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COVID-19: NDDC under attack by Senate over N3.14 billion palliative for Police, Staff

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BREAKING: Ex- NDDC Director, Adjogbe, escapes assassination in Delta…IMC gave Police N475 Million to buy Face masks, Sanitizers

…Spent N1.3 billion on Community Relation, N1.95 billion on Lassa Fever; N23.8 billion for Consultancy; N85.6 million on over Sea travels

…As Commission accuses Lawmakers of hijacking contracts

…As Senate frowns at Akpabio shunning investigative hearing

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…NDDC N40 billion Probe: No Kobo is missing and misapplied by the IMC, Ojougboh tells Committee

…N281 billion released to NDDC from 2016 to May this year, says Accountant General of the Federation

By Henry Umoru

Senate Thursday took a swipe at the Interim Management Committee, IMC of the Niger-Delta Development Commission, NDDC, over revelations of large sum of money spent so far.

The Senate has taken a swipe at the IMC over N3. 14billion the Commission gave as relief funds to the over 4,000 staff of the commission and Police Commands of affected nine States.

The Ad-hoc Committee also read  from the document how the IMC NDCC donated another N475 million to the Inspector General of Police, Mohammadu Adamu for facemasks and hand Sanitizers, bringing the total amount expended as Covid-19 relief for NDDC  staff and the Police to  N1.5 billion.

Position of the Senate yesterday was during the Investigative Public Hearing by the Senator Olubunmi Adetunmbi, APC, Ekiti North led Ad-hoc Committee probing  into alleged financial recklessness to the tune of N40 billion by the IMC.

Speaking on Thursday in Abuja, Senator Adetunmbi who relied on documents submitted to the Committee by the NDDC, revealed how the allowance was shared with one staff receiving N10million as “palliative” for Covid-19.

Trouble started yesterday with the  Kemebradikumo Daniel Pondei  led IMC of NDDC when the Senate Ad- hoc  Committee queried why huge amount of money was given to Staff of the commission as relief for COVID-19 pandemic.

In his remarks Adetunmbi who was worried why N10m was given to a single staff as Covid-19 relief fund without person testing positive to the virus, said: ” From the financial statements or documents forwarded to this committee from your office as regards  expenditure carried out between October 29, 2019 and May 31, 2020,  monies expended on COVID-19 pandemic relief are mind boggling.

” Out of the total expenditure of N81.495billion spent by both the  IMC led by Mrs Gbene Nunieh as Managing Director between October 29, 2019 and February 18, 2020 and the current IMC led by Professor Pondei between February 19, 2020 and May 31, 2020, N3.14billiion was spent on COVID-19 pandemic as relief funds.

” Highly disturbing is the fact that based on the records of payment of such funds , a Whopping  N10million was given to a single staff while two other staffers collected N7million each.

” Other payments as reliefs against the pandemic are N3million  given to each of 148 other staffers, N1.5 million each to 157 other category of staffers , N1million each to 497 others and N600,000.00 each to the last category of 464 other staffers.

“Also included in the COVID-19 pandemic relief largesse, as clearly stated in your submitted financial documents, is N475million given to the Police High Command for purchase of face masks and Hand Sanitizers for men and officers across the Nine states in the Niger Delta Region.”

Senator Adetunbi also took up the IMC officials on other spendings such as N1.3billion for Community relations , N1.956billion for Lassa fever, N23.8billion for Consultancy fees , N486million for Duty Travel Allowance , N85.6million in April  to some of its officials to attend the graduation ceremony of some Niger-Delta students in the United Kingdom even last June.

However in their separate explanations , both the Managing Director , Professor Pondei and Acting Executive Director ( Project) , Dr Cairo Ojougboh, defended the various expenditure made to have been done in the best interest of the commission and Niger Delta Community at large.

Defending the expenditures, NDDC Director of Projects, Cairo Ojuogboh who explained that the money was meant for the police command in all the 9 states in the Niger-Delta region, said  that most of this expenses were inherited debt; pointing out that the IMC did not award any fresh contract.

Ojougboh however fired back at the National Assembly accusing the Chairmen of the two committees on Niger-Delta in the Senate and the House of Representatives of always hijacking the budget of the NDDC since its inception in 2001.

He specifically accused the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Niger-Delta Development Commission, Peter Nwaoboshi and another Nelson Agbamoshe from the House of Representatives of using their positions to corner contacts for themselves.

Professor Pondei in his own explanation said that the Commission alone, has 150 policemen attached to it for security purposes aside the various Police Commands of the affected Nine States in the Niger Delta Region.

Speaking further, Ojougboh explained that out of 2,900 emergency projects the Commission planned to carry out in changing the face of the Niger Delta Communities , the two chairmen are demanding for 1,000 projects to be executed by them as they have been doing over the years.

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He said, ” Aside projects grabbing, the two chairmen are holding the Commission to ransom on its 2020 budget which had been submitted since November last year but yet to see the light in July 2020.

” We have lost confidence in the two chairmen who are have been hijacking and bastardising operations of the commission on the years.”

On the N40billion allegation levelled against the current IMC by the Senate within the first three months of this year, Ojougboh said there was nothing of such .

According to him, no single Kobo is missing in the account of the Commission since February 19 this year when the current IMC under the Managing Directorship of Professor Pondei  assumed office, adding  that since the interim management came on board, it has not awarded any contract, except the recent one of the Coronavirus, COVID-19  Pandemic where Palliatives were given to people.

He said, “The current IMC met debt of over N3trillion as payments for contracts awarded and executed by previous management ,out of which N156billion had been released and ready for payment.”

Meanwhile, the Senate Probe panel expressed disappointment over the absence of the Minister of Niger-Delta Affair, Godswill Akpabio who despite two separate invitation letters to him failed to turn up for the probe even though he sent the Permanent Secretary to represent him.

Meanwhile, the Accountant General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris has told the Ad- hoc Committee that a total of N281 billion has so far been released to the NDDC from 2016 to May this year.

Giving a breakdown, Idris who was represented by Sylva Okoriagbor, said that in 2016, N41billion was released; in 2017, N64 billion was released; in 2018, a total of N71 billion was released; in 2019, N71 billion was released and from January to May this year, N34 billion was released.

The investigative hearing continues today as stakeholders such as Contractors Association of the Niger Delta and many other Civil Society Organisations are slated to make submissions.

Earlier  in his remarks while  declaring open the  hearing, President of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Lawan, has said that the allegations of financial recklessness and misappropriation of funds leveled against the IMC of NDDC are unacceptable hence the decision by the Senate to investigate the activities of the Commission.

Lawan who was represented by the Deputy Senate Leader, Senator Ajayi Borrofice however  underscored the need for the prudent application of public funds by Ministries, Departments and Agencies of Government (MDAs), emphasised that same had become imperative in view of scarce income at the disposal of the Federal Government.

He said, “Financial recklessness is not an attribute that anyone can afford, whether rich or poor. It is even worse with the poor, or for the organisation or a country with limited resources.

“This is the reason we have always highlighted the need for prudence in the application of public resources. The time when public resources is seen as nobody’s resources is long gone.  We are in trying times, when we all have to be concerned about judicious use of scarce incomes.

“The NDDC is an important statutory agency that is supposed to improve the lot of the Niger Delta community. It is therefore unacceptable to hear about inappropriate use of resources, or outright financial recklessness ”

According to the Senate President, the weighty allegations of misappropriation  of public funds to the tune of N80 billion by the Interim Management Committee of the NDDC prompted the upper chamber to investigate the Commission.

Recall that the Senate is  probing  into alleged financial recklessness to the tune of N40 billion by the Interim Management Committee, IMC, of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC.

Against this backdrop, the Senate had set up a six-man Ad-hoc Committee to carry out an holistic investigation into all issues relating to but not limited to the alleged misapplication and misappropriation of the sum of N40billion by the commission.

The Committee, which had four weeks to report back at plenary, was asked to  look into all procurements and financial transaction of the commission in this fiscal year (2020) and any other matter that is not in accordance with the provision of the NDDC Establishment Act, 2000 or any other extant law.

Vanguard

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