory Committee is in line with the provisions of Section 11 (I) of the NDDC Establishment Act.
He explained that the Committee is charged with advising the Board and monitoring its activities.
On why the committee was inaugurated ahead of the NDDC board reconstitution, the President said: “This is to enable us to develop insights into the affairs of the Commission which will properly guide the Board when reconstituted once the forensic audit exercise is concluded.”
Speaking on behalf of the advisory committee members, Delta State Governor Ifeanyi Okowa thanked the President for granting Southsouth governors’ request for a forensic audit of the NDDC.
He said: “We do not want to criticise what has happened in the NDDC for quite some time, but the fact is that the cooperation between the states and the NDDC has not been strengthened overtime and we have various cases of duplication of projects that are not properly planned.
“I believe that with the inauguration of this body, we will be able to sit down, meet, work in collaboration and supportively to bring greater developments to our people.”
Also yesterday, the EFCC vowed to beam its searchlights on the NDDC to ensure that the Niger Delta region feels the impact of the intervention agency.
EFCC’s Zonal Head, Usman Imam, made the pledge when he featured as a guest on a radio programme in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital.
He said: “We are looking into the activities of the NDDC. We have received petitions on projects that have been paid for but not executed.
“We are going to look into these petitions to ensure that the people get value for monies released to the NDDC and, that those who steal from the agency are dealt with in accordance with the law.”
This was as the NDDC Acting Executive Director Projects, Dr Cairo Ojougboh, said the Commission deals with as much health challenges as it does roads and bridges in the Niger Delta region.
Ojougboh spoke when the President of Ikwerre Youth Council(IYC), Edward Odum led members of his Executives to pay him a courtesy visit at NDDC office in Port Harcourt.
He said: “The NDDC has built health facilities across the nine Niger Delta States. Who is better positioned than a medical doctor to address the issues of infections and environmental pollution in the region?”