President Muhammadu Buhari has received the final report of the forensic audit of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) which he ordered nearly two years ago.
Godswill Akpabio, Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, submitted the report to the president, who was represented at the ceremony by Abubakar Malami, the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, in Abuja on Thursday.
The report was submitted one year and 11 months after President Buhari on October 17, 2019, ordered the audit of the Commission’s operations from 2001 to 2019.
Akpabio had on August 11, 2021, received the report from the field auditors who scrutinised over 12,000 projects handled in nine states of the Niger Delta region by the NDDC between 2001 and 2019.
According to the minister, the forensic audit covered a total of 13,777 contracts awarded from 2001 to 2019 at a final contract value of N3,274,206,032,213.24.
Providing a brief overview of the report, Kabir Ahmed, lead forensic auditor, said the team recommended managerial as well as structural changes, top of which is the downsizing of the NDDC board.
The report, the lead auditor said, also recommended that members of the team should henceforth be appointed on a part-time basis as part of measures to cut the Commission’s cost.
It also proffered that the Federal Government should withdraw the license of any oil company which defaults in their mandated contributions to the Commission for a period of three years and direct the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) to collect funds on behalf of NDDC from oil companies in the country.
It also recommended the deduction of 15 per cent of the ecological fund at source and to be paid to the commission because both the federal and state governments had failed to make payments to the commission.
President Buhari had in 2019 ordered the forensic audit due to persistent complaints against the commission and its operations, according to a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina.
The approval of the forensic audit led to the dissolution of the extant board of the commission and vested its supervisory role in the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs.
However, this led to protests in the Niger Delta region in recent weeks following the non-inauguration of the NDDC board, which carries out developmental projects in the region.
Ijaw youths under the aegis of Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) had in May 2021 shut down the Bayelsa State office of the commission and the main NDDC headquarters in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, as well as the East-West Road, a key expressway in the region, in protest over the issue.
Ex-Niger Delta militant, Government Ekpemupolo, popularly known as Tompplo, had also issued an ultimatum to President Buhari to constitute the NDDC board in order “to avert a total breakdown of law and order that will equally affect crude oil exploration and exploitation activities in the region”.