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Group faults reason for not paying students on NDDC scholarship

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Commission denies diverting COVID-19 palliatives
•PDP Reps say House ‘sliding into new low’ under Speaker

The Transparency and Accountability Advancement Group (TAAG) has faulted the reason given by the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) for not paying students on the agency’s scholarship abroad.

Specifically, the group, in a statement by its Director of Information and Strategy, Damian Nwikinata, said that the claim by the Director of Corporate Affairs of the NDDC, Charles Odili, that the commission could not make payments from its domiciliary account without an Executive Director Finance and Administration (EDFA) was deceitful.

Odili, who did not disguise the fact that he acts on behalf of the Niger Delta Affairs Minister, Godswill Akpabio, and the interim management committee of the agency, said the minister had sought President Muhammadu Buhari’s approval to appoint a new EDFA, using the excuse of the students’ plight.

“This is fraudulent and we urge President Muhammadu Buhari to reject this plea from Akpabio, because the NDDC financial regulations have made adequate provisions to meet its financial obligations, even in the absence of its executive management. Mr. President should be mindful of Akpabio’s schemes to perpetuate his IMC despite the stealing of billions of naira under its watch.

“To address the issues raised by Akpabio and the IMC, the domiciliary account of NDDC is domiciled with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), with the managing director/CEO as the approving authority for any payment or transfer from the account.

“There are four other signatories to the account. These are the EDFA in category ‘A’, with the director of finance as alternate; and the executive director, (Projects) in category ‘B’, with the director, project monitoring and supervision as alternate. Any of the ‘A’ and ‘B’ signatories can sign for payments to be made from the domiciliary account with the approval of the managing director/chief executive officer. No transfer or payment can be made without the approval of the MD/CEO, and not the EDFA,” the group said.

According to Nwikinata, “Despite the fact that there is no EDFA at the moment, the IMC has been transferring funds from the same domiciliary account to Naira account with the CBN for the payments they have been making since May, 2020, when the acting EDFA passed on.

MEANWHILE, the NDDC has denied embezzlement of N6.25 billion funds approved for procurement and distribution of COVID 19 palliatives to the people of the Niger Delta.

The commission’s spokesman, Odili, accused former chairman of the COVID-19 palliatives distribution committee of the NDDC, Sobomabo Jackrich, of resorting to blackmail because the agency refused to pay him humongous amount of money for being the head of the panel.

Odili explained that Jackrich had approached the commission to work with it in different ways and was then chosen to oversee the committee involved in the distribution of the palliatives.

He said immediately the constitution of the committee was announced, some of the state governors reached out to the commission that they would have nothing to do with it. Instead, they demanded that the palliatives meant for their states be given to them.

He said that following the management’s decision to adhere to the recommendation of the governors, the Jackrich-led committee became redundant and could no longer be involved in the direct distribution of the palliatives.

Also yesterday, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Caucus in the House of Representatives called on the Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, to urgently halt what it called “a slide into a new low” in terms of credibility and integrity of the chamber in the eyes of the public.

In a letter signed by its leader, Kingsley Chinda (Rivers) and addressed to Gbajabiamila, the caucus expressed concerns over recent happenings in the House, particularly as they concern the NDDC probe and other similar endeavours undertaken by the lawmakers under him.

The letter also made reference to the allegations made by Akpabio against some members of the National Assembly at the NDDC public hearing, wherein the presiding chairman was heard telling the minister to stop making any further revelation as a way of covering up wrongdoings by lawmakers.

The caucus also accused Gbajabiamila of reading just a part of Akpabio’s response to the 48-hour ultimatum given to him, thereby leaving out portions containing the list of contractor-lawmakers who have allegedly benefitted from NDDC contracts.


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