The Federal Executive Council (FEC) on Wednesday, approved N722.3 million for the forensic audit of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
Godswill Akpabio, the Minister of Niger Delta, disclosed this to State House Correspondents shortly after the weekly virtual FEC meeting which was presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Akpabio stated that the payment would come directly from the Presidency as the National Assembly is on break and the 2020 budget for the NDDC has not been passed.
He disclosed that the auditors are also mandated to look into the 12,000 abandoned projects by the NDDC in the Niger Delta.
“By the time I assume office in August 2019, we discovered there was no budget for the NDDC for the year 2019 up to that September,” the Minister said.
“So, we submitted two budgets in November to the National Assembly. And it took quite a while until in April. The budget details were given out to the NDDC in April, to end 31st of May, less than six weeks.”
Akpabio further explained that there was a provision of N1.25 billion in the budget of 2019 for the forensic audit exercise, noting that what “delayed it what the absence of a budget, not the absence of the will.”
“Unfortunately, the National Assembly is right now on leave and the budget of NDDC for 2020 has not been passed. So, to enable us to move forward with the exercise and complete it on time, Mr President graciously directed and approved that the payment for the forensic exercise should be undertaken through the Presidency,” he added.
He stated that the first amount that was approved for the lead forensic auditors was about N318 million while for second batch of eight field auditors, N722.3 million was approved.
“We expect to complete the field audit in the next one or two weeks to conclude forensic audit procurement by bringing in a further seven to eight of them because of the number of years, 19 years and that will conclude it.”
“Earlier, Mr President had last year approved an estimated amount of N2.5 billion. So everything that we are spending now will come from that estimated sum. Initially, it should have come from the budget of the NDDC but because of the delay and the inability to pass the 2020 budget, the entirety of the amount that will be spent will come from the budget of the presidency.
The NDDC which was established to cater to the welfare of the oil producing states has in recent times become a subject of controversy following the allegations of financial misappropriation, corruption and maladministration by the management of the Commission.
Between February and May 2019, investigations were launched by lawmakers to probe the alleged fraud in the NDDC while President Buhari also ordered that a forensic audit be carried out on the Commission.
The investigations unraveled more scams and loopholes in the Commission’s funds, a development that has sparked series of drama and blame games between lawmakers and government officials.
Godswill Akpabio, the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, alleged that about 60 per cent of the NDDC projects were awarded to lawmakers during the last investigative hearing organised by the House Committee on Niger Delta Development Commission at the National Assembly.
Akpabio’s allegations generated backlash, which led to the demand by the Femi Gbajabiamila asking the minster to publish names of the lawmakers in twenty four hours, the claim has since sparked more reactions from some members of the Senate and House of Representatives.
In August this year, scores of Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) scholarship beneficiaries staged a protest at the Nigeria High Commission in London, over their unpaid tuition and allowances.