The Niger Delta Accountability and Development Coalition (NDADC) has raised the alarm about recent actions undertaken by the Interim Management Committee of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) which may undermine the primary presidential mandate for a forensic audit of the operations of the agency.
In a statement jointly signed by its National Coordinator, Johnson Epia, and Secretary, Comrade Ekong Etim, yesterday, the group stated that it was persuaded that “measures announced by the management committee to facilitate the audit are in themselves fraught with fraud and designed to turn the process into a cash cow for the committee members.”
According to the group, the recent inauguration of a 50-man contract verification committee is another example of the cluelessness of the interim management committee, a kind of merry-go-round.
“The committee, which is headed by the Acting Executive Director Projects, Dr Cairo Ojougboh, has directors and staff of the commission as members. While its business is ostensibly to call contractors and verify their projects and claims, we are sufficiently alarmed by recent happenings to believe that the motive behind this committee is anything but objective.
“Our position is informed by the statement of the management committee that the contracts verification committee will screen the contracts across the NDDC member states, and submit a report which the auditors will use as their primary material to audit the commission.”
The coalition recalled the statement credited to Ojougboh and published in newspapers over the weekend that, “It is now common knowledge that some of the awards were not only spurious, but criminal as records available to us show that most of the awards were not backed by budget, has no bills of engineering.”
The coalition then wondered the essence of a verification exercise when the commission already has its own records, which according to Ojougboh indicates that some of the contracts were spurious.
This is especially so when it is considered that the people who make up this committee, aside Ojougboh, are staff of the commission who themselves screened, verified and approved the same contracts that Ojougboh says are fraudulent and which are now being ‘verified’! What rational outcome can we then expect from this exercise? A proper audit exercise should turn out the records of the commission, as they are, to independent external auditors to probe. Anything short of that is a Public Relations stunt, which we do not need, considering the humongous sums that have been poured into the NDDC.
NDADC affirmed that by this and other actions, the interim management committee confirms stakeholders’ fears that it does not have the skill set to supervise the forensic audit ordered by the President, if indeed its actions are not part of a preconceived agenda.
The group re-stated its stand that “What we want is a full audit of the NDDC since 2001 that will not be stage managed by vested interests masquerading as interventionists”, explaining that this is why the coalition and other civil society groups in the region have always insisted that the Federal Government has no business appointing an interim management committee to supervise the audit, a process any duly constituted board can handle.
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COVID-19: Ignore Facemask, Risk Arrest, Prosecution, RSG Tells Residents
The Rivers State Government has expressed worries over the high level of non-compliance of health protocols with respect to the Covid-19 pandemic, warning that henceforth any resident caught without wearing facemask will be arrested and prosecuted.
The State Commissioner for Information and Communication, Pastor Paulinus Nsirim handed down the warning while speaking on a live Radio programme in Port Harcourt on Saturday and monitored by the Tide.
Nsirim who is Chairman of the State Inter-ministerial Committee on Enlightenment for Covid-19 recalled the unhappiness of Governor Nyesom Wike during last Wednesday’s State broadcast with the attitude of many residents who flaunt extant directives on the wearing of facemask and other health protocols.
“The Governor in that broadcast also expressed concern that a lot of people in the State are not obeying the protocols. Social distancing, wearing of facemask and he spoke specifically in what is happening in some churches. Government will introduce policies, the onus is on the populace to obey those policies.
“Not just obeying it, the Covid-19 pandemic that we are talking about has defied medical solution for now. So to flatten the curve, everyone living and doing business in Rivers State has to take responsibility.
“If I take responsibility and everyone around me takes responsibility to observe the relevant protocol, we are sure to flatten the curve. But if people live righteously and just do as if nothing is happening because there are places where people are just living in denial.
“Some people still believe that there is nothing like Coronavirus. Two weeks ago, my committee rounded off street to street campaign in all the 23 local government areas of the State. They still met people who are in this denial. That is the challenge.
“The Governor is desirous that Rivers State remains safe. That is why he is initiating policies to ensure that strategically the state is somehow isolated from the national spread,” the Commissioner said.
Nsirim further said, “If you go around the State, since the executive order on facemask was introduced. You will notice that less than
30 per cent of the populace are really obeying that executive order. What we are seeing in the State is that people just put the mask around their chin.
“You go to some churches we see people open their mouth and things will be spewing out in the enclosed environment on the chin. The Governor is saying that to give this wearing of facemask the kind of weight that it deserves to save our people, a special taskforce be put in place.
“That is the only sure way because a lot of people are still living in denial. He said the governor’s broadcast is very clear, arrest and prosecute. Henceforth we will arrest and prosecute people not wearing facemask in public places,” he stated.
The Rivers State Government spokesman said arrangements have been concluded to monitor churches that fail to observe the guidelines of not more than 70 persons per church service, wearing of facemask, provision of water for hand washing and the use of hand sanitizers, while weddings and burial ceremonies should not exceed 50 persons.
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