A report by the Nigerian Senate has shown that top officials of the NDDC paid themselves grants meant for scholarship students, who are at this time stranded abroad.
Students who are recipients of the NDDC grants have not been paid for years and have been left hanging in several countries.
This recent report by the Senate corroborates with other expositions from previous investigations.
Recall that the Senate in May, set up a panel to probe the alleged financial recklessness by the Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the NDDC.
The probe yielded accusations and counter-accusations.
The Minister of Niger Delta Affairs alleged (with a backup list) that lawmakers hijacked projects of the commission. The commission also paid staff N1.3 billion as coronavirus relief funds.
The recent report by the Senate shows that the NDDC paid scholarship grants to the Managing Director, Daniel Podei (who is already a professor), and other top executives of the commission.
Top officials among the beneficiaries are Mr Pondei, the acting deputy director, projects, Cairo Ojougboh, and another director, Luke Ibanga.
The Report by the Senate
The Senate’s report showed that some top executives were awarded funds in the guise of “foreign postgraduate scholarship second trip 2020” abroad.
Also from October 2019 to May 2020, NDDC spent N347 million on “Education Grants and Scholarship”.
The report showed that 32 persons were beneficiaries of the grant.
Pondei and Ojougboh were paid N5.6 million each for “foreign postgraduate scholarship second trip 2020”. Mr Ibanga was paid twice – N5.19 million and N3.7 million for the same purpose.
The report also stated that one Seledi Wakama (whose position in NDDC is not understood) was paid N3.5 million twice for the same purpose.
Similarly, a “Marg Consultant” was paid N3.5 million twice, for the same purpose, while another “Marg Educational International Limited” was paid the sum of N106.2 million for “2019 NDDC Foreign postgraduate scheme and data infrastructure scheme and admin cost.” The Senate wondered if the N106 million paid to the latter was for services rendered to the NDDC.
The report read in part:
“…However, the character of the transaction suggests that Marg international is a ‘middleman’ or an agent for foreign postgraduate admission. The justification of this expenditure is questionable especially when prospective students can directly approach any institution of their choice; and particularly so when current scholarship holders are yet to be paid their allowances.”
The Senate did not state the date the payments were made, however, the grants were awarded to the employees in view of 2020.
Questioning why the NDDC MD will be a beneficiary of scholarship meant for Niger Delta youths, the Senate Committee said:
“Looking through the account shown above, it was unclear if these education grants were actually being paid to staff who are stranded abroad as portrayed by the MD/CEO. The names of beneficiaries on the account featured the interim MD/CEO – Kemebradikumo Pondei, the ED, Project Cairo Ojuogboh and other notable Directors such as Luke Ibanga. In fact, Luke Ibanga got the payment twice.
“From the public hearing; the interim MD/CEO stated that he is currently not studying being a professor already, therefore seeing his name on the list as a beneficiary of a scholarship grant is totally unexpected.”