NYSC Certificate Saga: NUNIEH REMOVED, PONDEI ENTERS, AS PRES. BUHARI ENLARGES NDDC INTERIM MANAGEMENT COMMITTEE

President Muhammadu Buhari has removed Dr. Joy Nunieh as Acting Managing Director of the Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and enlarged the team from three to five.

Presidential spokesman, Femi Adesina, in a statement Wednesday, 19th February, said: “The five members of the committee are now: Professor Kemebradikumo Daniel Pondei, who is the Ag. Managing Director, replacing Barrister Joy Nunieh; Dr Cairo Ojougboh, Ag. Executive Director (Projects); Mr Ibanga Bassey Etang, Ag. Executive Director (Finance and Administration); Mrs Caroline Nagbo (Member); and Cecilia Bukola Akintomide, OON, a former Vice President with African Development Bank, (Member).

Prof K.D Pondei, the new Ag. Managing Director, is a Professor of Medicine at the Niger Delta University, and former Provost, College of Health Sciences of the institution.

President Buhari had earlier approved that the Interim Management Committee would be in place till the forensic audit of the NDDC was concluded and the Interim Management headed by Dr. Nunieh, had only recently constituted a contracts verification committee, which had already commenced work in the Niger Delta States.

Many NDDC analysts however opine that the sacking of Dr. Joi Nunieh may not be unconnected with the allegation of forgery against her, claiming that she forged the National Youth Service Corps, NYSC discharge Certificate which she submitted alongside her other credentials for screening, when she was nominated as member representing Rivers State in the then constituted NDDC Management Board.

It would be recalled that a Civil Society Organization, Transparency and Integrity Crusaders, TIC had urged President Muhammadu Buhari to relieve Joi Nunieh of her duties as the Acting Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, over her alleged non-possession a valid NYSC discharge or exemption certificate.

The group, in a statement by its Executive Director, Dr Emmanuel Ekpo had said the development was being shielded “from the public space due to the tacit support of a top Government Official who has been protecting her.

“Traditionally, all appointees of critical Government Institutions are under obligation to submit their certificates to Police Force Intelligence Bureau (FIB) as well as the DSS for vetting/confirmation of their authenticity before they are allowed to commence work.

“We cannot have someone with questionable credentials to be in charge of a critical Government institution as the NDDC. She addresses herself as Dr. Joi Nunieh. This is also questionable as there is no record of her having a doctorate degree.

“We refer to the similar incidence involving former Finance Minister Kemi Adeosun due to non possession of a valid NYSC discharge certificate and we hold that the case of Joi Nunieh Ag. NDDC MD should not be covered up.

“We challenge Joi Nunieh to publicly present her NYSC discharge certificate or exemption letter for scrutiny”, the statement said.

Nunieh


However, Nunieh while reacting to the allegation had boasted that she submitted necessary documents to the relevant federal government agencies for documentation following her appointment by President Muhammadu Buhari, saying she has nothing to hide.

Her Special Adviser on Communication, Ibanga Isine, speaking on her behalf, had said that the allegation against her had no iota of truth, adding that the group was being sponsored by those who are afraid of the ongoing audit of NDDC as ordered by President Buhari.

“I have answered a lot of people on this. The group that made this allegation, have you substantiated if they really exist or a fathom organisation? Because the onus of prove will be on you if we decide to take legal action against those who publish that story. If a group has not been registered by the CAC, it means such group doesn’t exist.

“Secondly, those who employ Joi Nunieh, screened her, saw her credentials and gave her the job because they believe she can deliver on that job. Joi Nuniel has worked in other high profile areas in the country and nobody has even questioned her about her credentials or certificates. Why now?

“Again, if the group truly exists, the allegation is not for Joi Nuniel to prove. When former Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun was accused of NYSC certificate forgery, the onus was not on Adeosun to prove. The job was on the media and those alleging to prove it.

“She submitted all her credentials and everything that was needed. If not, they wouldn’t have given her the appointment in the first place. The allegation only exist in the imagination of those behind. There’s no iota of truth in it”

The inauguration of the 3-Member interim Committee in late October 2019, by Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Sen. Godswill Akpabio, to oversee the affairs of NDDC and carry out a Forensic Audit of the Board, with Joi Nunieh as Ag. MD/CEO, had been greeted with mixed reactions, even as it had temporarily diverted attention from the substantive Board inauguration and the membership credentials of Dr. Nunieh.

But the recent decision of President to suspend the previously constituted and screened substantive Board had opened the way for the Dr. Nunieh Interim Management C’tt’ee to be accorded the recognition it had craved, by receiving the much anticipated invitation to appear before the National Assembly to defend the NDDC budget, which took place on February 12.

Discerning Aso Rock watchers however suggest that when the NYSC Certificate forgery saga against Dr. Joi Nunieh broke in January 2020, those who had opposed her particular nomination to the NDDC Board and subsequent appointment as Ag. MD/CEO of the Interim Management Committee, suddenly licked their lips in glee, sensing a great opportunity to nail her just as it happened in the Kemi Adeosun matter.

This, coupled with her reported increasingly frosty relationship with Niger Delta Affairs Minister, Senator Godswill Akpabio, provided sufficient ingredient and ample reason to get the Civil Society group on her case, with determined intent.

TIC statement, which had clearly declared that the alleged NYSC forged certificate presented by Dr. Joi Nunieh would greatly impugn the reputation and intergrity of President Buhari, if she was was not removed, had read in part:

“Traditionally, all appointees of critical Government Institutions are under obligation to submit their certificates to Police Force Intelligence Bureau (FIB) as well as the DSS for vetting/confirmation of their authenticity before they are allowed to commence work.

“Accordingly, when the Federal Government announced the appointment of a new Board for the NDDC in August last year, all the nominees were invited to the FIB Headquarters in Garki Abuja for vetting.

“All the Board Nominees (including Joi Nunieh who was then the nominee as State Rep for Rivers State) reported to the FIB office on the 5th of September 2019 and were requested to submit copies of their educational qualifications and NYSC discharge certificate.

“Joi Nunieh pleaded to be allowed to go home to bring her documents including her NYSC discharge certificate. She has failed to provide the items for vetting to date. The investigation has revealed that she has been fraudulently parading a fake / forged NYSC discharge certificate over the years and is now afraid of providing the document now for scrutiny”.

The group had then flayed attempts by collaborators to sweep the matter under the carpet and called on President Buhari to direct the Inspector General of Police, Director-General, Department of State Services, the ICPC to commence a holistic investigation and prosecute Joi Nunieh for forgery.

Many believe that the decision of President Buhari sack Dr. Joi Nunieh as Ag. Head of NDDC, after she has concluded the contracts verification exercise and successful defended the NDDC Budget before the National Assembly, has paved way for the smooth conduct of the forensic audit by new helmsman Professor Kemebradikumo Daniel Pondei and this, coupled with the new additions to the interim Board, appear to have addressed and accommodated the critical interests of some important leaders both in the presidency and region, which they had allegedly, had been marginalized when the Interim Board was inaugurated.

Prof. Kemebradikumo Daniel Pondei

The NDDC Facebook timeline describes Professor Pondei as “an experienced lecturer with a demonstrated history in working in the research industry”.

It further goes on to say that he obtained the Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery MBBS, from the University of Lagos and later proceeded to the School of Molecular Medical Sciences, University of Nottingham for his PhD in Microbiology.

Pondei is a Professor of Medical Microbiology with specialty in Virology and was the Provost of the College of Health Sciences, Niger Delta University, until his latest appointment.

He attended Federal Government College, Port Harcourt and has been a lecturer since 2001, with proficiency “as skilled in epidemiology, life sciences, data analysis, program evaluation, and lecturing.”

Prof. Pondei is said to have considerable academic administrative experience, having been Acting Head, Department of Medical Microbiology and Parasitology, and Acting Dean, Faculty of Basic Medical Sciences, College of Health Sciences, Niger Delta University. He was also a member of Senate and also represents Senate in the Governing Council of NDU.

A past Chairman of the Nigerian Medical Association, NMA, Bayelsa State, he had been the Chairman of the Nigerian Medical Association National Committee on Research Grants.

He is a member of the Board of the Bayelsa Health Insurance Scheme (BHIS) representing Public Interest. He has published widely and has special interest in infectious diseases.

Professor Kemebradikumo Daniel Pondei is expected to take over the helm of affairs of NDDC on Thursday at the Commission’s headquarters in Port Harcourt.