Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), Professor Itse Sagay, has accused the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) of corruption and reckless with funds meant for development.He described both institutions as recklessly spending public funds to the point of insanity.
He specially accused the NDDC of recently acquiring 70 cars, including eight Super Lexus Jeeps at N78 million each and 10 Landcruisers each costing N63 million.
He said the vehicles were acquired with funds meant for the provision of water, housing, hospital, schools and infrastructure development in the Niger Delta region.
Sagay spoke at the opening of a two-day national dialogue on corruption organised by PACAC in collaboration with the Office of the Vice President.
He said, “My dear friends, you will not believe that with all we are going through, the NDDC (Niger Delta Development Commission) which is the other name for uncompleted projects, has just bought over 70 cars.
“Of those, about 8 of them are Super Lexus Jeeps costing 78 million naira each and about 10 are Land Cruisers costing 63 million naira each.”
On the fund that has accrued to the commission in the past, he said:”This money was taken from funds for infrastructure, water, housing, hospitals, school, etc., without conscience; recklessly without a thought for the wretched people of the Niger Delta. These huge sums where plundered from their allocations, from the Federal Government. And yet, the Managing Director was ironically reported in the Nation Newspaper of 6th February, 2017, (pp. 1-2) that the NDDC lacks funds to execute projects and was in debt to the tune of 1.2 trillion naira. Hear this lament.
“The Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Mr. Nsima Ekere, has lamented the N1.2 trillion debt burden facing the new management of the commission.
“To the MD, the over $40 billion received by the region in the past 10 years was frittered away.
“He said the NDDC must now find a way around the huge debt owed by the past board while carrying out to free funds for urgent development projects and programmes,” he said.
The PACAC chairman also came down heavily on the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) saying nothing had changed since the current administration came on board in May 2015.
He cited an instance at the Tin Can Island in Lagos where customs officials now charge fees to physically examine goods following the breakdown of the scanner.
Sagay described as brazen corruption, citing many other instances which he said PACAC brought to the attention of the Comptroller General during a recent visit to him.
The chairman of PACAC also decried what he called public apathy to issues of corruption particularly at a time the country was facing recession, noting that the people’s attitude to corruption as in his opinion questions the mental state of those defending it.
“Now we need to ask ourselves what the problem really is. We are definitely overwhelmed by the epidemic of kleptomania. But do we also have a collective psychiatric problem?’’
“Why should a person loot what he cannot spend in ten lifetimes thereby exposing the rest of the population to misery, hunger, poverty and wretchedness?’’
Sagay also reflected on judicial corruption, saying some judges still grant adjournments running into months in contravention of provisions of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act.
He accused lawyers of contributing to the problem by using different delay tactics thereby causing the nation great embarrassment.
He said he had suggested to PACAC on the need to recruit a group of young lawyers to monitor court sittings and note issues of adjournments.
According to him, the reports sent by the monitors would be compiled and sent to the National Judicial Council for appropriate action.
Sagay faulted the recent public demonstrations against the present administration, saying they were sponsored by agents of looters, those who lost elections and those whose appointments were not renewed.
“Let me briefly reflect on the recent public demonstration against the present administration, under the pretext of demonstrating against hardship brought up on us by the very Mentors and Sponsors of the so-called demonstrators. These groups consisting of rented characters, and those who have lost elections or whose federal appointments were not renewed, went about pretending that they don’t know those responsible for our catastrophic impoverishment. These characters belong to two groups.
“Those who are agents of the looters, 2010 to 2015, and want to divert the attention of the ordinary Nigerians from the true culprits of our recession and misery, by transferring it to a hardworking, selfless administration which met sand rather than cash in our treasuries. The second group are the naïve and unthinking ones who cannot make the slightest connection between cause and effect.
“Is Buhari to conjour wealth from the air? Is he God who can say let there be funds, and there are funds? Why did the demonstrators of 6th February not start from Otuoke? Have they forgotten that the Niger Delta Avengers have destroyed our oil producing capacity so much so that we were producing less than a million barrels a day at a period when the price had plunged from $110 per barrel, as it was in the Jonathan era, to just over $30. So, why all this pretense about calling for good governance, (which is infact what we have today) when they looked on with love and adoration, whilst the national wealth was being plundered away and shared by their sponsors and mentors in the previous government. Why is it that Nigerians hate the truth? If we cannot even be honest enough to admit that the last government’s corruption, wastefulness and misgovernance are the cause of our present hardship, how can we join hands with the present government in salvaging our economy and promoting our social development?
In a quick response to Sagey’s attack on protesters, the Country Officer and Head of Office Open Society Initiative for West Africa, Jude Ilo, said it was disrespectful to tag every Nigerian who disagrees with government as ignorant.
”Let me as a Nigerian respond to Prof. Sagey, I think it is a little bit disconcerting and disrespectful if we tag every Nigerian who disagrees with us as ignorant. People who took to the street did it because they believe in this country there is nothing that they said in that demonstration that was false.
“They said the economy is bad which is correct. They said that the Naira is doing badly which is correct. They said they are hungry which is correct. The right and the freedom of expression is fundamental predicate of democracy and we must allow citizens to voice their opnion even if we find it stupid.
“The practice of a signal narrative in a democracy is as destructive as dictatorship. And I want to end with the words of Francis Cardinal Arinze, he said, ‘no man is wrong all the time even a damaged clock is correct twice a day’.
Reacting swiftly to these, the NDDC debunked Sagay’s claim on purchase of vehicles
This was contained in a statement issued by the Head, Corporate Affairs of the Commission, Chijioke Amu-Nnadi.
The statement read: “The attention of the Governing Board and Management of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, has been drawn to a statement credited to the Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN), in which he claimed that the Commission “bought over 70 cars that included eight super Lexus that cost N70m each and 10 Toyota Landcruiser jeeps at N65m each.”
“The NDDC wishes to state, categorically, that no such purchases have been made since assumption of office on November 4, 2016, of the current Governing Board. Indeed, it is a known fact that the Chairman, the distinguished Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba (SAN), the Managing Director/CEO, Nsima Ekere, and the two Executive Directors are still using their private vehicles three months after assumption of duties.
“The NDDC is only now in the process of acquiring work vehicles, and is adhering strictly to due process. These include five (5) Toyota Prado jeeps, 10 Toyota Hilux trucks, four (4) Toyota Landcruiser jeeps, one (1) Toyota Coaster bus and two (2) Toyota Hiace buses. The Commission has just received the Due Process Compliance Certificate from the Bureau of Public Procurement, BPP, and is preparing the mandatory memo for the approval of the Federal Executive Council.
“We wish to restate that the current Board and Management of the NDDC is committed to making its transactions transparent, by adhering strictly to processes and procedures of Government, as espoused in the Board’s 4-R Initiative of restoring the Commission’s core mandate, restructuring the balance sheet, reforming our processes and reaffirming a commitment to doing what is right and proper at all times in facilitating the sustainable development of the Niger Delta region.
“In this regard, the Commission is also partnering with Bureau for Public Service Reforms (BPSR), Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) and Open Government Partnership (OGP) to improve the Commission’s governance systems, procurement and project implementation processes, in order to plug all loopholes and systematically eliminate all incidences of mismanagement and corruption.
“NDDC is always ready to open its books for audit. We are also committed to responding to all inquiries from well-meaning individuals and groups seeking clarification on rumours and possible false information.
“While asking for support from all stakeholders to enable the Commission succeed in the ambitious task of reforms, the New NDDC is evolving as a responsible public institution and members of the public should feel free to get authentic information on its activities to avoid sensationalism”.
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