We gave indigenes N340m to help inspectors ‘identify’ projects – NDDC director

The Executive Director of Projects, Niger Delta Development Commission, Dr. Cairo Ojougboh, says the NDDC gave N340m to indigenes to help inspectors to identify projects within their locality.

Ojougboh said this during an interview with Arise TV on the sidelines of the House committee probe on the NDDC.

When asked why N340m was given to the indigenes, the director said, “There are 185 local governments in the Niger Delta region and we have the list of contracts in all the local governments. Normally, when the forensic auditors arrive, people chase them out of the place.

“So, indigenes are appointed as pointers who will stay in the local government. All those jobs that are abandoned, they will go and show them where the site is.”

When asked if it was necessary to give indigenes such a huge sum of money to help point out projects to external auditors, Ojuogboh responded in the affirmative.

He said if the ‘pointers’ were not present, the locals could prevent auditors from gaining access to the communities to inspect the projects.

“You must need pointers and again, the auditors must have friendly people on the ground who will build synergy for them and the locals,” he said.

As regards allegations of extra-budgetary spending, Ojuogboh admitted that the funds being spent were not approved by the National Assembly but stated that the NDDC was allowed to spend 50 per cent of the proposed budget it had submitted to the National Assembly.

Responding to a question, he said, “There is nothing like that (extra-budgetary spending) because we have submitted the 2020 budget to the National Assembly and we are allowed to spend 50 per cent of the budget which is where we are spending from.

“In anticipation of the budget that we have submitted, we are allowed to spend the entire recurrent budget and 50 per cent of the budget itself.”

However, human rights lawyer, Inibehe Effiong, lambasted the NDDC director for his claim.

Effiong said giving N340m to indigenes to help identify projects in their locality was nonsensical.

He stated, “The arrogance of Dr. Cairo (Ojuogboh) does not surprise me. His comments cannot be valid. The purported payment of a whopping sum of N341m to so-called indigenes of the Niger Delta to identify projects for the forensic auditors across the local government areas in the region is crazy and absurd.

“How can you pay people to identify projects that you awarded? It does not make any sense. What manner of criminality is this? Even if the purported projects are non-existent, there must be documentations. Contracts were awarded and the records are there.

“It is now clear that the so-called forensic audit is a fraud. We need to audit the auditors. They must publish the names of the people that they paid money to across the local government areas in the Niger Delta for project identification.”

He also faulted claims by the NDDC director that monies could be spent without appropriation or in anticipation of budgetary approvals.

“Section 80 of the constitution is clear and unambiguous: no money from the federation account or any public fund can be spent except in the manner authorised by an Act of the National Assembly.

“The argument that the NDDC can spend money in anticipation of appropriation is flawed. Dr. Cairo has just admitted to grave legal infraction on national television,” Effiong said.

Eniola Akinkuotu, Punch