ACTING Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, CEO, Expanded Interim Management Committee, EIMC, Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, Prof Kemebradikumo Pondei, Tuesday, opened up on the infamous incident at the House of Representatives, where he unexpectedly fainted while being questioned by lawmakers, a month ago.
Pondei disclosed to newsmen that he had a mysterious and unpredictable health challenge that stunned people and made them think he was acting.
“I had an unexplained, unexpected health challenge. It is ridiculous to think that people believed I was acting. I would not pray for anyone to experience what I went through. I do not run from issues. I have put all that behind me
“The accusations/allegations were laughable. From N40 billion missing, the probes now became extra-budgetary spending. After accusing the EIMC of embezzlement of N40 billion, nothing was substantiated. The IMC is then asked to refund monies paid for historical debts owed contractors, service providers and allowances paid to staff.
“The case seems to be that beneficiaries used proxies to collect contracts from the Commission The current EIMC decided to change the way things are done in the NDDC and this is responsible for most of this face-off.
“It is possible that some people might have used names of some influential Niger -Deltans to obtain contracts because there were no checks or balances. The NDDC was a place for political patronage and raising war chests for elections.
“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 exist. Before all these distractions, the EIMC was working seriously on this issue of people being asked to pay percentages to staff.
“The contracts NDDC allegedly gave to lawmakers and other prominent N’Deltans were not given during my tenure, the reason the Commission is raising dust as if it happened recently is because payment/non-payment of these contracts contributed to the face-off and the lawmakers were denying ever doing contracts associated with the NDDC,” the acting NDDC MD said.
When asked what the problem was that delayed the passing of NDDC’s 2020 budget, he said:
“The 2019 and 2020 NDDC Budgets were submitted in October 2019. The 2019 Budget was passed in the first week of March 2020 and the approval given on the 20th March 2020. The signed copy of the approved budget was not received by the NDDC until second week of April 2020 during the Covid-19 lock-down. The Commission tried its best to see if implementation of any projects could be started.
“Unfortunately, the 2019 Budget expired on the 31st of May 2020 and the next day, we got communication from the Committee Chairmen of the NASS informing us of the expiration of the budget. In between the probes by the NASS, we tried to present the 2019 budget performance and defend the 2020 budget.
“A minor typographical error was noticed and we asked for 10 minutes to amend the errors, but the presentation was stepped down. The NASS has since gone on recess,” Pondei said.
In response to the expenditure reported to amount to N81.5 bn, he said:
“This is not true. The current EIMC did not spend N81.5bn. This was the joint expenditure by both IMCs from October 2019 to 31st May 2020. The current IMC between 20th February 2020 and 31st May, 2020 spent N59.1bn. Out of this, N38.6bn was for capital expenditure, paid to contractors and other expenditure incurred by previous managements. The balance was for recurrent expenditure, including backlog of debts owed to service providers and backlog of allowances approved for staff by previous managements, but left unpaid.
“Our sin has been that we have tried to clean up the embarrassing debts incurred by previous managements,” he lamented.
“The non-passage is causing retrogression of the Niger Delta. People borrowed money to execute NDDC contracts. Non-payment is having a toll on many contractors from the region. Two budgetary cycles have been lost. Recall that it was the unavailability of budgets that led to previous Managements adopting emergency contracts to keep the NDDC functional, and has ultimately led to this burdensome debt profile of the NDDC,” Pondei said.