By Ignatius Okorocha
As the nation awaits the outcome of investigation initiated by the Federal House of Representatives over the alleged financial recklessness at Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), fresh allegation came the way of the Professor Daniel Pondei-led Interim Management Committee (IMC), on Tuesday.
This is even as the Chairman of the Palliative Distribution Committee of the Commission, High Chief Sobomabo Jackrich, has alleged the embezzlement of N6.2 billion by the IMC under the guise of palliatives distribution .
In a 12 – paragraph petition by Jackrich dated August 3rd , 2020, and separately addressed to the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan and Speaker, House of Representatives , Hon Femi Gbajabiamila , explained that the N6.2 billion palliatives scam is different from N1.5 billion relief funds shared to over 4,000 staffers of the Commission and high command of the Nigeria Police Force by IMC in April this year .
According to him, the N6.2 billion was specifically approved by President Muhamnadu Buhari also in April for procurement and distribution of palliatives to residents of the Nine States covered by the commission .
“Today, all of that can be regrettably described as a show of shame and a scam. The N6,250,000,000.00 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.
“As the Chairman of the Palliatives Distribution Committee, my findings is not only that the money cannot be accounted for, but there is nothing on ground to show that that 6.2 billion naira 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 said .
Jackrich in the Petition titled: Demand for investigation over alleged misappropriation and diversion of N6.2 billion NDDC palliatives money,” alleged further that the Pondei led IMC, pushed him aside as Chairman of Palliatives Distribution Committee when the money was to be spent .
He alleged that rather than using the money for the purposes for which it was meant for, the IMC embezzled it by only stage managing distribution of items not worth a million Naira .
He consequently called for dissolution of the Pondei-led IMC by President Muhamnadu Buhari in order to pave way for thorough cleansing of the Commission and allowing the motive behind the ongoing forensic auditing , to see the light of the day .
The petition reads in part: “As the chairman of the Palliatives Distribution Committee, I cannot account for the palliatives as my committee was sidelined just because I as the Chairman demanded for ACCOUNTABILITY and TRANSPARENCY in the processes as well as value for money with respect to the Palliatives.
“That 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. They called and handed me with few bags of rice and beans just to induce me to play along with them giving the 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 has been distributed. I managed to monitor from a distance the charade and show-off since I and my Committee was stripped of our assignments by the IMC in the distribution processes and left us incommunicado.
“As chairman of the Palliatives Distribution Committee, I am aware that what was distributed under the guise of medical equipment were old goods and wares in the Commission’s warehouses which was put on Camera just to deceive the unsuspecting public and mislead the President.
“This too was staged. No single kits or COVID-19 Test Centres were set up by the Commission in the Nine Niger Delta states till date. It is for the records that I state these facts. The money for Palliatives approved by Mr. President was allegedly corruptly diverted by the IMC in concert with identifiable powerful forces and so cannot be accounted for.
“Surprisingly again, at their corrupt leisure and malevolent unbridled appetite, the Managing Director openly on camera admitted to some disturbing embezzlement of unbudgeted funds in the Commission during this pandemic. Responding to questions at the National Assembly regarding the COVID-19 Relief Fund paid to NDDC staff the MD said ”ONLY N1.3 billion was used to take care of staff” despite being paid their salaries.
“There have been several barefaced embezzlement of billions of Naira from the Commission that was originally established to help the people’s of the region but to no avail.
” There have been records of scam contracts supervised by the IMC. Unfortunately, they have procured some dubious Non Governmental Organizations NGO’s to defend and cover up their malfeasances and give them a clean bill through procured reports and presentations during the course of ongoing investigations.
“The media has been awash for some days now with respect to sweeping allegations and counter allegations against the IMC over alleged corrupt embezzlement of billions of Naira from the NDDC through countless fronts. These stories further show the level of deep seated corruption going on in the Commission against the impoverished peoples of the Niger Delta.
“The National Assembly should probe and investigate the IMC under Prof. Kemebradikumo Daniel Pondei with a view to make them to account for the 6.2 billion Naira approved by the President for Palliatives in the Niger Delta during the pandemic.
“That they should show material evidence of compliance with the relevant Sections of the Public Procurement Act, 2007. That they should show proof of procurement and utility of the necessary foodstuffs keeping the approved figures in mind the medical equipment and distribution of same to the Niger Delta states by the Palliatives Distribution Committee chairmaned by High Chief Sobomabo Jackrich.
“The IMC and any other public office holder(s) no matter how highly placed as long as this probe is concerned should be made to step aside or be suspended from office just like Ibrahim Magu of the EFCC so as not to interfere in the ongoing investigations in the NDDC. This will disable him from compromising relevant documents and or personnel in the interest of transparency.
“The sweeping allegations against the IMC and their overtures disqualify them from overseeing any forensic audit because they have become interested Parties in the criminal investigations ongoing in the NDDC both by the audit and the National Assembly just to sabotage President Muhammadu Buhari.