By NBF News

A case has been made for thorough investigation by President Goodluck Jonathan of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC)'s $20 million offshore account scandal

Concerned stakeholders said seven months after the alleged scam was reported to the authorities, the Federal Government was yet to take action on it.

Though it was believed that a probe had been commissioned and carried out, it was learnt that relevant stakeholders were disturbed on the deal. However, the federal authorities were yet to make the outcome of the probe of the scam public seven months after President Goodluck Jonathan ordered investigation into the allegation.

Specifically, the Concerned Citizens of the Niger Delta (CCND) and the Niger Delta Consciousness Movement (NDCM) yesterday, in a joint statement signed by their coordinators, Messrs Kenedy Ogwia and Joseph Alfred respectively asked President Jonathan to speedily make the report on the scam public and bring those found culpable to book.

The groups said such action would convince many Nigerians that Jonathan was not paying lip service to the fight against corruption.  Former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Alhaji Yahale Ahmed had set up an administrative panel of enquiry to probe the scam in November 2010 in line with the presidential directive.

Ahmed had issued a query to the Managing Director of the commission, Mr. Chibuzor Ugwoha Ugwoha over the deal and other alleged wrongdoings which reportedly violated due process and transparent management of the affairs of the interventionist agency mandated to ensure rapid infrastructure development of the Niger Delta.

It was gathered that the action of Jonathan was sequel to the letter written to him by the Air Vice-Marshal Larry Koinya's (retd)- led board of the Commission dated November 24, seeking his permission to suspend the embattled chief executive of the commission.

In the letter, seeking the permission of the SGF, Ugwoha was alleged to have employed a forged board's resolution dated September 24, 2011 to illegally transfer $20m from the commission's offshore account in Union Bank in UK to the branch of First Bank at Finsbury Circus in London in collaboration with the Director of Legal Services, Mr. Harrison Onwon and Acting Director, Finance and Supply Mr. Oma Egbejule.

The scandal over the opening of the secret account was followed by the controversial award of N27billion consultancy contract to a Port Harcourt-based firm for the provision of consultancy service for the studies and design of the East-West Road from Lagos to Calabar for which he made an advance payment of N4.7billion was made to the firm.

It was alleged that the money was paid in October 2010 without recourse to due process, especially without tender procedure and Bureau of Public Procurement involvement. CCND's leader, Chief Johnson Tonye and his NDCM counterpart, Effiong Okon, in separate statements, however, said the inaugural speech of Jonathan on May 29, where he warned that his administration would not condone corruption, re-kindled their hopes that the scam in NDDC would not be swept under the carpet.

Consequently, Tonye, said,'Mr. President must act swiftly in the interest of the underdeveloped oil-rich belt because the seeming connivance of the office of the SGF in the ceaseless monumental corruption in NDDC as exhibited by the $20million offshore account scam and the payment of N4.7billion for frivolous consultancy services is sparking fresh fears about the disposition of your (Jonathan) office to fight corruption.  'We can only be convinced if you take decisive action as promised in your inaugural speech of Sunday, May 29, and prosecute identifiable corrupt officials in NDDC,' he added.

Ahmed had on November 29, 2010 issued a query to Ugwoha on the matter and directed that his response must get to his office by Friday, December 3, 2010. The query was signed by the Permanent Secretary, General Service Office, office of SGF, Dr. S.D. Kassim, on behalf of the SGF. Ahmed, in another letter to Koinyan, dated the same day had assured that 'the government would thoroughly investigate the allegations and take appropriate action as required by the extant rules.

'Pending the conclusion of this investigation, the status quo be maintained. For the avoidance of doubt, neither the managing director nor the two directors mentioned in the letter under reference should be sanctioned pending the conclusion of the investigation.