*Senate gives agency last chance to appear
Deji Elumoye in Abuja
A management staff of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), has accused the agency of squandering N6.25billion on phantom palliatives against COVID-19 in 2020.
This is just as the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions, issued last minute summon to the management of the commission to unfailingly appear before it on February 22 for explanations on the alleged palliatives mismanagement.
NDDC had under the recently sacked Professor Daniel Pondei-led Interim Management Committee ( IMC) claimed to have spent N6.25 billion on Palliatives against COVID-19 last year across the nine oil producing States.
However, the Chairman of the agency’s COVID-19 Palliative Distribution Committee , Ambassador Sobomabo Jackrich , said not a dime was spent for such purpose by the then IMC of the Commission.
In a petition he wrote to the Senate Committee on Public Petitions, Jackrich said : “As Chairman of the COVID-19 Palliatives Distribution Committee of the NDDC, I testify that N6.25billion approved by Mr President for Palliatives for the entire Niger Delta Region through the NDDC, cannot be accounted for and by the then Prof Daniel Pondei – led IMC.
“My committee was totally sidelined and the IMC hijacked the process because of their secret plots just because I as the Chairman, demanded for transparency in the entire process. The then IMC conspired among themselves and distributed strange substance in the name of Palliatives in form of spoilt food items to a few communities in the region. To cover up for the fraud, they tried without success to bribe me with few bags of rice and beans just to induce me to play along with them”.
Although the leadership of the NDDC failed to appear before the committee’s sitting on Thursday to answer to the petition but the Chairman of the Committee, Senator Ayo Akinyelure, said there will be no escape route for the agency’s management on the alleged fraud.
According to him, “This is the third time the leadership of the commission failed to honour invitation on the alleged N6.25billion COVID-19 Palliatives scam.
“But unfortunately for them, as a committee of the Senate, we shall thoroughly investigate it whether they like it or not since petition on the fraud even came from a ranking officer from the commission.
“Even as a Senator from one of the affected States , I along with 26 others , did not see any Palliatives distributed by NDDC last year.
Since Government is a continuum, the new management of the commission , must appear before the Committee unfailingly on the 22nd of this month”, he said.
Akinyelure added that submission of the new management on the alleged scam, will determine the fate of the disbanded Pondei-led IMC , alleged to have squandered the money.