The senate has asked the interim management committee of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) to refund N4.9 billion.

In May, the upper legislative chamber set up a probe panel chaired by Olubunmi Adetunmbi, senator representing Ekiti north, following allegations that the commission mismanaged N40 billion.

At the hearing, Kemebradikumo Pondei, acting managing director of the commission, said no money was missing and that since he assumed office in February, the interim committee has been paying contractors owed for years.

Pondei also defended the N3.14 billion his management committee disbursed to its 4,000 workers and police commands in nine states as COVID-19 relief.

While presenting his report on the floor of the senate on Thursday, July 23rd, Adetunmbi said although his panel did not gather enough information on the ongoing forensic audit at the commission, there are indications that it is “substandard and compromised.”

President Muhammadu Buhari had ordered a forensic audit of the commission from 2001 to 2019.

Contributing to the debate on the report, Yahaya Oloriegbe, senator representing Kwara central, said: “It is sad that this is happening and nothing urgent is being done to stop it. It is obvious corruption.”

The upper legislative chamber approved a recommendation that the commission should report directly to the presidency and not the ministry.

“Absence of board created a lacuna of oversight the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs could not fill and that affected the operations of the commission. There is a need to set up a board,” the recommendations read.

“There is a need for improvement on the governance process of the commission. Oversight of the forensic audit should be transferred to the office of the office of the auditor general of the federation to ensure transparency. FG should appoint a renowned auditor to supervise this forensic audit.

“For all unjustifiable payments made to staff, they should be made to refund the monies especially the N4.9 billion for COVID-19 relief and others. There is a need to review corporate social responsibility of the NDDC.”

The senate also directed its committee on ethics to probe claims made by Godswill Akpabio, minister of Niger Delta affairs, that members of the national assembly got contracts awarded by NDDC.

After the recommendations were approved, Senate President Ahmad Lawan asked the executive to consider the reports of the probes by the senate and house of representatives on the NDDC.

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