*Allegedly Pockets N51m Monthly As Guest House Imprest In Breach of RMAFC’s Laws…
The controversy over alleged illicit spending spree at the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) has taken a fresh dimension as the acting managing director of the Commission under the Interim Management Committee(IMC), Prof K.D. Pondei has been plagued by allegations of crooked monthly payment of a whopping N51m to himself as monthly Guest house imprest and purported visit to project sites for “ project monitoring” during the lockdown occasioned by COVID-19 crisis.
A copy of an internal voucher raised for, and approved by Pondei himslef indicate that Pondei may have enmeshed himself in inappropriate and unlawful financial approvals and disbursements that have empowered some top directors at the NDDC who have vowed to petition the presidency over alleged unlawful spending orgy at the NDDC.
Investigations by The New Diplomat reveal that while the COVID-19 lockdown declared by president Muhammadu Buhari lasted, the acting MD of NDDC was collecting a whopping N51m monthly purportedly for monthly Guest House imprest and visit to project sites for “ project monitoring”.
Recall that Buhari had ordered a lock-down in line with the advise of the NCDC(Nigeria centre for Disease Control) to prevent the spread of COVID-19.Many directors at the NDDC are miffed at this unfolding scandal, expressing shock why any person would tend to behave in such a manner that is less than honorable and ethical. According to them, this is because at that time, nobody truly embarked on project inspection or monitoring at the NDDC.
Recall also that Rivers State governor, Chief Nyesom Wike had similarly imposed a restriction on movements within Rivers state during the lock-down in a bid to stem the spread of the dreaded COVID-19 virus. It would also be recalled that during that period, inter-state travels in and outside of Rivers State were prohibited by the State government, fueling concerns as to which project was then monitored.
Disappointed directors at the NDDC also wondered why Pondei should approve such a staggering sum of N51m for himself as a monthly Guest House Imprest, and related acts, an act that runs foul of laid down laws and protocols set forth by the Revenue Mobilization, Allocation and Fiscal Commission(RMAFC), the body statutorily empowered by Law to determine and set lawful remuneration for public office holders in Nigeria.
This development has fueled tension among senior directors at the NDDC who now accuse the acting MD of illegally stripping the Commission and the peoples of the Niger Delta of funds meant for the accelerated development of the region, and converting same into inappropriate use.
Said a senior director: “ Let the acting MD tell the presidency when he went on the site visit when there was lock-down. It is really funny. Then also when you look at that voucher, he collects a huge N51m monthly illegally as Guest House imprest. Who determined that amount? Was it RMAFC? What is the imprest of a serving minister? What is the monthly salary of our president that an MD of an agency will now be collecting N51m monthly in very controversial ways…
“This is a breach of the RMAFC enabling laws which regulate the remuneration of all appointed public officers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. We are really shocked.…N51m! This amounts to about $131,000,000 USD. How many presidents in the world earn that amount monthly? We are raising serious petitions to the presidency to show them how Pondei and his group have continued to illicitly expend the resources of the NDDC under the guise of various false claims.”
Sources indicate that this move may have triggered a fresh crisis at the NDDC. A scrutiny of a copy of March Voucher for April disbursement show that the payment didn’t go through any rigorous process of evaluation neither was there an explanation as to why the acting MD would pocket such hefty sums in the name of project monitoring in April when there was a total lock-down on account of COVID-19 crisis.
More worrisome was the fact that the staggering sum of N51m which amounts to about $131,613, 36 USD when converted into United States Dollar, using Universal currency converter, far in excess, quadruples the monthly salaries and official allowances of many Heads of Governments across the World including that of Nigeria’s president Muhammadu Buhari.
In fact, President Buhari’s official salary and allowances as determined by the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission(RAMFC) is N14m yearly, based on data sourced from the RMAFC’s official data base. This was established by the RMAFC since 2015 when President Buhari was first elected president.
According to the data obtained from the RMAFC website, which was determined by the Commission as the president’s annual statutory salary and allowances , Buhari earns N14m yearly. The president is also entitled to inclusive allowances such as Hardship, Consistency, etc.
The RMAFC is the body statutorily empowered by Law in accordance with section 32(d) of part 1 of the Third Schedule of the Constitution of Nigeria to determine the lawful and acceptable remunerations for public office holders in Nigeria.
Just like in Buhari’s case, the official yearly remuneration of the Prime Minister of Norway is put at $210,714.USD. This implies that the PM of one of the richest countries in world with over $1 trillion USD Sovereign Wealth Fund , Norway, earns about $19,000 USD monthly while NDDC’s acting MD, an agency of government supervised by a ministry or directorate in Nigeria inappropriately approves about $131, 613,36 USD monthly to himself.
When The New Diplomat contacted the RMAFC Office for clarification about the N51m monthly imprest of the acting NDDC MD, the Commission said it was clearly unaware of such a determination and approval. At the NDDC no one was willing to speak on the matter. Efforts to reach Pondei himself were equally unsuccessful as his official line was constantly switched off.
The New Diplomat