NDDC Probe: N1.3bn not N1.5bn paid as Covid-19 palliative to staff – MD, Pondei

…Acting NDDC MD slumps during hearing

The acting Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Mr. Kemebradikumo Pondei, has said that the commission spent N1.3 billion and not N1.5 billion as Covid-19 palliative on staff of the commission.

The acting MD stated this on Monday at the ongoing NDDC probe by the House of Representatives, adding that he must have said they used N1.5 billion to ‘’take care’’ of themselves out of anger.

Pondei had admitted to the National Assembly that the commission spent N1.5 billion for staff as ‘COVID-19 relief funds’, before he recounted at the resumed hearing on Monday.

He stated: “I must have said the ‘’take care’’ of ourselves in anger, it was not N1.5 billion, the figure is N1.32 billion. On the question where in the budget that I derived power to spend the money, I will provide that answer for you. I don’t want to lie under oath.”

Asked by the committee if it would be right to say that the commission did extra budgetary expenses, Pondei noted, “I will not say so, let me ask my EDP to explain, I think he has more facts concerning that. I will provide the answer. We will bring this to you Mr. Chairman, it will be sent to your committee. I don’t have the budget here.”

When asked by the committee how much the commission had received since the interim committee was set up, the acting MD explained that the commission received about N6.4 billion monthly, which he said stopped in June.

He added that the commission had received some payments from the oil companies, but he said it was little, while adding that the commission had received about N72 billion since the interim committee came to being.

On whether the N641 million paid to Clear Point Communication was budgeted for in 2019, Pondei stressed that the money was part of the N2.5 billion for the forensic audit in 2019 budget.

He added, “In the budget, there was a proposal for N2.5 billion for forensic audit out of which 1.2 billion was approved and out of that I think N318million was approved for the lead forensic auditors and only a small percentage has been paid out before the budget expired on the 31st. The N641 million was paid to Clear Point for variety of purposes all related to the forensic audit.

“There are 185 local government areas and each of them was budgeted for N3.46 million, allowances for coordinators in the local government area, training for the condinators, setting up of information desk. These coordinators are for people to identify the site of all the projects in the area.”

Asked by the committee why he and Mr. Cairo Ojugboh allegedly paid scholarship fund into their personal accounts, Pondei noted the money was presently being processed.

Pondei stated: “We heard the reports that myself and Dr. Cairo Ojuigoh, that we paid ourselves scholarships and the basic truth is that we were processing these scholarships for these students. Just as we were about submitting it, we heard accusations that our children were in the scholarships list and this had to be brought back, and be scrutinized. As we speak the scholarship payment is being processed and will be cleared this week from 2016.

The acting MD however insisted that forensic audit was ongoing, noting that the NDDC doesn’t have control over the forensic audits, saying his job was to provide enabling environment and requisite document.

It was at this stage that the acting MD slumped and was rushed out of the hearing while he was still answering questions bordering on alleged fraud in NDDC.

Though, before he slumped, Pondei appeared to have checked his phone, wiped his face before he slumped.

The committee therefore proceeded on 30 minutes tea break, before it reconvened to take the submission of the Minister of Niger Delta, Mr. Godswill Akpabio.

Earlier, the committee Chairman, Hon. Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, had earlier stepped aside as head of the panel investigating alleged N40 billion fraud in the NDDC, following allegations of corruption against him.

Pondei had on Thursday led a walkout on the committee, when he appeared with other management staff of the commission, and accused the committee chairman of corruption.

He insisted that based on the allegation, his team would not speak before the committee

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