Former acting Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Mrs. Joy Nunieh, has debunked claims by the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, that a forensic audit is being carried out in the agency.
Nunieh, in a testimony before a House of Representatives Committee investigating the activities of the agency via Zoom on Friday, said Akpabio ignored procedure for contracting a forensic auditor even after President Muhammadu Buhari specifically wrote that the money be included in the commission’s agency.
“I reminded him (Akpabio) and showed him a letter that the President had written. There’s no way that we can spend the money that’s in our budget. He requested in his memo to the President that money for the funding of the forensic audit be gotten from the service wide votes. President Buhari in his wisdom refused that request and in writing said that it should be put in the NDDC appropriation budget, making NDDC the procuring entity.
“I said that to take the money and send it to the ministry will be like Federal Ministry of Health asking the Federal Medical Center that they will like to implement what’s in the budget. On the audit, while I was there, I was the one who prepared all the documents in the forensic audit.
“After that argument, I now came up to say that everything that’s done will be in accordance with the Act; the first thing I did was to go through the procurement of the lead consultants” she said.
“The lead consultant that everyone is talking about is not a forensic auditor. The role of the lead consultant is to gather all the forensic auditors, all the reports and put them together.
“In the case of the forensic auditor, I do not know if they have ever carried out a forensic audit.
“Can I now stand before this committee to say that the lead consultant has been procured? My answer will be no. Remember, you cannot give any approval or procure any consultant without the appropriation made by the National Assembly. The 2020 budget hasn’t even been considered or discussed not to mention being passed.”
The former NDDC managing director, who served from October 29, 2019 to February 17, 2020, noted that “everyone in Nigeria had been deceived that the forensic audit is going on, but the forensic auditors have not even been procured.
“I want to say here that if Nigerians find out that the forensic audit is going on, every testimony and allegations that I have made should be canceled and disregarded. There’s no forensic audit going on. Secondly, can I say that the forensic auditors have been procured? My answer is no.”
Nunieh recommended that the committee should get a list of certified forensic auditors in Nigeria from the Auditor General of the Federation in order to help in carrying out a proper forensic audit of the NDDC.
“The audit is not just financial, it’s supposed to look through the personnel of the NDDC. When we are talking about billions of Naira being spent by the commission, it’s unbelievable that they don’t have up to 10 engineers. The staff audit is necessary.
“Mr. President should direct the immediate establishment of a national procurement council in NDDC; it should be the first thing even before we talk about a forensic audit. That could help Nigeria save so much money in terms of fraud and corruption.
“We didn’t have this problem from the records I saw when the NDDC was under the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation. The NDDC, I will recommend, should be taken back to the office of the SGF.
“At the NDDC, I want to make it clear that when Akpabio saw I was not cooperating, he refused them to give me an official vehicle. I didn’t have an official vehicle. When I first came in, there were two bulletproof cars that I was using. I came to Abuja, a gentleman met me at the airport and said I’m one of your contractors, I’m the one that gave you the car that you are using, and I said so I’m using a contractor’s car and I’m supposed to supervise a forensic audit.
“I told Akpabio I thought the car I was using was from the commission. He said don’t worry; the man is a very good friend of mine. When I got back to Port Harcourt, I returned the car. The second car is still at the mechanic’s, but after what happened yesterday (Thursday), I asked them to go and collect it so they won’t say it’s because I wrecked the car” she said.
Nunieh was scheduled to travel to Abuja on Thursday and give her testimony in person but a team of armed policemen invaded her residence in Port Harcourt to prevent her from traveling. He took the intervention of the Governor of Rivers state, Nyesom Wike, to rescue her from the policemen.