President Muhammadu Buhari has vowed to initiate criminal investigations, as well as prosecute and recover all funds not properly utilized for the 13,000 poorly executed projects under the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
The President made the remark on Thursday after receiving the report of the Forensic Audit submitted by Niger Delta Affairs Minister, Senator Godswill Akpabio.
The report was received by Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, on behalf of Mr. President. According to Mr. Malami, the President ordered for a holistic forensic audit of the activities of the Commission from inception to August 2019 in response to the yearnings of the people the Niger Delta region to reposition it for effective service delivery.
He added that the Niger Delta people had yearned for the audit of the Commission’s projects following the huge gaps between resources invested in the region and deficit in infrastructural, human and economic development.
The President in the statement said, “the Federal Government will without hesitation, strategically implement all aspect of the report that will promote probity and greater prosperity for the people of the Niger Delta region and Nigeria as a whole.”
“It is on record that between 2001 and 2019, the Federal Government has approved N3, 375, 735,776,794.93 three trillion, three hundred and seventy five billion, seven hundred and seventy six thousand, seven hundred and ninety four naira, ninety three kobo as budgetary allocation and N2,420,948,894,191.00 two trillion, four hundred and twenty billion, nine hundred and forty million, and, eight hundred and ninety four thousand, one hundred and ninety one naira as Income from statutory and Non statutory sources, which brings the total figure to the sum of approximately six trillion naira given to the Niger Delta Development Commission.
“Consequently, the Federal Executive Council (FEC) approved the engagement of a Lead Forensic Auditor, as well as 16 reputable audit firms to conduct the audit exercise.
He revealed that it is in the broader context of the foregoing developments in the host community that he signed into Law the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) which has been a contentious issue for successive administrations over the years.
The President promised to consider the report for necessary action, adding that he owes it a duty to the people of the Niger Delta region to improve their standard of living through the provision of adequate infrastructural and socio-economic development.
He said, “The welfare and socio- economic inclusion of the Niger Delta Region is paramount to the development and security of the Region and by extension the Country. Funds spent on development activities should as a consequence promote political and socio-economic stability in the region.
“Citizens affected by these development projects should also exhibit the ability to contribute to the continuous progress of their immediate and wider communities by engaging in constructive activities that will sustain and supports these development projects.
“It is evident that considerable resources have been channeled by the Federal Government to the development of the Niger Delta from 2001 to 2019. It is therefore important for the Federal Government and the public to be properly informed of what has been spent and how that has been spent.
“The essence of the forensic audit is to ensure probity and accountability in the use of public funds. It is against this background that the Federal Government will without hesitation strategically implement all aspects of the audit exercise that will promote probity and greater prosperity for the Niger Delta Region and Nigeria as whole.
“ The Federal Government is particularly concerned with the colossal loss occasioned by uncompleted and unverified development projects in the Niger Delta Region, in spite of the huge resources made available to uplift the living standard of the citizens.
The President noted that execution of over 13,777 projects of the Commission were substantially compromised, expressing concern that the multitudes of Niger Delta Development Commission’s bank accounts amounting to 362 and lack of proper reconciliation of accounts.
He said, “The Federal Government will in consequence apply the law to remedy the deficiencies outlined in the audit report as appropriate. This will include but not limited to initiation of criminal investigations, prosecution, recovery of funds not properly utilized for the public purposes for which they were meant for review of the laws to reposition and restructure the NDDC for the efficiency of better service delivery amongst others.
The President further revealed that he is aware of interest generated on the forensic exercise by stakeholders on the constitution of the NDDC board. He noted that his administration is determined to address the challenges militating against the delivery of the mandate of the NDDC to the people of the region and what part of the reason the President signed the PIB into law.”
According to him,” the report and your recommendations would be critically examined for necessary action and implementation. The essence of the exercise was to ensure probity and accountability in the running of the NDDC. It is therefore important for the Federal Government to be properly informed of all what had been spent and how it was spent.”
He declared that,” the laws of the commission would be reviewed and proper restructuring implemented for efficiency and service delivery for due process compliant. The President has directed that the report be forwarded to The Federal Ministry of Justice for legal review by relevant agencies.”
The President however ordered that the forensic audit report be forwarded to the Federal Ministry of Justice for a legal review, promising that relevant Ministries, Departments and Agencies of Government will be engaged in doing justice to the findings accordingly.
Senator Akpabio in his remark disclosed that the auditors have concluded the examination and documentation of a total 13,777 contracts for projects and programmes awarded to Contractors and consultants in all Niger Delta States from 2001-August 2019, at a total final contract value of N 3,274.206,032,213.24.
According to him, the name and identity of a vast number of beneficiary companies were also captured as well.
“Via Field Verification, the Forensic Auditors established the exact status of all contracts for projects and programmes in all constituent states during the period under review classified into completed, ongoing, abandoned, terminated, taken-over and non-existence, ” he declared
The Minister disclosed that the auditors also focused on funding gaps, Irregularities, mismanagements and Due Process Violations/Conflicts of interest.
He went on: “A Personnel Audit and Review of the governance and organisational structure of NDDC was also carried out. An operational guideline/Manual and a fit-for-purpose organogram that would aid the transformation of NDDC to a globally competitive development agency has been developed as well.
“Available financial records of the commission were analysed with the aim of establishing the total amount of funds received by the Commission from all sources, both statutory and non-statutory and the total funds and other resources paid to contractors as well as the total amount outstanding as debts with regards to such projects within the period under reference.
Senator Akpabio disclosed that Lead Forensic Auditors have also provided policy recommendations, in terms of measures that should be taken to ensure the prevention of such irregularities and mismanagement, going forward.