Ugwoha, NDDC Board on Collision Course over Contract Awards, Appointments
The tussle over who has the power to award contracts, operate accounts, recruit staff of the organisation and effect payment of contracts executed has put the Chibuzor Ugwoha-led management of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and the board of directors led by Retired Air Vice Marshal Larry Koinyan on collision course.
Pointblanknews.com has learned that beyond its traditional role of providing policy direction for the organisation, members of the board of the commission have dabbled into the day to day running of the organisation, the exclusive preserve of the managing director.
The development has prompted the Federal Government to put the board and management under strict surveillance.
The Koinyan-led board which by public service rules is expected to sit on part-time basis now has permanent offices, official vehicles and has gone one notch further to demand that their aides be provided with official vehicles.
Beyond being involved in the award of contracts which is outside its brief, the board is also fully involved in random approval of appointments and arbitrary recruitment of staff, generating conflicting memos that border on the day to day running of the organisation.
“A board by public service rules should provide policy direction for an organisation. For instance, it could say we want the creation of 2,000 jobs over a period of time. The way and manner the jobs would be created is left for the management.
“The case in NDDC is that board members who should be sitting occasionally now have permanent offices with aides and official vehicles which should not be the case. Not only that, they are also asking for offices and official vehicles for their aides and undermining recruitment policy by doing it themselves”, a competent source said.
Further investigations also revealed several attempts by the board members to withdraw funds from the commission's account without the consent of the managing director, award of contracts without his knowledge as well as over-invoicing executed jobs, efforts Ugwoha was said to have thwarted fuelling further brickbats.
There are also allegations that some of the older board members see the University of Ibadan trained managing director and former deputy general manager, Joint Venture (onshore) Sustainable Development, Total E&P Nigeria Limited, Port Harcourt, as being too young to occupy such a high profile position while others are ethnic in their approach and see the position as one that should be occupied by the Ijaws in view of the present power structure in the country.
Ugwoha is of Ikwere extraction.
It would be recalled that the chairman of the board had on November 10, 2010, petitioned President Goodluck Jonathan asking him to suspend Ugwoha for unauthorised opening of a foreign bank account and transfer of $20 million from its Union Bank revenue account in the United Kingdom to First Bank.
Ugwoha was also accused of forging a board resolution which authorised the transfer. The development had prompted a query from the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Yayale Ahmed, asking the managing director to provide answers to the allegations.
In his response, Ugwoha had explained that the fund was transferred owing to the fact that “at the material time, Union Bank's shareholders' fund was in the negative of N238 billion”.
“In line with the provisions of paragraph 106 (ii) of the Financial Regulations of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 2006, which vests on me the responsibility to safeguard the funds of the commission, it is crystal clear that the account opening was, therefore, a proactive action solely undertaken to act as a safeguard for the commission's funds”.
“Not a dime was lost in the process. No withdrawals were made from the accounts and the account is a usual current account and not an interest yielding account”, he had said.
On the board resolution, he said he had sought for and obtained the approval of the accountant-general of the federation before opening the account.
Government has since cleared the management of all allegations and put both board and management under strict surveillance even as some of the board members were alleged to have surreptitiously petitioned the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to come into the matter.
The commission is a federal intervention agency established in 2000 to ensure “the rapid, even and sustainable development of the Niger Delta into a region that is economically prosperous, socially stable, ecologically regenerative and politically peaceful”.