EFCC arrests ex-NDDC MD, Nsima Ekere, over alleged N47bn loot

The Economic Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) has arrested the former Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) Nsima Ekere for alleged diversion of funds to the tune of N47 billion through registered contractors of the agency.

According to the EFCC, Ekere allegedly received kickbacks from contractors between 2017 and 2019.

Nsima, 56, was the agency’s Managing Director between 2016 and 2018.

The former NDDC boss, who was the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress in Akwa Ibom in 2019, was said to have been picked up by officials of the Lagos branch of the EFCC.

An official of the EFCC said, “Ekere is currently in custody at the Lagos zonal office for fraud to the tune of N47bn. These monies were paid to him as kickbacks by registered contractors of the NDDC.

“We have traced a choice property to him in Lagos while investigations continue.”

Established in 2000 as successor to the Oil Mineral Producing Areas Development Commission to hasten development and tackle ecological problems, arising from the exploration of oil minerals in the largely neglected oil-producing areas of the country, the NDDC is believed to be among the most corrupt agencies in the country.

The commission, according to its enabling law, has the mandate to construct roads, develop jetties, health facilities and promote education, job creation, agriculture, fisheries, housing, urban development, among other things.

His arrest is the latest scandal to have been linked to the NDDC after President Muhammadu Buhari ordered a forensic audit of the agency in 2019.

The audit, which is being reviewed, covered the operations of the organisation from 2001 to 2019.

Buhari, who lamented the alleged financial misappropriation in the NDDC, said his government will recover “every kobo” misappropriated.

“The serial abuse, lack of delivery, and what had become an entrenched institutional decay was the reason why I called for the forensic audit,” he said in December 2021 while commissioning the NDDC Prototype Hostel at the University of Uyo, Akwa Ibom.

“Therefore, going forward we shall ensure every recoverable kobo, is recovered for use in service of the people of this region, and those found culpable shall face the Law.”

Before then, the former Minister of Niger Delta Affairs Senator Godswill Akpabio had said there are 13, 000 abandoned projects in the region.

“The report of the audit committee showed that there are over 13,000 abandoned projects in the Niger Delta and even before the submission of the report some contractors have returned to site on their own and completed about 77 road projects,” the former Akwa Ibom governor said when he submitted the audit report to Buhari in September 2021.

“Although the exercise had a checkered history, I thank Mr President and all those who supported and ensured its success.”

In 2020, the House of Representatives set up an ad hoc committee to investigate claims that N81.5bn was diverted during the COVID-19 lockdown. However, its acting Managing Director, Kemebradikumo Pondei, “slumped” while being questioned.

A former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Patricia Etteh, is currently in detention over an alleged contract fraud involving the NDDC.

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