By Deji Elumoye and Udora Orizu
The Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) has demanded that Chairman of the Senate Committee on NDDC, Senator Peter Nwaoboshi, should refund a sum of N2.5 billion, allegedly given to him by the Commission for the supply of plastic desks and chairs for primary and secondary schools in the Niger Delta region.
In a swift response, Nwaoboshi denied benefitting from the contracts, saying the Commission just wanted to divert attention.
The Senator was among the lawmakers named by the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, as one of the beneficiaries of contracts awarded by the NDDC.
In a letter dated July 5th, addressed to Nwaoboshi, signed by NDDC director of legal services, Peter Claver Okoro, a copy which was sighted by THISDAY, said the contract was fully paid for but the commission did not receive the items.
The Commission asked that N2,552,305,600 paid to contractors for the production of plastic desks and chairs for the primary and secondary schools in the Niger Delta region in 2017 under its 2016 budget be refunded.
It gave the lawmaker a two-week ultimatum to refund the said amount.
The letter reads, ‘’That sometime in 2017, the Commission awarded contracts to certain companies for the production of desks and chairs for primary and secondary schools in the Niger Delta Region under the 2016 budget at the Commission. The list of the companies is attached as ‘’Annexure A’’, the total value of the contracts was Two billion, five hundred and fifty two million, three hundred and five thousand and six hundred Naira.’’
‘’That instead of supplying the chairs and desks to the Commission’s warehouse in Port Harcourt or to any of the NDDC offices in the nine Niger Delta states, the items were supplied to a warehouse described as Akuede Akwis’ located at Benin Expressway, Okpanam, before Wichetech Aluminum Company.’’
‘’That the 2019 budget of the Commission also contains the following heads: Provisions and supply of Plastic Chairs and Desks for Primary and Secondary Schools in Delta North Senatorial District (Serial No. 21). Provisions and supply of Plastic Chairs and Desks for Primary and Secondary Schools in Delta North Senatorial District (Serial No. 33). Production and distribution of Desks and Benches in selected schools in the Niger Delta Region for (Serial No. 396).’’
‘’That despite having fully paid for the 2017 contracts for the production of chairs and desks, the items have not been supplied to the Commission. The resultant effect is that the Commission and the Niger Delta region have been deprived of the use of the desks and chairs.’’
When contacted by THISDAY, Nwaoboshi in his response said the Commission just wanted to divert attention from the ongoing probe.
He said, ‘’Did he say it was awarded to me? They just want to divert attention. Please I challenge them to go to court. Be rest assured I am on my way to court for defamation.’’
The Senator in a statement later issued by his media team said the letter which was written on the 5th of July and as at today, 7th of August had not reached Nwaoboshi either in person or office or by substitution.
According to the statement, ‘’The purported letter, unlike any formal letter emanating from a recognised government Ministry, Agency or Department is not signed, therefore, can easily be denied. Nowhere in the contents of the purported letter was it stated that the contractor is directly linked to Distinguished Senator Peter Nwaoboshi.’’
‘’Nowhere in the purported letter was it stated that the warehouse, where the plastic chairs were domiciled belongs to Distinguished Senator Peter Nwaoboshi.
The purported letter is absolutely fake as it was not conveyed through the official letter-headed paper of the NDDC – apparently for fear of being sued for divulgence of fake information to the general public.’’
‘’We are also not ruling out media urchins who may have been recruited by the desperate members of the IMC of NDDC in an attempt to divert public attention from the humongous corruption charges hanging on their necks. Finally, we have always maintained that the IMC of NDDC are bunch of confused men without vision or direction. Initially, the alleged figure was pegged at N3.7Billion only for the confused IMC Team to now come up with a totally different figure of N2.5Billion. Nigerians and the entire world could see the charades clearly.’’
‘’However, if the IMC of NDDC feel they truly have a genuine case against Senator Peter Nwaoboshi as contained in the purported letter, we are challenging them to go to the law court or make use of every legal proceedure available to them.’’