While hundreds of NDDC projects remain abandoned and uncompleted across the oil producing states, partly due to non release of funds, the agency abandoned $70 million in a bank for over a decade, an official has said.
A series of investigations on the status of projects by the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) show that many remain abandoned in states like Imo, Akwa Ibom and Cross River, leaving many residents frustrated.
Some of the projects, including health centres and schools, commenced as far back 2006 with some of the contractors saying they were abandoned because the NDDC refused to pay them.
While such projects lingered, however, the agency kept the unspent funds and did not return it to the coffers of the federal government as expected.
The minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, said NDDC “abandoned” the $70 million in a bank since 2006, and the bank has now offered to return the money.
Mr Akpabio, according to a report published on Friday by The Nation newspaper, said a bank came forward with the revelation on the ‘abandoned’ money after President Muhammadu Buhari ordered a forensic audit of the NDDC accounts.
The revelation by the minister lends credence to the allegations of corruption and financial recklessness in the NDDC by successive managements.
“I know of a bank that came to say they have $70 million from 2006, one also came to say N170 million had been abandoned, I’ve forgotten in which administrations in the last 11 years, they said they are ready to refund.
“I said no problem, just hang on, we’ll sort all these out when the forensic (audit) comes in to let us know all the recoverables and all that,” The Nation quoted Mr Akpabio to have said in an interview with the paper.
Mr Akpabio said contractors and banks jittery of the impending audit were now coming forward with funds that may have been taken away from unexecuted projects.
Since his appointment as a minister by President Muhammadu Buhari in July, Mr Akapbio, a former governor of Akwa Ibom State, has repeatedly spoken of how corruption among NDDC officials and contractors has prevented the commission from achieving its mandate of developing the country’s Niger Delta region.
“I think people were treating the place as an ATM, where you just walk in there to go and pluck money and go away, I don’t think they were looking at it as an interventionist agency,” Mr Akpabio had spoken in November about the level of corruption in the NDDC.
The minister has vowed to clean up the commission which is under his ministry.
It may take up to four months to audit the commission, he said.
“The rotten system that made this sanitisation process needful took almost 19 years to occur, so we cannot do everything in a month, but the process is on and I assure you that in the next three to four months you will see the result and you will be very impressed and the region will be glad for it.
“That will be one of the greatest legacies of President Muhammadu Buhari; being able to clean the Niger Delta Development Commission and being able to refocus it to achieve much more for the people of the Niger Delta. History will remember him positively,” the minister said.