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Impunity of a Managing Director (1)

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It is no longer news that the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC has been embroiled in a crisis of confidence mainly precipitated the Managing Director - whom many describe as incompetent, high handed and breaches every ounce of laws regarding transparency and accountability. This conclusion may appear too simplistic when you consider the intrigues and power play at the Commission. Watchers of events in the Niger Delta Region, for which the Commission was created, have sometimes gone spiritual – praying for an end to the crisis, but for how long shall we seek spiritual answers to challenges that are manmade?

The Managing Director, Mr. Chibuzor Ugwoha assumed office on August 10, 2009 following the inauguration of the Board on August 6th 2009. An aide of the MD claims that the the former acting Managing Director, P.Z. Aginigan, had informed the new MD that he was ready to hand over the same day the Board was inaugurated but the new MD assumed duty effectively on following Monday, August 10th. The aide claimed that when the new MD arrived Port Harcourt no adequate preparation was made for him, but what level of preparation the MD meant was not specified. Investigations further revealed that the MD returned on Sunday evening at a time Pastor Aginighan had a prayer meeting. So those who point at that incident as the genesis of the problem may not have heard the whole story.

Further investigations revealed that when the MD assumed office he invoked a circular from the Secretary to the Federal Government SGF, Yayale Ahmed. The circular, according to Mr. Ugwoha, ordered that all contract awards and financial transactions of the Commission should conform to the Public Procurement Act 2007. But if that is the MD's explanation as to the genesis of the lingering crisis, the argument is a hard sell because Article 7 of the NDDC Act, 2000 stipulates that (e) implement all the measures approved for the development of the Niger- Delta area by the Federal Government and the member States of the Commission. The Commission also has a Board with the powers to as par Article 8. The Board shall have power to:-

(a) manage and supervise affairs of the Commission;

(b) make rules and regulations for carrying out the functions of the Commission

(c) enter and inspect premises, projects and such places as may be necessary for the purposes of carrying out its functions under this Act.

(d) pay the staff of the Commission such remuneration and allowances as appropriate.

(e) enter into such contracts as may be necessary or expedient for the discharge of its functions and ensure the efficient performance of the functions of the Commission,

(f) do such other things as are necessary and expedient for the efficient performance of the functions of the Commission, (NDDC Act)

Again, P.Z. Aginighan had not only served as the Executive Director, Finance & Administration, he was also Ag. Managing Director of the Commission. By his experience, adherence to the Public Procurement Act is part of his life. He is also adequately guided by the NDDC Act, having been a professional Finance person throughout his career. As a man who is familiar with the rules of Public Procurement Act, due process is like the back of his hand. This calls to question the allegations that most of the quarrels emanating from the Commission are a result of the MD's enforcement of the PPA. It is also hard to believe that the MD's incompetence and disregard for the Board is a result of the Boards insistence that the NDDC's authorization manual was superior to the Public Procurement Act 2007.

Most of the Board members who interacted with this correspondent believe that the MD Mr. Ugwoha adopts a divide and rule tactic in administering the Commission since he assumed office. His disagreements with the two executive directors: the Executive Director, Finance and Administration (EDFA) Pastor P.Z Aginighan and the Executive Director, Projects, Esoetok Etteh. A Board member from one of the mandate States who preferred anonymity decried Mr. Ugwoha's style of leadership. He pinpointed that the several bouts of crises in the Commission were precipitated by some reasons.

It was reliably gathered that the MD has no regard for Board decisions hence rather than invoking the NDDC Act and the Internal Guidelines as applicable in all Federal Government Parastatals Mr. Chibuzor Ugwoha at every turn, applies the circulars from the SGF, which in most cases are applicable in only Ministries. The behavior of the MD is a flagrant breach of Section 8. Of the NDDC Act, which among others states that The Board shall have power to:-

(a) manage and supervise affairs of the Commission;

(b) make rules and regulations for carrying out the functions of the Commission

(c) enter and inspect premises, projects and such places as may be necessary for the purposes of carrying out its functions under this Act.

(d) pay the staff of the Commission such remuneration and allowances as appropriate.

(e) enter into such contracts as may be necessary or expedient for the discharge of its functions and ensure the efficient performance of the functions of the Commission

(f) do such other things as are necessary and expedient for the efficient performance of the functions of the Commission,

The question is why the MD is not guided by such crucial documents such as the NDDC Act. The brazen violation of the Act can only engender crisis, suspicion and mutual antagonism. It is because of this attitude that in every Board meeting, the MD ridicules the Board by calling them “Part Time” members.

That Mr. Ugwoha awards contracts without regard to the PPA and the NDDC Act. The NDDC act states the before contracts are awarded, they have to be advertized, duly bided and tendered, hence there is a Contract Tenders Board, which should be responsible for ensuring that all processes concerning the award of contracts are complied with. Of course, NDDC was established to facilitate the development of the Niger Delta Region, hence even in the award of contracts, the Board expected that contractors from the Region shall be favoured, but the MD has put in place some guidelines that made it very difficult for Niger Delta Contractors. Whereas the Board has raised alarm that the award did not follow due process and in breach of the Public Procurement Act, the beneficiaries/consultants were found to close allies of the MD. Under the Ugwoha administration, not only is the PPA breached with impunity, the process of awarding contracts is fraudulent. For instance, it is only under the Ugwoha administration that tender papers are hawked by people in all the fast food outfits near the Head Office; who is the head of the Due Process Unit? He is from the Northerner part of the country Barr. Kaltungo - who does not appreciate the poverty and neglect in the Region. It is shocking but our investigations revealed that it is true. Our correspondent made efforts to reach both the MD and Mr. Kaltungo, but he was told that they had an emergency meeting.

Our investigations also showed that in a petition written by a Civil Society Organization in the Niger Delta Region alleged that the MD/CEO Mr. Ugwuoha had awarded contracts “in clear violation of the spirit of the Public Procurement Act 2007 and the Niger Delta Development Commission Authorization Manual, Section 500.” The projects Eselemo listed are the Solar Water Project at Mkpok, Onna Local Government Area, valued at N42,305,333.34; the construction of Ewha/Odum Street, Elekahia, worth N85,450,131.30; the construction of Elder Emenike Gbekee Street, Rumukalagbor, valued at N56,624,895.25, and the construction of a mini stadium and civic centre at Ibiono, Ibiono Ibom.

Another area of brazen violation by the MD is Article 12 of the Act. It is expressly stated in Article 12. Of the NDDC Act that: The Managing Director shall, subject to the general direction of the Board, be responsible-

(a) for the day to day administration of the Commission;

(b) for keeping the books and Proper records of the proceedings of the Board, and

(c) for -
(i) the administration of the secretariat of the Board, and

(ii) the general direction and control of all other employees of the Commission

The NDDC established State offices to cater for the peculiar needs of the States. The State offices were also established to create job opportunities and for the proper coordination, execution and monitoring of projects allocated to the various States. It was for this reason that each State has Representatives – whose responsibilities are to oversee State offices. Now, the State offices are almost comatose because of the MD's usurpation of the functions of the State Reps. Contracts meant for State Reps to award are hijacked by Chibuzor Ugwoha. In 2010 budget, 28 jobs were given to Bayelsa State to tender, and each of these jobs is under N250 million. The Managing Director directly awarded 19 out of the 28 jobs without the knowledge of the State Rep. Only 9 jobs were given to Bayelsa State. There are equally similar complaints from Abia, Delta and Akwa-Ibom States. The implication is that the State Commissioners are left high and dry to create the impression that they are not performing. Again, as State Reps they are accountable to their States. So the MD has deliberately placed most State Reps in a tight corner.

It was revealed that the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission has commenced investigations into alleged financial mismanagement by the management of the Niger Delta Development Commission. Already, the NDDC Managing Director, Mr. Chibuzor Ugwuoha, and some other directors including the Director, Project Monitoring and Supervision, Director Community and Rural Development, Head Procurement Unit and Head Internal Audit Department were quizzed.

A plethora of petitions had already flooded the ICPC on the activities of the top officials of the Niger Delta interventionist agency, particularly on projects meant for rural areas in the region. Specifically, it was gathered that the ICPC had received about 13 petitions against the MD of the NDDC over alleged gross violations of the provision of the ICPC Act and Financial Regulations of the country. Some of the projects being investigated are Oguoma-Tsekelewu River Canalization phase, and solar powered water projects awarded to different companies by the NDDC. Most of these projects, it was gathered, were awarded when the Executive Director Finance & Administration and former Ag. MD P.Z. Aginighan was out of the country for medical reasons. If this version is true, it is as good as vindication Pastor Aginioghan.

From the foregoing, one conclusion is clear – the crisis in the NDDC and the impunity of some principal officers only goes to show the level of lawlessness, arbitrariness and the penchant for people to get-rich-quick by any means necessary. The buck now lies with President Goodluck Jonathan to identify the causes of the and take appropriate measures to re-position the NDDC actions in the interest of the Niger Delta people.

Oyedele Tajudeen, a media practitioner wrote from Lagos

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of Oyedele Tajudeen and do not necessarily reflect those of The Nigerian Voice. The Nigerian Voice will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."