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Fresh dust rises over N6.2bn NDDC palliative scheme

Fresh dust has been kicked up over the N6.2bn the presidency approved for the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) as palliative to the oil region.

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On Wednesday, August 5, 2020, the chairman of the distribution committee, Solomon Jackrich, a high chief, cracked the atmosphere saying the fund was diverted. He called for Senate probe again.

The NDDC reacted Thursday, saying the high chief knew nothing because the action was taken over by state governors who allegedly insisted on distributing the palliatives in their states. Only two of the nine oil states are controlled by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) that approved the fund and runs the Commission. The other states are controlled by the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the governors wanted to decide the distribution activity.

The NDDC spokesman, Charles Odili, said the moment the states took over the distribution in their states, the central distribution chairman, Jackrich, knew nothing anymore about details of the palliatives.

Jackrich had however accused the Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the NDDC misappropriating and diverting N6.2 billion meant for palliatives among the commission’s nine-member states.

Jackrich in a 12-paragraph petition dated August 3, 2020, sent to the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan and Speaker House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, stressed that the N6.2billion scam was different from N1.5Bn relief funds shared to over 4,000 workers of the commission and high command of the Nigeria Police Force by IMC in April this year. According to the petitioner, the N6.2billion was specifically approved by President Muhammadu  Buhari also in April for procurement and distribution of palliatives to residents of the nine states covered by the commission .

He said: “Today, all of that can be regrettably described as a show of shame and a scam. The N6.2Bn 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 misappropriated and embezzled by the IMC of the NDDC and their co-conspirators.

“As the Chairman of the Palliatives Distribution Committee, my finding is not only that the money cannot be accounted for, but there is nothing on ground to show that N6.2 billion of our hard-earned tax payers’ money was invested for its original purpose, which the President approved.

“The materials and supplies, according to the statement were to be done through emergency procurement method as provided in Sections 42(b) (c) and 43 of the Public Procurement Act, 2007,” he further said.

Alluding to huge corruption in the Commission, the chief urged the National Assembly to probe and investigate the IMC under Kemebradikumo Daniel Pondei with a view to making them account for the N6.2Bn.

The NDDC however called this another false claim orchestrated by the same forces who they said had been waging a campaign of falsehood against the Commission and its management since President Muhammadu Buhari ordered a forensic audit of the operations of the Commission in the past 19 years.

Presenting their own facts, the Commission said immediately the constitution of the Jackrich 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. In fact, one particular Governor declined to give the permit to move the items during the COVID lockdown unless the Commission directly deal with his government in the matter.”

The Commission said after internal mechanisms, on May 23 2020, management approved the request and the change in policy took place and the task of the Jackrich committee became redundant. “This means the High Chief was no longer and could no longer be involved in the direct distribution of the Palliatives. This also means he could not have accurate information on the exercise.”

The Commission did not say if Jackrich and members of his committee were briefed on the change and why it had to be so. Instead, Jackrich said he was given some palliatives to keep him quiet.

The NDDC however said as, at today, none of the nine state governments has denied receiving its own share of the food items for distribution under the COVID-19 Palliatives programme. The bulk of Jackrich’s petition dwelt on the refusal of the IMC to pay him a humongous amount of money for being chairman of the committee. “This has led to this blackmail.”

The Commission gave a long list of the equipment procured and distributed because the entire amount was not about sharing foodstuff. It also had equipment component and campaigns.

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