Seventy percent of the projects executed by the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) in Rivers and Delta States have been audited by forensic experts ahead of the July 31 deadline for the submission of the final report of the audit.
President Muhammadu Buhari ordered the forensic audit of the projects awarded by the interventionist agency since its creation in 2001.
Briefing journalists during a field verification tour, NDDC Director for Rivers State, Barrister George Ero, said the people of the region are eager to see the end result of the exercise.
He disclosed that Rivers State with 23 Local Government Areas, has over 3,000 projects listed, making up 35% of the Commission’s project portfolio, while Delta State has over 2,000 projects with one-third of the projects cited in the riverine areas.
He commended President Buhari and the Niger Delta Affairs Minister, Godswill Akpabio for insisting on the forensic audit, adding that the NDDC will not remain the same after the exercise.
According to him, the audit has revealed the enormity of projects executed by the NDDC, contrary to wide-held views that the Commission has done nothing in the region.
He said, “the auditors have been visiting various project sites for inspection in batches to verify the extent of work done and we have achieved some measurable results to show that a lot of ground have been covered in this regard, over 1200 projects have been so far audited out of about 3000 projects spread across the state, despite the limited numbers of personnel, logistics and security concerns.
“We must commend Mr. President and the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio for insisting on the forensic audit exercise, as this would help to establish the true state of the projects so that appropriate actions can be taken. The field forensic audit has shown that the NDDC has a lot to showcase for the funds allocated to it over the years.”
In Delta State, Engr. Emmanuel Audu Ohwaborua, NDDC state Director, said the exercise has received the backing of the people, adding that the forensic field officers are in final push to beat the deadline.
He said those behind speculations that the exercise is a hoax are simply afraid of the outcome of the forensic audit, adding that the people of the region are fully in support of efforts of the government to sanitize the NDDC.
Ohwaborua maintained further that not less than 70% of projects in the state have been audited.
Asked if the forensic auditors have uncovered any discrepancy, he said it is proper to allow the forensic experts conclude their assignment and submit their report to the President who will make it public, instead of speculating.
He however assured that the exercise will meet the purpose for which it was conceived.
At one of the communities visited in Delta State, the residents hailed the exercise but called for transparency and sincerity of purpose.
Mrs. Evelyn Monike, a school teacher, urged the auditors to be thorough and visit the entire project sites to verify their true state than stay in the office and pass a sweeping verdict.
According to her most of the contractors only erect signposts of projects and run away after collecting payments from the Commission, while others either do shoddy jobs or abandon the projects totally.
She said, “We welcome the idea to audit the projects so that the government can identify those that collected money with executing the projects but this exercise should not be politicized like most government programmes.
“We want to know the truth at the end of the day, the findings of the audit should not be swept under the carpet Niger Deltans deserve to know how the billions of naira accrued to the Commission since it was established were managed.”
Areas visited by the journalists drawn from different media houses on the auspices of the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs in the company of field forensic auditors, include road projects in Obio-Akpor Council in Rivers State. Shore Protection Project at Ugborodo Community, Land Reclamation Project at Akpakpa-Ajudiabo Community, Canalization of Oporoza and others in Warri South-West Council Area, among others.