What looked like a staged drama yesterday in the National Assembly to many could be real has a result of complicated health issues experienced by the NDDC MD.
The Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) has explained that its acting Managing Director, Prof. Keme Pondei, collapsed at the National Assembly because he ignored his doctors’ advice on his state of health.
A statement signed by the Director, Corporate Affairs, Charles Odili, said Pondei has been ill for the past two weeks but that his condition deteriorated Monday morning necessitating his doctors to advise him against attending the hearing.
Odili said: “The commission wishes to disclose that Prof Pondei has been ill for the past two weeks. This morning, his condition deteriorated, and his doctors advised against attending the hearing.
“However, he ignored his doctors’ advice because of the realisation that his traducers will use his absence at the hearing to soil his name and reputation. He thought he could make it through the hearing and take care of his health later. As it turned out, his doctors were right. Prof Pondei is in a stable condition at a clinic in Abuja.”
Odili said that Pondei assumed office on February 20, 2020 and by May 5, the two arms of the National Assembly ordered a probe of his tenure, two third of which was spent under COVID-19 lockdown conditions.
He noted that following his position, Pondei, has an official duty to answer for the activities of the commission and what happened between 2008 – 2012 “which is the subject of another hearing based on the auditor general’s report for the period.”
He said: “It would, however, be unfair to hold him personally liable for acts which took place when he was not the head of the Commission. When the two arms of the National Assembly called for a probe, it was over a missing N40bn.
The Commission took the rare step of publishing all payments made by it under Prof Pondei. No organisation in Nigeria, public or private has ever got to that level of transparency in our national history.
“As this publication undermined the claims of his accusers, the subject of the public hearing changed to ‘financial recklessness’. While this might appear insignificant, it amounted to changing the goal posts to smear a clean man. While misappropriation of N40bn is a matter demanding objective proof, the question of financial recklessness is one open to subjective judgement.
“The Commission is delighted that Olubunmi Ojo, the Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on NDDC has recused himself from the hearing. At the end of the day, everyone has to answer for his role in the misappropriation of the resources of the Commission.
“It is this search for answers that led President Muhammadu Buhari, on the request of the nine governors of the region, to institute a forensic audit to probe what happened to the resources of the Commission from 2001 to date.
“The Prof Pondei led IMC has committed to the success of that exercise. While we thought there will be a fight back by those who dipped their hands in the cookie’s jar, we never expected this level of boldness and malevolent aggression as witnessed by accusers at hearing and their paid agents through all the media platforms.
“The Commission is participating at the hearing, even though it thinks that seeing to the conclusion of the forensic audit will serve the future of the Commission and the Niger Delta region more than the probe of 74 days of activities.”