The Niger Delta Development Commission has said the alleged sponsored media attacks on the activities of its Interim Management Committee are meant to derail the forensic audit ordered by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Speaking in an interview at the NDDC headquarters in Port Harcourt, the Commission’s Director Corporate Affairs, Charles Obi Odili, stated that the allegations against the IMC were deliberate falsehood orchestrated to undermine the ongoing forensic audit.
Odili declared: “When this IMC came in with the mandate to drive the forensic audit, it was well aware that it will have enemies.
“There are some people who have unjustly benefitted from the system who will be brought to book.
“They are the people fighting back.
“People like this don’t have any other arsenal other than to resort to the media because the media gives them space to vent their venom.
“When you say you want to carry out a forensic audit, it is a delicate matter.
“It requires a lot of courage and forthrightness.
“It puts you at a certain pedestal where you are most likely going to be judged by people you want to investigate.”
Odili said those waging media war against the NDDC were hoping to weaken the resolve of the forensic auditors and compromise their report in the eyes of the public.
He said: “That is what they are aiming at.
“But that objective has failed because the forensic auditors will do their work and do it well to the satisfaction of Mr. President and Nigerians.”
The NDDC Director remarked that most of the allegations against the Commission were completely untrue, citing the claim that the IMC spent N200 billion in two months as one of those falsehood fed to the public.
According to Odili: “Nothing could be further from the truth.
“In actual fact, in three months, the IMC has received N33 billion, out of which they have spent N22 billion.
“This covers payments to vendors and suppliers like hotels and contractors, especially those owed N50 million and below.
“We saw fake documents flying around, claiming that the NDDC has given some contracts not recorded in our books.
“The only contract the NDDC has given is the one to Osmoserve Limited that has a Presidential approval and the company fulfilled all the financial requirements and met all regulations.
“It is not out of place at a time like this to intervene in the fight against COVID-19 and help assuage the sufferings of our people.”
Reacting to reports that the NDDC was not attending to the beneficiaries of its foreign post graduate scholarship programme, Odili said the scholars had been paid their takeoff grant and would have been fully settled but for the COVID-19 pandemic, which made movement of funds abroad impossible.
He observed: “Paying their outstanding entitlements involves foreign exchange transactions.
“If it were transactions in the local currency, NDDC would have settled the matter by now.
“However, we have reached out to the students and they are well aware of the situation.”
Addressing the issue of scammers duping members of the public in the guise of assisting them with agricultural loans, Odili advised those who have genuine businesses with the NDDC to always cross-check their information at the Corporate Affairs Department or visit the Commission’s official website and other social media handles.
He said: “We got reports from Rivers and Bayelsa States stating that some persons are asking unsuspecting members of the public to pay a certain amount of money so that that they can have access to a loan facility in the Agriculture and Fisheries Directorate of the NDDC.
“They took advantage of the promise made by the NDDC Acting Managing Director, Prof. Kemebradikumo Pondei, to promote agriculture in the Niger Delta region.
“The fraudsters used that as a bait and this forced us to issue a press release to inform members of the public on the correct state of the programme.”
Odili also spoke on the recent decision of the IMC to send some key staff on mandatory leave.
He explained that the leave, with full benefits, was on the advice of the Lead Consultants on the Forensic Audit, noting the insinuations that the Directors affected by the order were the best trained people in the NDDC was not correct.
He added: “All NDDC Directors have had the same opportunities for training.
“Some may have had some specialised trainings tailored to their professions.
“It is, therefore, not true that those that have been asked to proceed on leave are irreplaceable.”
The Director called for some understanding of the peculiar nature of the IMC assignment, stating that it came at a very difficult time in the life of the NDDC.
Odili said the expanded IMC had only been in office for about two months and it was not enough time for a fair assessment of their performance.
Odili said: “They have been trying to steady the course.
“They need some time to make their mark and those fighting them don’t want to give them the time to perform.”
Given enough time, he assured, the IMC will succeed.