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Oil theft: Niger Delta group backs Ndiomu led investigative panel

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Niger Delta Peace Advocate, a civil society group, has drummed support for the Interim Administrator, of Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP), retired Maj.-Gen. Barry Ndiomu led Special Investigative Panel on Oil Theft/Losses in Nigeria.

The group made this known in a statement by its Chairman, Ebitimi Kurowei and the Publicity Secretary, Ekpe Ekere, on Friday in Abuja.

The National security Adviser (NSA), retired Maj.-Gen. Babagana Monguno, had in December 2022, inaugurated an 11-man special investigative panel to probe oil theft in the Niger Delta region chaired by Ndiomu.

The group condemned what it described as “media campaign of calumny and character assassination against the person and office of the Interim Administrator of PAP, by some faceless groups and individuals”.

According to them, ordinarily, silence would have been a sufficient response to the relentless yet futile attempts at discrediting Gen. Ndiomu and his good works at PAP.

“However, the barrage of attacks against the hardworking Interim Administrator have recently become more organised, intense and desperate, thus demanding a retort from well-meaning groups and individuals who truly understand how the PAP functions generally and how it presently functions under the leadership of Ndiomu.

“In one of the most recent installments of mischief makers’ hysterical attempt to discredit Ndiomu, a so-called group of Niger Delta elders, wrote a petition to NSA, whose office supervises the PAP, seeking the removal of Ndiomu as PAP Interim Administrator.

“The group cited distraction by his related role as chairman of the Special Investigative Panel on Oil Theft/Losses in Nigeria.

“Knowing what those distractors stand for and what their ultimate goal is, it is very easy to either dismiss their laughable and unfounded allegations against Ndiomu or tear them down by setting the record straight. And we have decided to do the latter,” it said.

The group said that when President Muhammadu Buhari appointed Ndiomu as the Interim Administrator of PAP in September 2022, it was with a task to wind down the programme due to the many controversies surrounding it.

It said that the Federal Government later had a rethink following some stakeholders intervention initiated by Ndiomu and allowed the programme to continue under strict conditions.

It commended Ndiomu for his leadership qualities, forthright assessment of the situation and courageous willingness to carry out needed reforms.

According to the group, one of those conditions leading to the decision to retain PAP was that its database, which was compromised over the years, had to be cleaned up.

The group added that the internal and external audits of PAP’s database in September 2022, uncovered monumental fraud in the payment of stipends, saying an individual was receiving stipends meant for 33 persons through fraudulent means in a particular case.

According to them, Ndiomu also initiated plans to renegotiate existing contracts with its vendors and ordered the immediate verification process of all delegates and was able to save over NI.5billion.

“As a well-meaning group, we recognise Ndiomu’s efforts to clean up the ex-agitators’ database.

“We are certain that, although his efforts at sanitising the PAP have generated disquiet in some quarters and are causing panic among those who want the status quo to be retained for their selfish interests, those with nothing to hide have nothing to worry about.

“We, therefore, completely support Ndiomu ‘s decision to only pay contractors whose works have been completed and verified.

“We strongly advise that, rather than sponsor propaganda in the media to manipulate Ndiomu, contractors should focus on ensuring that they have all evidence of completed work as a requirement for payment,” they added.

The group however, commended President Buhari for his insistence on transparency at all interventionist agencies in the Niger Delta and for finding Ndiomu worthy of the enormous task of re-assessing, redirecting and implementing a holistic review of the PAP.

“We also call on the NSA, Gen. Monguno to disregard and dismiss all petitions against Ndiomu and continue to effectively supervise the programme in line with the present administration’s policy on accountability.

“While we urge Ndiomu not to be distracted and assure him of the support of legitimate elders and people of the Niger Delta, we call on his detractors to work with him to enable Ndiomu to deliver on the much-needed reforms of the programme.

“The current state of agitation and rancour augurs ill for the image of the Niger Delta as a region and the peace-building component of the PAP.

“Finally, we are confident that Ndiomu can accomplish his tasks as chairman of the Special Investigative Panel on Oil Theft/Losses in Nigeria, as well as the Interim Administrator of PAP, given his track record in service,” they added. (NAN)

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