ICPC Arrests Top NCDC Officials For Fraud

Two directors at the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) have been arrested by the Independent Corrupt Practices & Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC).

One of the arrested directors is in charge of education, health, and social services, while the other is in charge of special projects.

Their arrest, PREMIUM TIMES learnt, borders on allegations of abuse of office regarding COVID-19 spending by the NDDC and the mishandling of the commission’s scholarship programme.

The directors, whose names could not be ascertained Friday night, were arrested on Monday and were detained till Thursday before they were released on administrative bail.

Azuka Ogugua, ICPC’s spokesperson, confirmed the arrest to PREMIUM TIMES, Friday.

She did not, however, mention where the officials were detained and when they would likely be quizzed again.

The NDDC was set up in 2000 by the administration of President Olusegun Obasanjo to fast-track development in the troubled Niger Delta region of Nigeria.

The commission has, however, been plagued by corruption, while the people in the region continue to live in poverty and the commission’s uncompleted projects are found in almost every community.

The National Assembly launched a corruption probe of the agency which later became controversial, with the commission’s management accusing senators and House of Representatives members of cornering for themselves several contracts.

A forensic audit of the NDDC is yet to commence, 10 months after it was approved by President Muhammadu Buhari.

The acting Managing Director of the commission, Kemebradikumo Pondei, admitted recently that the commission spent N1.5 billion for its staff as ‘COVID-19 relief funds’.

A report by the Senate said top management of the NDDC paid themselves N85.6 million to attend a graduation ceremony in the United Kingdom at a time Nigeria was on lockdown and airports shut because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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The Senate also said NDDC officials paid themselves scholarship grants at a time hundreds of deserving scholarship beneficiaries had not been paid for years and were stranded in different countries.

“I think people were treating the place as an ATM, where you just walk in there to go and pluck money and go away, I don’t think they were looking at it as an interventionist agency,” Godswill Akpabio, the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, said last year about the corruption in NDDC.