Pointblanknews.com recalls that on May 3, 2019, Prof. Nelson Braimbaifa led board wrote to the Bureau of Public Procurement, BPP, vide NDDC/BPP/EP16/2019/02/01, seeking ratification of 205 emergency contracts awarded 4th quarter 2016, for the total sum of
But on May 8, 2019, the BPP responded vide BPP/S.1/CID/19/Vol.I/215, rejected the request, declared the action illegal and spelled out the consequences to the Accounting Officer for authorizing such actions. Management was advised to make detailed records available to enable the Bureau to make an informed decision on the request.
Curiously, the same Emergency contracts which the BPP rejected, described as “fraudulent and illegal,” has been approved and paid for by the Minister of Niger Delta, Godswill Akpabio’s backed Interim management Committee of the NDDC, led by Mrs. Joi Nunieh.
Investigations revealed that the IMC in collaboration with the Minister, has made various payments to contractors in contravention of the Procurement Act. On November 15, 2019 the following payments were made for emergency contracts:
N607,445,026 to Attanu Const. Ltd., UBN account 0067379672; N623,053,818 to Franez Nig. Ltd., UBN account 0045358643; N607,114,818 to Rill Oil Services Ltd., Zenith account 1016082718; N655,471,044 to Simoka Marine Ltd., First Bank of Nigeria account 2018520972; and on December 3, 2019: N445,686,266 to Rodnab Construction Ltd., Zenith account 1013906383.
The Public Procurement Act 2007:
1. Part IV, section 16(1)(b) “…based on procurement plans supported by prior budgetary appropriations, no procurement proceedings shall be formalized until the procuring entity has ensured that funds are available.”
2. Part IV, section 16(2): “…no funds shall be disbursed from the bank account of the procuring entity for any procurement falling above the set thresholds unless the payment is accompanied by a certificate of ‘No Objection’ issued by the Bureau.”
3. Part IV, section 16(4): “…any procurement purported to be awarded without a certificate of ‘No Objection’ shall be null and void.”
4. Part II, section 6(1)(l): “the Bureau shall have the power to nullify the whole or part of any procurement proceedings that contravene the Act.”
5. Part IV, section 16(22): “…the accounting officer of the procuring entity has the responsibility to ensure compliance with the Act… and concurrent approval by a Tenders Board shall not absolve the accounting officer from accountability for any contraventions of the Act.”
However, NDDC Sources told Pointblanknews.com that during most of the payments, Akpabio had to skip the weekly Federal Executive Council, FEC, meeting, lodged at the Le Meridien Hotel, Port Harcourt, for three days to personally supervise the payments where he allegedly pocketed 30 per cent for himself.
A source told Pointblanknews.com that “these are just a few out of several billion-naira worth of transactions made by the IMC against the express warning from the National Assembly that the Commission should desist from any further contract payments until there is an approved budget.”
According to the source who does not want to be named, “these payments have been made without recourse to valid budgetary provisions or certificates of ‘No Objection’. Any excuse that these payments were already validated and prepared for payment by previous management does not absolve the present accounting officer of the fact that these contracts were wrongly procured in the first place. By examining existing records, a prudent manager will quickly establish that ALL the emergency contracts awarded from 4th quarter 2016 are illegal, based on the response received from BPP.”
The source who is knowledgeable with the workings at the intervention agency said “the surreptitious and selective payment of these emergency contract sums in the face of overwhelming evidence of their defective procurement is simply mind-boggling. The timeline between procurement of these emergency contracts, completion of works and certification is no more than 10 to 12 weeks in most observed cases.”
According to the source, “normally procured contracts are less expensive and payout in several stages, with the cash flow liability to contractors typically spread over about 18 months. Contractors of these conventional projects which are budgeted for and properly procured now have over
N250 billion worth of payments due, with some outstanding since 2012, whilst over N450 billion has been paid out to illegally procured contracts since 2016.”
“By making these recent payments for emergency contracts, the IMC is continuing with the excesses of the past rather than critically reviewing the genesis of the present debt crisis at the NDDC and taking firms steps to resolve the situation,” the source said.
Pointblanknews.com investigations revealed that a review of NDDC’s 2018 audited accounts at the Accountant-General’s office and the 2018 budget performance report submitted to the House Committee on Niger Delta, show some very disturbing trends.
For instance, for the 2018 period, the National Assembly approved the sum of
N346,513,150,000 but actual expenditure for the budget year which ended 31st July 2019 was N448,066,024,000. The management of NDDC spent an extra N110,552,874,264 above its authorised budget. This occurred under the management of Chief Nsima Ekere and Professor Nelson Braimbaifa.
Where were these extra funds spent?
According to the NDDC’s 2018 budget performance, various budget heads were exceeded by up to 600%. For instance,
N10.376 billion was allocated for Regional Canalization but N77.727 billion was spent. For Regional Ecological, N1.778 billion was allocated but N10.428 billion was spent and for Regional Roads and Bridges, N38.479 billion was allocated but N66.178 billion spent. Across the Regional budget, the approved allocation was N100.803 billion but the actual expenditure was N220.452 billion. An extra N119.646 billion above the approved amount.
Specifically, the Regional Canalization, Ecological, Roads, and Bridges budget heads had an extra-budgetary expenditure of
N105.478 billion whilst the equivalent budget heads for the States overshot their allocations by N70.707 billion!
What was the mechanism used to misappropriate these funds from the treasury?
Pointblanknews.com investigations revealed that the fraud was enabled by the illegal award of emergency contracts for the rehabilitation of roads and canals and clearing of invasive waterway species (the infamous water hyacinth contracts). These contracts were used to divert funding away from legally budgeted and procured contracts, thus depriving people of the region the benefit of projects that were designed to meet pressing community needs.
Inside sources told pointblanknews.com that President Mohammadu Buhari can resolve the present controversy by simply following the law and inaugurating the Governing Board to manage the affairs of the Commission.
The NDDC Act 2000, foresaw the present need for periodic audits by giving the President the power to create a Monitoring Committee (see Part VI, sections 21(1) and (2)) “whose members are to be appointed by the President and which shall monitor the funds of the Commission and the implementation of the projects of the Commission,” activities that are at the heart of the forensic audit we all desire.