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Senate committee clears Umana, dismisses N480b fraud allegation

By From John Akubo and Msugh Ityokura, Abuja
25 November 2022   |   4:03 am
Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions has exonerated Mr. Umana Okon Umana, Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, of all false allegations of misappropriation and illegal sack of workers levelled against him and dismissed as totally baseless...

Minister of Niger Delta Affairs Umana Okon Umana.

• Probes Akpabio, NDDC management over alleged job racketeering
• House investigates $475m fiber infrastructure project under NICTIB

Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions has exonerated Mr. Umana Okon Umana, Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, of all false allegations of misappropriation and illegal sack of workers levelled against him and dismissed as totally baseless the petition in which those allegations were made.

Addressing the press in Abuja, yesterday, the chairman of the committee, Senator Ayo Akinyelure, said the committee had determined that the allegation in the petition that the minister was hatching a plot to misappropriate N480 billion funds of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) was false and baseless.

Akinyelure said the committee has confirmed, as earlier explained by the minister, that there was no attempt at any wrongful act, but a lawful plan for core regional projects to be included in the amended NDDC 2021/2022 budget, as approved by President Muhammadu Buhari for a new regional development scheme in the nine states of the Niger Delta.

The Senate committee chairman commended the minister for working to ensure transmission of the NDDC budgets for 2021/2022 and 2023 to the National Assembly for legislative approval.

He also expressed satisfaction with the minister’s contribution to the efforts to constitute the governing board of the NDDC, which is currently undergoing legislative approval at the Senate.

The committee dismissed as untrue the allegation that the minister wanted to sack the Interim Administrator (IA) of the NDDC, noting that the tenure of the IA had come to an end, as his appointment was meant to last for the period of the forensic audit into activities of the NDDC.

On the alleged sack of 100 workers of the NDDC, the committee noted that there was no evidence that such disengagement had ministerial approval and urged the minister to ensure that cases of undocumented employments and unauthorised sack of workers of the commission were addressed.

The committee praised Buhari for approving the constitution of the Board of the NDDC and for transmission of the NDDC budgets of 2021/2022 and 2023 to the National Assembly for appropriation.

MEANWHILE, Senate commenced investigation into alleged job racketeering at NDDC involving the immediate past Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, and management of the commission.

The probe followed a petition accusing the former minister and the management of refusing to document the appointments of seven job seekers from Ondo State, who legitimately applied and were issued letters of employment to work at the commission.

Akinyelure said the petition before his committee accused the former minister and immediate past management of NDDC of deliberately denying job seekers opportunities to work at the commission, even after meeting all the requirements.

The petition further accused officials of the commission of demanding bribe of N2 million from job seekers to have their employments documented or have their slots sold to highest bidders.

ALSO, House of Representatives is to probe $475 million credit facility for various phases of fiber infrastructure project under the National Information Communications Technology Infrastructure Backbone (NICTIB)

The facility, according to a lawmaker, Benjamin Mzondu, who moved a motion of urgent public importance to the effect during plenary, was made available by China’s EXIM Bank, with approval of the National Assembly.

The House noted that phase one of the project, which spans 13 states, has been completed and commissioned. However, the chamber was concerned that all through the execution and completion of the phase, funded by part of the credit facility, Galaxy Backbone, an agency of government under the ministry of communications, and the ministry itself frustrated oversight efforts.