…Says commission unearths contractors’ plot to swindle N3.9bn, petitions ICPC
By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South & Innocent Anaba
Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, has commenced investigating Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, and acting Managing Director of Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, Prof Keme Pondei, over allegations of diversion of the commission’s funds.
It will be recalled that the leadership of NDDC is currently being probed by the National Assembly for allegedly mismanaging N80 billion.
This came as the commission claimed that it had uncovered a well-designed attempt by some companies to rip off the interventionist agency of N3.9 billion with make-believe interim payment certificates.
The EFCC in an invitation letter addressed to Foundation for True Freedom and Good Governance, a civil society group, led by activist, Deji Adeyanju, by the Head, Economic Governance Section, Adebayo Adeniyi, dated August 14, 2020, with reference number 3000/EFCC/ABJ/HQ/EG/T.6/Vol4/044, said it was probing the NDDC and called on Adeyanju to come to clarify some of the issues he raised in his allegations.
The letter read in part: “We write to acknowledge the receipt of your petition dated August 3, 2020, in respect of the above subject and to inform you that investigation into the case has commenced.
“In view of the above, you are kindly requested to attend an interview with the undersigned through the O/C team six on August 20, 2020, at EFCC headquarters third floor.”
Contractors’ plot to swindle NDDC of N3.9bn
The commission said that the companies were awarded contracts for seven skills acquisition programmes in 136 slots covering entrepreneurship, building, tailoring/fashion design, web application/design, digital photography, cake making/confectionaries and baking/bread making skills training valued at N6.404 billion in August, 2019.
It noted that a month after, in September 2019, some of the companies turned in invoices requesting for payment of 60 per cent of the total contract sum, claiming they had achieved the first milestone activities of the programme amounting to N3.9 billion.
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A source in the commission said the contractors allegedly working in concert with some officials, prepared interim payment certificates of N3.9 billion, representing 60 per cent of the contract sum pending verification of the claim.
A source told Vanguard that on discovering the scam, the Expanded Interim Management Committee, EIMC, wrote a formal petition to Independent Corrupt Practices Commission, ICPC, on the attempt by some companies to defraud and obtain payments from NDDC by false pretence.
It also wrote a former acting Managing Director of the commission, Dr Akwagaga Enyia, to explain why she recommended that the claimed sums be paid to the consultants “when you had no reason to believe that the jobs were executed.”
Acting Managing Director, NDDC, Prof Keme Pondei, in the petition to the ICPC chairman, a copy of which was obtained by Vanguard, called for probe of the racket, saying: “Investigations by the commission, however, revealed that no training had been conducted as alleged and that the documents supporting the requests for payment amounting to N3. 9 billion were concocted for the purpose of obtaining money from the commission under false pretence.”
He confirmed that the contractors actually presented interim payment certificates indicating that they had achieved 60 per cent milestone pending verification of claim, urging ICPC “to take a look at the facts culminating in the petition.”
Similarly, acting Executive Director, Projects, Dr Cairo Ojougboh, in a memo dated August 5, 2020, to Enyia, said: “You are requested to provide evidence to management within seven days showing why 60 per cent of the contract sum in each of the 136 slots was due and payable as at the time you signed the recommendation.”