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Panel alleges diversion of N6.2b palliatives for Niger Delta by NDDC

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• Asks NASS to probe commission’s IMC
• Rep urges independent forensic audit

The National Assembly has been petitioned to raise another panel to investigate alleged misappropriation of N6.2 billion approved by President Muhammadu Buhari for palliatives for residents of the Niger Delta during the coronavirus pandemic.

Chairman of the COVID-19 Palliatives Distribution Committee of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Chief Sobomabo Jackrich, who petitioned the committees on privilege and ethics of both chambers of the National Assembly, alleged that the money was corruptly diverted by the Interim Management Committee (IMC), in connivance with “identifiable powerful forces and so cannot be accounted for.”

Jackrich, who noted that the palliative distribution was officially kicked off in Port Harcourt, River State, said:
“Today, all of that can be regrettably described as a show of shame and a scam. The N6.2billion that was magnanimously approved by Mr. President to help the poor and indigents of the Niger Delta during this difficult period of the pandemic as palliatives has curiously been allegedly misappropriated and embezzled by the IMC of the NDDC and their co-conspirators.” He urged the National Assembly to probe the IMC under Prof. Kemebradikumo Daniel Pondei with a view to making it account for the said money.

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Jackrich said whereas the palliatives were meant for the indigent and poor, curiously, just a handful of food items were provided and distributed to an insignificant number of persons in the Niger Delta states under a camera-party to give the impression that the palliatives had been distributed.

According to him, the food items were “politically” shared among the IMC choice areas, including a few states that aligned with them politically to undermine the essence of the gesture by President Buhari.

“As the chairman of the distribution committee, I cannot account for the palliatives as my committee was sidelined because I demanded for accountability and transparency in the processes.

“I was handed the template for the distribution of the palliatives wherein it was indicated that nine trucks of food items will be distributed to each of the nine states in the region.

“However, the IMC hijacked the entire process only to call me and hand over few bags of rice and beans just to induce me to play along with them, giving false impression that the process was successful.

“This appears to me as a cover up plot. Most of the food items that they claimed to have distributed were spoilt and unhealthy for human consumption. Thus only the IMC can tell where they got those poisonous and rotten food items from. The next thing we hear surprisingly, is that the palliatives have been distributed.

“I managed to monitor from a distance the charade and show-off since I and my committee were stripped of our assignments by the IMC in the distribution processes and left incommunicado. All needed logistics that my committee was supposed to work with were entirely denied us,” Jackrich alleged. He said what was distributed under the guise of medical equipment were old goods and wares in the commission’s warehouses which were put on camera to deceive the unsuspecting public and mislead President Buhari.

“This too was staged. No single kit, no COVID-19 test centre was set up by the commission in the nine Niger Delta states till date. It is for the records that I state these facts.

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In the petition, Jackrich urged the lawmakers to quiz the IMC to show material evidence of compliance with the relevant sections of the Public Procurement Act, 2007.

The petition is essentially asking that the IMC should be made to show proof of procurement and utility of the necessary foodstuffs, medical equipment as well as their distribution to the Niger Delta states by the palliatives distribution committee.

Meanwhile, a House of Representatives member, Mr. Farah Dagogo, has canvassed the establishment of an independent forensic audit to probe into the affairs of the NDDC.

Dagogo suggested that such audit must be conducted by credible firm other than those being engaged by the Pondei-led IMC to recover stolen funds, including monies carted away by non/underperforming contractors. He said it behoved President Muhammadu Buhari, in conjunction with the National Assembly, to overhaul the NDDC in such a manner that would eradicate to the barest minimum corrupt practices that had militated against the realization of the objective of establishing the commission.

Dagogo, representating Degema/Bonny Federal Constituency in Rivers State on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) said the searchlight beamed on the NDDC should be extended to the alleged 100million barrels of crude oil shipped from Nigeria in 2015, kept in tank farms in Qingdao in China’s eastern Shandong Province, and secretly sold for $800million, with top government officials already implicated.

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