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NDDC Boss, Others Walk Out On Lawmakers At House Of Reps Investigative Hearing

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The Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) has walked out on lawmakers at an investigative hearing put together by the House of Representatives.

The Commission on Thursday refused to make presentations before the House Committee on NDDC.

According to the acting managing director of the NDDC, Professor Kemebradikumo Pondei, the Commission cannot partake an investigative hearing which is being presided over by the chairman of the committee who has been accused by the NDDC of hijacking the Commission’s projects.

Professor Pondei was of the opinion that the NDDC will not get a fair hearing.

Following the NDDC’s action, the committee resolved to issue a warrant of arrest compelling Professor Pondei to appear before the lawmakers and make a proper submission.

Meanwhile, armed security operatives on Thursday surrounded the home of former managing director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Joy Nunieh, in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital.

The security operatives are said to have stormed the former NDDC MD’s residence in the early hours of the morning.

Rivers State Governor, Mr. Nyesom Wike reportedly moved to intervene in the stand-off and did resolve the issue.

It was gathered that Joy Nunieh was due to appear before a House of Representatives Committee in Abuja today.

Though the stand-off stopped Mrs. Nunieh from making the trip, she will be making a presentation via zoom.

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Investigation

Reps Ask Committee On Police Affairs To Investigate Invasion Of Joy Nunieh’s Home

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The House of Representatives has mandated its committee on Police Affairs to investigate the circumstances surrounding the invasion of the home of the former acting Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Joy Nunieh.

The resolution was reached during plenary on Thursday following a matter of urgent public importance raised by the Deputy Majority Whip, Nkeiruka Onyejeocha, who queried the motive behind the invasion.

The lawmaker believes the action was done to prevent her from giving her testimony before the House committee on the NDDC.

Armed security operatives surrounded the home of Joy Nunieh, in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital at about 4 a.m on July 16, 2020, in an attempt to break into her apartment for hours without success.

Ms. Nunieh reached out to the Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike who swiftly responded to her distress call and came with his aides to challenge and stop the attempted arrest.

Wike eventually asked the operatives to leave the former NDDC MD’s premise, an order which was grudgingly complied with.

Afterwards, the governor asked Ms. Nunieh to get into a vehicle in which she was transported back to the State House where she is currently taking refuge.

Narrating her ordeal to newsmen, the ex-NDDC boss thanked the governor for his intervention, saying Wike is a man of his word.

According to Ms. Nunnieh, the security operatives stormed her residence at about 4 a.m that day with the intent to whisk her away but she refused because they did not have a warrant.

Terrified, she then reached out to Governor Wike but was not able to get through the first time because his number was switched off.

“I tried to reach him but the phones were switched off, so I called some people and they said these people might not be real policemen.

“They said they (security operatives) came to take me away, I said for what? Do they have a warrant for arrest? They said no warrant of arrest, so I left it.

“About 6 a.m they broke the gate and later Senator Magnus Abe now called me that he had reached the Commissioner of Police who said he didn’t know anything about it (the arrest).

“So the CP called, I sent him my address, they told me the CP was downstairs but the CP was not downstairs, it was the Deputy Commissioner who was around; so I opened the door, they wanted to grab me, I now pushed back the door and locked it.

“I got through to my governor, they tried to break the back door, its a security door so they kept hitting for over one hour and they couldn’t get access.

“So my governor came, asked them for their warrant of arrest and why they did not invite me to the police, that I will come, instead of going to take a woman like a criminal.

“So, the governor took me in his car and here I am refuging in the Government House.

“I want to thank his excellency for keeping to his word that nothing should happen to the daughter of Rivers State,” Ms. Nunieh narrated.

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NDDC Spent 1.3trn Between 2015 And 2019 – Senate Report

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The Senate ad hoc committee investigating financial recklessness in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) on Thursday said the agency had spent N1.3 trillion within four years, with some of the spending unlawful.

The committee revealed the figure during the presentation of its investigative report before the Senate days after the acting NDDC Managing Director, Prof. Kemebradikumo Pondei, slumped at a public hearing.

In the report read by the Senate Committee Chairman, Senator Olubunmi Adetunmbi, the NDDC spent the N1.3 trillion between 2015 and May 31, 2019.

Many of the expenses, Adetunmbu said, were extra-budgetary.

He added that the Committee observed process errors and infractions, as well as substantial payments, were made to staff in the form of unjustifiable allowances.

He said the committee observed process errors and infractions, as well as substantial payments, were made to staff in the form of unjustifiable allowances.

The investigation further revealed that the NDDC paid 4.9 billion Naira to staff for numerous allowances including COVID-19 relief, tour duty allowances, overseas travel, and international scholarships.

Curiously, the payment for overseas travel and scholarship was during the lockdown and cessation of flights abroad.

The committee also observed that the ministry of Niger delta is culpable if negligent supervision of the NDDC.

It further noted that the performance of the interim management committee IMC is a major issue as the record of the IMC has not shown any record of prudence and it should be dissolved.

The committee also raised an alarm over the forensic audit called for by President Buhari, stating that it is at a rudimentary level with the recruitment of the auditors still underway even after eight months.

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Buhari Orders Speedy Investigation Into NDDC Corruption Scandal

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President Muhammadu Buhari has ordered a speedy and coordinated investigation into the corruption scandal in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).

The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, disclosed this in a statement on Thursday.

He explained that the President gave the directive for better coordination among security and investigating agencies with the National Assembly.

Shehu believes this will ensure that the effort of the present administration to bring sanity, transparency, and accountability to the management of the large amount of resources dedicated to the development of the Niger Delta sub-region is not derailed.

He stated that the President has noted the unfolding drama, including attacks and counterattacks between and around persons, institutions, and the NDDC.

“President Buhari expressed his strong determination to get to the root of the problem undermining the development of the Niger Delta and its peoples in spite of enormous national resources voted year after year for this singular purpose,” the statement said.

It added, “According to the directive, auditing firms and investigative agencies working in collaboration with National Assembly Committees to resolve the challenges in the NDDC must initiate actions in a time-bound manner and duly inform the Presidency of the actions being taken.”

A Chain Of Drama

President Buhari also directed the timely sharing of information and knowledge in a way that would speedily assist the administration to identify what had gone wrong in the past and what should be done to make corrections in order to return the NDDC to its original mandate of making life better for people in Niger Delta.

He said the administration would bring about “rapid, even, and sustainable development to the region.”

The President also gave a firm assurance that his administration would put in place a transparent and accountable governance framework, not only in the NDDC but in all other institutions of government.

Prior to the directive for a speedy and coordinated investigation, the corruption scandal in the NDDC had triggered a series of drama, blames, and counter-accusations among others.

Amid the controversy, the National Assembly probed the allegation of fraud said to have been perpetrated by the Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the agency.

This led to another round of exchange of blame between the former IMC led by Dr Joy Nunieh and Professor Kemebradikumo Pondei over the discrepancies in the NDDC’s 2019 budget.

The controversy took a new twist on Thursday when a team of security operatives stormed Nunieh’s residence in Port Harcourt in an attempt to arrest her.

Nunieh, however, reached out to the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, who swiftly responded to her distress call and came with his aides to challenge and stop the attempted arrest.

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