•Fresh N31.9 billion scandal rocks NDDC
•EFCC, ICPC begin probe
MORE than $32 billion has been squandered in Nigeria since 1960 “without any evidence of how the money was spent”.
The above damning verdict came from one of the most influential newspapers in the United States (U.S.), the New York Times, which gave graphic details of how the economy of the most populous black nation has been mismanaged since its independence from Britain, more than 50 years ago.
The newspaper also said that despite Nigeria’s access to billions of dollars yearly in oil revenue, it is still a backward country.
Presenting a very disturbing scenario on why the country is not moving forward, the newspaper said the $32 billion was missing because of mismanagement, misapplication and corruption.
In the report entitled “Riches Flow Into Nigeria, But Are Lost After Arrival,” the Times’ West African correspondent, Adam Nossiter, said: “Some of the vast pile of cash, perhaps $5 billion to $8 billion, has been spent on so far unfruitful efforts to upgrade Nigeria’s feeble power output, which remains no better than that of a mid-size American city for a nation of over 150 million people and Africa’s most populous. But the rest, some $22 billion or more, remains largely unaccounted for. Nigeria, despite getting billions and billions in oil revenue, is still basically a backward country.
“Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, for example, spent nearly $16 billion on power generation during his eight years in office yet, people don’t have electricity in Nigeria. Obasanjo’s $16 billion shares the same notoriety as Babangida’s (General Ibrahim) squandered $12.5 billion Gulf oil windfall.
“The question many ask is: why is it that despite all the billions that is being poured into the Niger Delta, no noticeable development has taken place in the region?
“It’s basically free money, once you get it, there are no checks and balances on what happens to it.”
Meanwhile, the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) is facing a probe over alleged N31.9 billion fraud, even as an investigation into illegal transfer of $20 million, by management of the interventionist agency, in an offshore bank account, is still on.
The Nigerian Compass learnt that the probe by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC), was triggered by a petition written by Ifeanyi Nrialike & Co, an Abuja-based legal firm, on behalf of the Niger Delta Justice and Mass Movement (NDJMM), a pressure group in the oil rich Niger Delta region.
In a letter to the Chairman of the EFCC, Mrs. Farida Waziri, dated January 25, 2011, the petitioners alleged that the NDDC Managing Director, Mr. Chibuzor Ugwuoha, recently awarded a N27 billion consultancy contract to a Port Harcourt-based firm (name withheld), for the provision of consultancy service for the studies and design of the East-West coastal road for which he made an advance payment of N4,451,452,375 billion, without recourse to due process.
The contract was allegedly awarded and advance payment made in October last year without the involvement of the Bureau of Public Procurement, after a new generation bank was said to have offered to guarantee the contractor in a letter to the NDDC CEO dated October 13, 2010.
The petitioners, however, alleged that the same East-West coastal road contract is on the tenders list advertised last year by the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, based on a directive by the Federal Government that the NDDC hand over the project to the Niger Delta ministry.
“It is of a fact that in April 2009, President Goodluck Jonathan, then as Vice President, while declaring open the 1st South-South Economic Summit, had announced government’s directive that the project be handled by the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs,” the petitioners said.
It was further alleged that the NDDC Managing Director awarded a N4.9 billion contract for the completion of the defunct Oil Minerals Producing Areas Development Commission (OMPADEC) head office complex in Port Harcourt, which is to serve as the permanent headquarters of the NDDC, and released a 15 per cent mobilisation fee since early last year, without achieving a remarkable progress.
The petitioners also urged the EFCC to probe the alleged illegal transfer of $20million by the NDDC boss from the commission’s offshore account with Union Bank (UK) to First Bank (UK), as well as reports of a forged resolution of the agency’s Governing Board in which conflicting dates with respect to the dissolution and constitution of the second and third Boards were given in the process of effecting the account transfer.
The petition reads in part: “We wish to draw your attention to a query dated December 3, 2010, with Ref. SGF/55/5.2/V111/247, issued by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation to the Managing Director/CEO of the Niger Delta Development Commission on the said unlawful and illegal transfer of the account from the Union Bank (UK) to First Bank (UK). The SGF issued the query to Ugwouha, after a recommendation by the commission’s Governing Board, which had earlier suspended two top officials who allegedly collaborated with him to perpetrate the illegal act.”
To underscore the determination to pursue the case to its logical conclusion, counsel to the petitioners gave the EFCC a two-week ultimatum, within which to take appropriate steps on the complaint.
“Take notice, that 14 days after the receipt of this petition, and it is not positively treated, our services have been further retained to take such legitimate actions to compel the investigation of Mr. Chibuzor Ugwouha,” the legal firm stated.
Copies of the petition in possession of our correspondent were sent to President Goodluck Jonathan, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, National Security Adviser, Inspector General of Police, Attorney-General of the Federation; Chairman, ICPC; DG, State Security Services, and the DG, Bureau of Public Procurement.
ICPC’s Head of Public Enlightenment, Mr. Mike Sowe, confirmed receipt of the petition.
“We received a copy of the petition sent to the EFCC,” he said. “But we’re leaving the investigation to the EFCC for now.”
EFCC spokesman, Femi Babafemi, said that he would comment on the matter “when the time comes.”
In his reaction, the Special Assistant to Ugwuoha on Media, Mr. Abraham Ogbodo, described the allegation as “a re-invention of a dead story.” He said it was good the EFCC had been brought into the issue.
Arguing that those behind the allegation were only trying to build a case, Ogbodo said: “I have nothing much to say on those wild allegations. If the design of the East-West coastal road, which is almost 100 per cent completed, and somebody is now saying that the contract has been re-awarded, then, it is a good thing the EFCC is coming into the matter. Let them investigate and see. That is all I will say.”