NDDC paid staff N570million to attend training and travel abroad even during COVID-19 lockdown – Senate Committee reveals

Godswill Akpabio, the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs

Recent revelations show that the management of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) paid N570million to some staff members to undergo training programmes during the lockdown period due to COVID-19 pandemic.

The Senate Ad Hoc Committee constituted to investigate the financial recklessness perpetrated by the NDDC made the revelation in its report.

According to the report, N143million was paid to individual members of staff on April 1, 2020 to attend a budget participatory conference. April was the same period the entire nation was on lockdown.

“This period happens to be during the COVID-19 lockdown. It is obvious that the conference was not attended as the country was on absolute lockdown,” the report read.

The report revealed that 5 staffs received the payment, and consequently ordered the entire sum be refunded by the staffs.

Also, N171million was alleged to have been paid to 300 drivers on February 3, 2020, to attend a driver training course which was scheduled to take place during the lockdown period.

“This custom is not only unethical, it lacks transparency and accountability. NDDC must do away with this practice as a way of improving its duty of stewardship,” the report stated.

The Senate Committee also revealed that N150million was on April 3, 2020 paid to some NDDC union executives for an International Labour Organisation conference in Turin, Italy.

 “Incidentally, this period also happens to be during the COVID-19 lockdown. It is obvious that the beneficiaries of these payments could not travel out of the country as a result of the COVID-19 travel restriction.

“Hence, this sum must be refunded by the union members concerned,” the report added.

The report also revealed that a total of N85.6million was paid to 14 staff of the NDDC to attend the graduation ceremony of NDDC scholars in the United Kingdom in June 2020.

“The composition of the travellers includes the MD/CEO, Prof (Daniel) Pondei; the Executive Director, Projects, Dr Cairo Ojougboh; and another Director, Mr Luke lbanga.

“These payments demonstrate a form of internal control failure in the NDDC, especially with the management’s choice to subject such transactions as cash payments to individual staff members.”

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