Prof. Kemebradikumo Pondei, Acting Managing Director of NDDC

NDDC: IMC diverted N6.25bn COVID-19 palliatives for Niger Deltans, by PDC Chair

*President Buhari approved taxpayers’ monies with a good intention, but NDDC’s activity regrettable, ‘a show of shame and a scam’ ─High Chief Sobomabo Jackrich

*Submits petition to National Assembly to probe allegations against IMC

Alexander Davis | ConsumerConnect

Lending credence to the recent swathes of corruption allegations against the interventionist agency, a top official has revealed how the Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) apparently diverted the N6.25billion President Muhammadu Buhari approved as COVID-19 palliatives for the indigent persons in Niger Delta region at the outbreak the ravaging pandemic in Nigeria.

High Chief Sobomabo Jackrich, Chairman of the Palliative Distribution Committee (PDC), stated this in a petition dated August 3, 2020, and submitted to both the Senate and the House of Representatives, according to The Nation.

Chief Jackrich is requesting that the two chambers of the National Assembly (NASS) to investigate his claim with a view to compelling Prof. Keme Pondei-led IMC to account for the money.

Despite the weighty allegations of corruption against the Commission, Prof. Pondei Monday, August 3 however, insisted that the National Assembly ad-hoc committees probing the financial sleaze in the NDDC were plotting to scuttle the forensic audit of the Commission by discrediting it (NDDC) in their reports.

It was learnt that in the petition, Jackrich also accused the IMC of deliberately refusing to pay security contracts, thereby compromising the security of the region and fuelling tension among the youth.

Copies of the petition were sent to the Senate President Ahmed Lawan; Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, Speaker of the House of Representatives, and all the relevant committees of NASS.

The Chairman of the Palliative Distribution Committee and petitioner recalled that at the inauguration of the palliative committee, President Buhari had stressed that the N6.25billion should be used to uplift the poor in the Niger Delta of the country.

According to him, the palliative distribution was officially flagged off in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, but lamented that “today, all of that can be regrettably described as a show of shame and a scam.”

He further claimed that the IMC staged-managed a camera-party where it distributed some food items to an “insignificant number of persons in the Niger Delta to falsely give the impression that the palliatives had been distributed.”

Jackrich’s petition to NASS reads: “The N6.25 billion that was magnanimously approved by Mr. President to help the poor and indigent of the Niger Delta during this difficult period of the COVID-19 pandemic as palliatives has curiously been allegedly misappropriated and embezzled by the IMC of the NDDC and its co-conspirators.

“As the chairman of the Palliatives Distribution Committee, my findings are not only that the money cannot be accounted for, but there is nothing on the ground to show that N6.25billion of our hard-earned taxpayers’ money was invested for its original purpose which the President approved.

“The materials and supplies were to be done through Emergency Procurement method as provided in Sections 42(b) (c) and 43 of the Public Procurement Act, 2007.

“Whereas the palliatives were meant for the indigent and poor, curiously, just a handful of food items though staged-managed, was provided and distributed to an insignificant number of persons in the Niger Delta states under a camera-party just to falsely give the impression that the palliatives have been distributed.”

It further states: “Some of the food items were politically shared among the IMC choice areas, including a few states of choice which aligned with them politically to undermine the original essence of the Palliatives by President Buhari which was approved with taxpayers’ monies.

“As the chairman of the PDC, I cannot account for the palliatives as my committee was sidelined just because I, as the chairman, demanded accountability and transparency in the processes as well as value for money with respect to the palliatives.”

According to Jackrich, the template handed over to him indicated that nine trucks of food items would be distributed to each of the nine states in the region, but lamented that 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 foods 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 heard surprisingly was that the palliatives had 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 us incommunicado. All needed logistics that my committee was supposed to work with were denied us”

In the petition, Jackrich also said the NDDC distributed old goods and wares as medical equipment in its warehouse to mislead the President.

“No single kit 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 corruptly diverted by the IMC in concert with identifiable powerful forces and so cannot be accounted for.”

Jackrich appealed to the National Assembly to mandate the IMC to render an account on the procurement of the foodstuffs, medical equipment and their distribution in  the nine Niger Delta states.

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