Ahead of the eargerly anticipated forensic audit of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, ordered by President Muhammadu Buhari, the recently concluded contracts’ verification exercise by the Commission, which is a prelude to the forensic audit has led to shocking revelations.

The Acting Managing Director of NDDC, Dr. Joi Nunieh, on Friday, 7th February, in Port Harcourt, revealed that during the verification of contracts, it was discovered that some award letters were found to be fake; some of the companies were not registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), while some firms were registered after they had been given contracts.

She said: “The just-concluded verification exercise has been an eye opener for us. We owe Nigerians, especially Mr. President, a duty to give full details of what came out of the contracts’ verification. The report will show Nigerians that we are truly determined to refocus NDDC to properly develop the Niger Delta region.

“A lot have been revealed as a result of the verification exercise. Some contract award letters were found to be fake and some of the companies were not registered. Some were registered after they had been given the contracts.

“Some of the companies do not have the requirements prescribed in the Public Procurement Act to handle such projects. We also found that some individuals have 50 to 100 different award letters under different names.

“Only few executives of the companies showed up for the verification exercise. Contractors and consultants that failed to show up for the verification exercise should not expect the commission (NDDC) to visit their sites for project assessment.”

Nunieh also on Friday inaugurated two new committees for contract documentation and project assessment, as a follow up to the work of the contracts’ verification committee.

While speaking further during the inauguration at the NDDC’s corporate headquarters in the Rivers state capital, the acting managing director stated that the committees would start work next week, even as the commission prepares to defend its budget before the Senate on Wednesday, 12th February.

She disclosed that the contract documentation committee, headed by NDDC’s Director, Planning Research and Statistics/Management Information Systems, Dr. Linus Ogbalubi, would authenticate all the documents submitted by contractors and consultants, while the project assessment committee, headed by the commission’s Director, Project Monitoring and Supervision, Dr. Emmanuel Audu-Ohwavborua, would visit the various sites to verify contractors’ claims.

Nunieh said: “From next week, the project assessment committee will begin to visit project sites to check the veracity of the claims of the contractors and consultants.

“Those that executed their contracts well have nothing to fear, as they deserve to be paid. I want to reiterate that not all contractors are fraudulent. There are contractors who did well, but it is a pity everyone is getting agitated. I have not given anyone a contract; I have not collected one naira from any contractor with the promise of payment.

“We will do the right thing in the interest of all the communities. While visiting the project sites, we will work with the Community Development Committees (CDCs) of the various communities and the villagers will be there to testify that the roads and other projects are well done.

“Please, do not bother to pay any money to members of the committee. Do not induce them in anyway during the course of this exercise and any member of the committee that asks for money should be reported to the police.

“The entire process of assessment is free. No one is allowed to take money from any contractor to facilitate their coming to carry out the assessment. If you try to induce members, they may not visit your site.”

The NDDC chief assured that the commission was sending very credible directors, certified engineers and quantity surveyors recognised by the Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN) and the Quantity Surveyors Registration Board of Nigeria (QSRBN) respectively.

She noted that the Federal Government’s interventionist agency decided to include quantity surveyors, since most of the award letters, especially those for the emergency projects, were issued without stating the contract sums.

Nunieh said: “We have a situation where all manner of people have our Interim Payment Certificates (IPCs). That is not good at all. So, anyone that is going out to the various communities must ensure that things are well done. We call on the CDCs to stand up to defend the projects in their communities.

“Please, be at the sites when our teams come. Do not be aggressive, receive them well. I want to advise all the young boys that are being used to stage protests, telling us to pay people who did not execute their contracts in the communities, to desist forthwith.”

The acting managing director also called for patience, noting that members of the project assessment committee had been charged to do their work quickly, so that payments could commence, pointing out that contractors who were being owed between N1 million and N20 million would be paid immediately, once the debts were verified and the budget was passed.

Nunieh thanked members of the National Assembly for their encouragement and insistence on prudence in the affairs of the Niger Delta.

She said: “The Senate has invited the NDDC to defend its budget on Wednesday next week. I am happy to say that the people of the Niger Delta will begin to see the activities of the NDDC. Hopefully, we will make a good case in defending the budget.

“I thank the leadership of the Senate for showing commitment to the development of the Niger Delta region. I assure them that we will use every kobo budgeted prudently and wisely.”

The Chairman of the project assessment committee, in his remarks, assured the acting managing director that the members would carry out their assignments as honestly and diligently as possible.

He said: “There is always a time to say enough is enough and that time has come for the NDDC. We are committed to re-writing the story of the commission.”

While also speaking, the Chairman of the documentation committee thanked the NDDC chief for giving the members the opportunity to serve the commission.

He added: “It is a new beginning for NDDC. We will ensure that we carry out the assignment dutifully and timeously.”