Former Acting Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, Joi Nunieh has vehemently refuted reports in some quarters that the Senate Committee which recently probed the alleged financial recklessness in the agency indicted her of any wrongdoing.
She rather insisted that the committee found the Expanded Interim Management Committee, EIMC currently led by Professor Daniel Keme Pondei culpable of malfeasances.
Nunieh’s clarification followed a letter by the Director, Legal Services of the NDDC, Mr. Peter Claver Okoro in which he demanded that she should refund the sum of N1.96.Billion to the Commission within 7 days apparently arising from the supply of Lassa fever Personal Protection kits for 185 LGA areas.
Recall that the Senate Committee in its report asked the Committee to make some refund to the federation account.
In a statement by her Chief Press Secretary, Mrs. Waaka Lebari, Nunieh said that the purported letter was a deliberate attempt to malign her and also divert attention from the issues, stressing that she was yet to even get a copy of the letter.
“Our attention has once again been drawn to another mischievous and ill-conceived social media publication of a letter dated 28th July 2020, purportedly signed by Mr. Peter Claver Okoro (Director Legal Services, NDDC) in which he demanded that Gbene Dr. Joi Nunieh (former Acting Managing Director) should refund the sum of N1.96.Billion to the NDDC, within seven (7) days. Gbene Nunieh has till this 13th day of August 2020, not received a copy of the said letter.
“However, electronic copies of the letter were circulated on the 8th of August, 2020, to various online media handlers and organizations in a desperate attempt to blackmail, discredit and malign Gbene Nunieh as part of a grand conspiracy to silence her.
“The letter was intentionally published to instigate and/or mislead the general public into believing that Gbene Nunieh was indicted by the Senate Adhoc Committee on Investigation of the Alleged Financial Recklessness in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) for misappropriation of funds.
“Let it be known that the Senate Committee did not indict Gbene Nunieh, instead they indicted the Prof Pondei led EIMC for the fictitious and back-dated contract awarded for the 2nd supply of Lassa fever Personal Protection kits for 185 LGA Areas, which was paid for by the EIMC on the 15th of April, 2020, during the Covid19 Lockdown two months after the removal of Gbene Nunieh and several other fraudulent contracts awarded and paid for by them.
It is on record that, Gbene Nunieh did not award a single contract throughout her 4-month tenure as MD because, the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) had in its letter dated, 8th November 2019, queried the NDDC for the award of indiscriminate emergency contracts.
“The committee stated in its report, the reasons why they recommended the EIMC to make the refund of a total of N4.93 Billion, to the Federation Account. Nowhere in the 121-page Report, did the committee indict or recommend Gbene Nunieh to refund a single Kobo to the Federation Account”, Lebari said.
Lebari however gave details of how EIMC siphoned money by making payments to some NDDC staff accounts, positioning them as contractors.
She added that Nunieh made the distribution of lassa fever kits to communities free of charge, without paying a dime to staff as contractors.
“In paragraph 5, he demanded that Gbene Nunieh should pay in the sum of N1.96 Billion into the NDDC’s Account within 7 days of his letter, which is dated the 28th of July, 2020, but which was published online 11 days after, on the 8th of August, 2020.
“The Committee in Section 513, paragraph 2 of its Report, in relying on the false testimony of Dr. Cairo Ojougbo (Acting EDP) who made reference to a fictitious and unexecuted, fraudulently back-dated 2nd Lassa Fever Personal Protective Kits Contract paid for on the 15th April 2020, which the Prof. Pondei led EIMC failed to prove that they were delivered to any of the 185 LGAs in the Niger Delta.
“The committee in paragraph 51 of its Report expressed concern that Dr. Cairo Ojougbo verbally told the Committee that NDDC staff were used and paid as contractors, for the purported distribution of the kits to undisclosed 185 LGAs. The committee stated that they were not convinced that kits got to the end users because, the EIMC failed to provide any verifiable evidence of proof of delivery of the kits to the end-users as claimed by them.
The committee expressly stated that, the NDDC staff purportedly used by the EIMC for the distribution of the kits namely: Affiong Ekong (paid N36.75 Million); Adebayo Adetimehin (paid N18.33 Million); Abraham Derefaka (N5.97 Million) were actually proxies who were paid huge sums of money in pretext of distributing the kits to the 185 LGAs and that the N1.895Billion said to have been paid for the procurement of the said Kits by the EIMC and the N61.07 Million paid for the distribution of the kits and logistics to their proxies (total N1.96 Billion) could not be accounted for by the EIMC.
“Meanwhile, the Gbene Nunieh led IMC distributed the 1st Lassa Fever Personal Protective Kits free of charge to the various states and no staff of the NDDC was used as delivery contractors. All deliveries were made at no cost to the NDDC.
“The Committee further held that the risk inherent with the use of staff as logistic contractors by the EIMC is considered enormous, as the EIMC could not guarantee the delivery of the items to the end-users in any of the 185 LGAs and they could not present any verifiable proof of the delivery of the items to the end-users”, she said.
The former Managing Director also challenged the Minister of Niger Delta, Senator Godswill Akpabio to convince Nigerians on the genuineness of the forensic auditors.
“We once again challenge the EIMC and Sen Akpabio to show Nigerians, evidence that the Forensic Audit exercise has started. Our position that the Forensic Audit has not started, remains uncontroverted till this day, as the Federal Executive Council (FEC) has not approved the procurement of the Forensic Auditors because the Due Process Certificate of No Objection issued by the BPP to the NDDC, is predicated on the 2020 Appropriation Budget year. The EIMC shamefully could not even defend its own 2020 budget before the National Assembly before they went on recess.
“We join all Nigerians in demanding for the immediate refund of all monies purportedly paid by the EIMC to Youths and Chiefs (in all 185 LGAs) for the project identification exercise with the non-existent Forensic Auditors which Prof. Pondei claimed to have paid for whilst giving evidence before the House of Representative Committee”, she said.