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NDDC Probe: Reps fault CBN, AGF over N81.5 bn extra-budgetary spending

The House of Representatives yesterday carpeted the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), the Accountant-General of the Federation and the Auditor-General of the Federation for allegedly approving the spending of N81.5 billion on audit of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) between January and June 2020.

The lawmakers, at an investigative hearing on the ongoing forensic audit of the NDDC had discovered that a whopping N81.5 billion was expended on the audit of the agency by the Interim Management Committee (IMC). This is even as Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila said that the Niger Delta Development Commission has failed to deliver on its mandate of serving as an interventionist agency about two decades after it was created by the government. The House Committee on NDDC had grilled the CBN, Accountant-General of the Federation, Auditor-General of the Federation and the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) over the manner in which the huge funds were spent by the managers of the audit exercise.

Chairman of the House Committee on NDDC, Hon. Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, said at the hearing that the investigation will lead to a total turnaround in the fortune of the Niger Delta region. He revealed that N21.5 billion was expended on community relations, N1.3billion on condolences, N122.9million on Covid-19, N486million on imprest account, N490million on legal services, N900million on maintenance and other huge amounts making up the total sum. The lawmaker further said that the CBN and the Accountant-General had confirmed that the N81.5 billion was expended on the audit of the agency and the audit was done against provisions of the Public Procurement Act. He also said that the huge sum was not captured in the agency’s 2020 budget and anything not captured in the annual budget of a government agency is extra-budgetary spending.

The lawmaker queried the Auditor-General of the Federation, Mr. Anthony Ayine, who was represented by Mr Sabo Mohammed, Director of Funds, asking if the forensic auditors were supposed to be registered and he spoke in the affirmative. He, however, told the committee that the Auditor- General of the Federation was not the direct auditor of the agency as section 85 of the 1999 Constitution prevents the office from carrying out such audits. Meanwhile, the speaker in his opening remarks at the investigation, said that the purpose for which the agency was set up has not been achieved, noting that the government established the Commission as an interventionist agency to bridge critical development gaps in the oil rich region with years of underinvestment in infrastructure. According to him, the damage from fossil fuel exploration had a severely deleterious effect on the lives, livelihoods and wellbeing of the people of the region, adding that it was the intention of government that the commission would begin the long-overdue process of making good on our nation’s obligations to the people of the Niger Delta, from whose lands and waters we have for decades drawn our nation’s sustenance.

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