It has been exposed that the Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, paid N570m to some staff members to undergo training programmes when the country was on total lockdown due the COVID-19 pandemic.
This is contained in the report of the Senate ad hoc committee set up to probe financial recklessness and corruption in the NDDC between October 1999 and May 2020.
The report revealed that N143m was paid to individual members of staff on April 1, 2020 to attend a budget participatory conference.
“This payment was made to five members of staff averaging almost N28m per person,” it stated.
But the report said this was during the COVID-19 lockdown. “It is obvious that the conference was not attended as the country was on absolute lockdown.”
The panel recommended that the entire sum be refunded by the staff members concerned.
The report further exposed that N171m was paid in cash to 300 drivers on February 3, 2020 to attend a driver training course, scheduled to take place during the lockdown.
According to the panel the culture of cash payments to individual staff seems to be a standard practice at the NDDC.
“This custom is not only unethical, it lacks transparency and accountability. NDDC must do away with this practice as a way of improving its duty of stewardship.”
The report also revealed how the IMC paid N150m on April 3, 2020, to some NDDC union executives to attend an International Labour Organisation conference in Turin, Italy.
“Incidentally, this period also happens to be during the COVID-19 lockdown. It is obvious that the beneficiaries of these payments could not travel out of the country as a result of the COVID-19 travel restriction.
“Hence, this sum must be refunded by the union members concerned,” the report stated.
The report also named the “delegates” who were said to have attended the graduation ceremony of NDDC scholars in the United Kingdom in June 2020.
The total cost of the bogus trip was N85.6m, it said and the money was paid to 14 staff members for the travel.
“The composition of the travellers includes the MD/CEO, Prof (Daniel) Pondei; the Executive Director, Projects, Dr Cairo Ojougboh; and another Director, Mr Luke lbanga.”