PRESS STATEMENT Re: Southern Elders Forum Writes FG over alleged kickbacks

The Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, is aware of online reports based on a purported petition by a group called The South-South Elders Progressive Forum. We do not have a copy of the petition nor are we aware of the existence of the group. However, given the interest generated among our stakeholders by matters of this nature, we have no option but to respond based on the snippets of the petition published by online platforms. The group made wild and fictional allegations against the management team. In the petition, it also picked issues with the Federal Government for in its wisdom allowing the management team (sworn in January 4, 2023) to continue in office so as not to disrupt the operations of the Commission. We note that in dissolving the boards of federal parastatals, agencies and Commissions, the Federal Government, had in its wisdom asked the chief executives of such bodies to run the affairs pending the constitution of new boards. It beats one’s imagination why a ‘progressive elders forum’ would say that the NDDC would have been treated differently, given that the new management team came in a little over six months ago.

While it is clear that the grouse of this forum is with the stability in management and operations, we owe our stakeholders a duty to debunk the fictional accusations against the Commission. The group alleged that the management is collecting 30 per cent kickback from contractors. This is a lie. Since the present management assumed office, it has been bothered by the backlog of unpaid claims by contractors who duly executed their contracts. The adverse impact of these unpaid debts on the contractors and the economy of the region is enormous. Most of the debts had been verified and were also scrutinised by the forensic auditors appointed by the federal government. In order to ease the economic pain on our people, the payment of the debts was provided for in the Commission’s budget.

The present management took steps to stamp out all practices of payment of commission to middlemen. It would be recalled that the managing director, Dr Samuel Ogbuku, had an interactive meeting with contractors in February this year. At that session, he clearly stated that neither himself nor any of the executive directors has authorised any middleman to act on their behalf in the matter of payment to contractors. Dr Ogbuku, specifically ‘declared as illegal the payment of percentages on contract sums and all forms of financial inducements to middlemen who claim to be fronting for the Commission’s officials.’

Following this meeting, the Commission set up a committee to streamline the payment of outstanding debts. That committee is verifying claims and working transparently to ensure every contractor is fairly treated. In doing so, we have followed a technical formula of first paying people owed N10 million and below and scaling up. There is no requirement by any contractor to pay any kickback before being paid. The payment system in the Commission is transparent and open to verification by stakeholders.

It is necessary to add that the Commission has adopted a zero-tolerance policy for corrupt practices. Any member of the public who has any evidence of such practices should reach out to the managing director who has sworn to take prompt action against any erring official.

We implore all stakeholders to ignore the false allegations from those who take delight in the frequent changes in management that has been the bane of the organisation in the past five years. The leadership of the Commission is the prerogative of the Federal Government. The Commission is currently being run by a very committed and transparent team.

Dr Ibitoye Abosede

Director Corporate Affairs

July 24, 2023.

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