The Acting Managing Director of Niger Delta Development Commission, (NDDC), Kemebradikumo Pondei, on Monday, told the House of Representatives’ Ad hoc Committee investigating the activities of the agency that N1.32 billion was spent as “Coronavirus (COVID-19) relief funds” for members of staff.
However, at a Senate hearing about a fortnight ago, Pondei had said NDDC spent N1.5 billion to take care of staff, besides their salaries.
His words: “The youth were given palliatives to help cushion the effect of the pandemic on the people. The youth were idle and to avoid violence, they were paid. “Five million for youths and five million for women and five million for people living with disabilities in each senatorial district.”
But on Monday (yesterday), when asked again about the ‘relief funds,’ he said he must have said N1.5 billion while he was not attentive. He said: “We used N1.32 billion, not N1.5 billion, to take care of ourselves as COVID-19 relief funds.”
“The amount the IMC used to take care of NDDC staff as COVID-19 palliative was N1.32 billion, not N1.5 billion,” he responded to the question posed to him by the coordinator of the panel and Vice Chairman of the committee, Thomas Ereyitomi, who took over after the chairman stepped aside at the start of the hearing over allegations of bias.
Pondei also disagreed with the committee that the commission had extra-budgetary spending by approving that sum for themselves. He also said N81.5 billion was spent from October 2019 to 31 May, this year by the NDDC. Of this, he explained that the incumbent interim management committee he heads, which came in February spent N59.1 billion. He said: “Of this, N38.6 billion was spent on capital projects. N35.3 billion was paid to contractors hired by previous administrations.” He added that N20.5 billion was spent on recurrent expenditure between 20 February 2019 and 21 May, this year.
“They are a backlog of debt for about three years. Duty tour allowances haven’t been paid for three years; we cleared it. Scholarship fees haven’t been paid since 2016,” he said, adding that the NDDC paid N500,000 to each beneficiary.
He also told the committee that the commission paid a contractor N641 million for the completion of what he called ‘turning point road’ in Asaba and over N500 million to a consultant to identify NDDC projects in different parts of the nine Niger Delta states.