A rights organisation, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has asked President Muhammadu Buhari to set up a special panel to launch an immediate enquiry into the N81.5 billion fraud allegations at the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
The organisation is equally demanding the suspension of the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Mr. Godswill Akpabio, and all those implicated in the allegations pending the outcome of any such investigation, while witnesses and whistle-blowers must also be protected from any harassment.
In a letter dated July 18, 2020 SERAP’s Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, said it is imperative for the president to set up the special panel because investigations being carried out by the National Assembly on the issue has not only turned controversial but has also turned into a ‘dirty fight’ between the NDDC and the lawmakers.
It added that the president could not be indifference to mind-boggling allegations that N81.5 billion was spent on travels, ‘condolences’, consultancy and ‘public communication between January and July 2020 by NDDC’s management.
The organisation opined that a special panel to probe allegations of corruption in the NDDC, and that is able to work closely with anti-corruption agencies would protect the integrity of the forensic audit, remove the possibility of obstruction of justice and interference in the process by those suspected to be involved in alleged corruption in the NDDC.
SERAP further argued that any perception of politicisation and bias in the investigation of the corruption allegations in the NDDC is capable of undermining public trust in the process, and ultimately, the public interest and good government, as well as justice for the victims of corruption in the Niger Delta.
News (pix: julius Berger)
Julius Berger: We’ll deliver 2nd Niger bridge, Abuja-Kano road on time
Philip Nyam, Abuja
The Managing Director of Julius Berger Nigeria Plc, Engr. Lars Richter has assured that the company will deliver on the 2nd Niger bridge, Abuja-Kano road and Lagos-Shagamu Expressway projects as contracted.
The boss of the construction giant gave the assurance during a public hearing with the House of Representatives Committee on Works at the National Assembly at the weekend.
Richter said all requisite human and technical resources, imbued with new technologies, have been mobilised to all sections of the projects to ensure successful completion as scheduled.
He emphasised that all the contracts for the three top priority projects of the Federal Government, were duly awarded to Julius Berger following due process.
According to him, insinuations in certain quarters that the process for the award of the contracts was fraudulent was misplaced and should be discountenanced by the parliament.
Ritchter insisted that the Bureau for Public Procurement (BPP) duly issued letters of no objection for the projects as required by the extant procurement law.
He explained that Julius Berger lawfully bidded for the projects, after which, the ministry of works, which has the statutory mandate and responsibility to handle the contract processed everything in line with the public procurement act, hence there was nothing untoward in the contracts.
Richter said: “It is the ministry of works that receives letters of no objection to any contract; not our company. Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) itself vets the rates contractors submit to the ministry, and the ministry again takes the rates vetted by the BPP to the Federal Executive Council for approval by the President in Council.
“Julius Berger is not at all entitled to a say in the process apart from the submission of our bid for a project with the ministry. In the circumstance, therefore, you cannot say Julius Berger did not follow due process in the award for the projects. We lawfully bidded for the jobs and were duly awarded the projects.”
Earlier, chairman of the House committee on works, Hon. Abubakar Kabir Abubakar (APC, Niger) sought to know which procurement process Julius Berger went through for the award of the contracts for the projects.