By Daily Metro NG, Abuja
The National Assembly is set to launch a fresh investigation into the alleged diversion of N6.25bn meant to provide COVID-19 palliatives for the poor and indigent people of Niger Delta region through the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
In a letter of petition dated August 3, 2020 sent to the leadership of the National Assembly by the chairman of the NDDC Palliatives Distribution Committee, High Chief Sobomabo Jackrich, which was duly acknowledged by the offices of the Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives, he accused the Prof. Daniel Pondei-led Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the NDDC of hijacking the palliatives distribution process, thereby misappropriating and diverting the N6.25bn palliatives money.
DailyMetro reports that President Muhammadu Buhari had approved the N6.25bn for the NDDC in the wake of COVID-19 lockdown in order to procure food items and other necessities for onward distribution to the poor and indigents in the nine states of the Niger Delta region.
According to Jackrich’s letter, a palliative distribution committee was subsequently constituted with him as chairman and it was inaugurated accordingly for the task but it was not allowed to do the job by the IMC of NDDC.
“That the Palliative Distribution was officially flagged off in Port Harcourt with the mandate to commence distribution. Today, all of that can be regrettably described as a show of shame and a scam.
“The Six Billion, Two Hundred and Fifty Million Naira (N6,250,000,000.00) only 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 6.2billion Naira of our hard earned tax payers money was invested for its original purpose which the President approved,” he said in petition.
Jackrich averred that the expenditure of the N6.2bn by the IMC of NDDC contravened the Emergency Procurement method as provided in Sections 42(b) (c) and 43 of the Public Procurement Act, 2007.
The petitioner added that whereas the palliatives was meant for the indigent and poor, just a handful of food items were provided and distributed to an insignificant number of persons in the affected states under a “camera-party”.
He accused the IMC of sourcing items from the NDDC warehouse for distribution as palliatives while “most of the food items” that were distributed were “spoilt and unhealthy for human consumption”.
“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 Muhammadu Buhari,” Jackrich alleged.
He also accused the IMC of fueling crisis in the Niger Delta region by ways of extortion and non-payment of contractors handling projects and maintaining peace in the region.
“This cunning posture of the IMC is deepening the unrest and insecurity in the region, thus blackmailing the efforts of President Muhammadu Buhari in developing the Niger Delta,” he added.
Jackrich, therefore, asked the National Assembly to investigate the Pondei-led IMC with a view to make it account for the N6.2billion approved by the President Buhari for palliatives in the Niger Delta during the pandemic.
“That the IMC should be made to explain the hijack of the Palliatives Distribution process and the sidelining of the inaugurated Palliatives Distribution Committee which was saddled with the task of distribution of the palliatives in the nine Niger Delta states as approved by President Muhammadu Buhari.
“The National Assembly should take into consideration all issues raised in this petition and any other relevant information and investigate/probe into them in the interest of justice for the people of the Niger Delta,” Jackrich demanded including he be paid all monies and logistics owed him by the IMC and NDDC.