Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, has sent some staff of the Niger Delta Development Commission on mandatory leave after a contract scam in the agency was exposed by SaharaReporters.
On April 24, SaharaReporters exposed a N5bn fraud involving the board and top management members of the NDDC over the purchase of Personal Protective Equipment and sanitizers to tackle Coronavirus in the nine states making up the region.
The report exposed how the commission approved N5,474,647,125.00 for procurement of Personal Protective Equipment for health workers and provision of community-based sensitisation campaign against the spread of COVID-19 to a company named Signora Concept Services Limited.
Even though the company was given 15 days to deliver all items stated in the letter, findings by SaharaReporters showed that Signora Concept Services Limited was yet to deliver any equipment to a single state in the Niger Delta region more than 20 days after the contracted was awarded and payment made.
Kingsley Dapa White, National Coordinator of the Niger Delta Youths Coalition Council on Transparency and Accountability, condemned the action by Akpabio, who was fingered in the corrupt transaction.
In a statement on Wednesday, White said, "The corruption in the NDDC took another dimension on Tuesday as Minister of the Niger Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, and his hand-picked corrupt Interim Management Committee of the Niger Delta Development NDDC, sent letters to staff of all cadre who are perceived to be opposed to the reckless and corrupt practice in award of contracts to proceed on mandatory leave and early retirement.
"The move came just two days after a contract award letter exposing corruption in the award of contract to Signora Concept Services Limited and Osmoserve Global Limited were leaked to the public.
“But in a desperate move to cover up their tracks, Godswill Akpabio and his Interim Management Committee sent letters to some of the staff of the NDDC who are the most trained and experienced to better manage the affairs of the commission to proceed on mandatory leave and early retirement in a bid to silence them for opposing his illegal and corrupt practices in the award contracts.
“With this cleansing, NDDC is now left in the hands of Akpabio's cronies and the least experience staff who cannot run the affairs of the commission.
"At the root of these scandals are three companies, Osmoserve Global Limited, Signora Concept Services Limited and Rodnab, Godswill Akpabio's surrogate that was awarded a contract to complete the NDDC headquarters building without public advertisement and bidding and in complete violation of the Public Procurements Act. Rodnab has since been fully paid in the amount of N16bn while the contract is yet to be completed.
"A N4.8bn contract was also awarded to Akpabio's connected companies, Osmoserve Global Limited for unspecified medical supplies.
“The contract was awarded to Osmoserve on April 6 and an upfront payment of 55 per cent was effected. In the usual practice under Akpabio and the IMC, the award letter does not specify the lots, quantity and quality of materials to be supplied, giving room for fraudulent manipulations. Same contract was never advertised and there was no bidding to that effect.
"Also, another company belonging to Akpabio's allies, Signora Concept Services Limited, was awarded contract following similar practices. Akpabio and the IMC later suspended payment on that contract following disagreements over sharing formula and when it was leaked to the public by staff of the commission, they walked away from it and began destroying all evidences relating to the contract including sending the best trained and experienced staff to mandatory leave and retirement under the guise of forensic audit.
"The award of the contract to Signora Concept Services Limited was made on April 6, 2020.
“Signora Concept Services Limited was also paid N357m for maternal delivery kits on February 22, 2020.
"The two contracts awarded to Signora and Osmoserve and dated April 6, 2020, were signed by the Head of Procurement on behalf of the Acting Managing Director of the Commission. The contract award letter to Signora has a Reference Number NDDC/MD/HPU/20/4/EHSS/05, while the one to Osmoserve Global Limited has a Reference Number NDDC/MD/HPU/20/4/EHSS/02.”
The group called on President Muhammadu Buhari to urgently investigate the allegations of corruption which he said is detrimental to the development of the Niger Delta region.