NDDC: Senate Clears Niger Delta Affairs Minister of N480bn Fraud Allegation

*Asks Umana to tackle alleged cases of employment racketeering

*Group alleges plot to scuttle Buhari’s move to reconstitute board 

Sunday Aborisade and Emameh Gabriel in Abuja

The Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions has exonerated  the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Mr. Umana Okon Umana, of the allegation of misappropriation and illegal sacking of workers levelled against him.
The panel, Chaired by Senator Ayo Akinyelure, also dismissed as  baseless, the petition in which those allegations were made.
Akinyelure stated this yesterday, while addressing journalists in Abuja.

He said the allegation in the petition that the minister was perfecting strategy to misappropriate N480 billion meant for the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) domiciled in the Central Bank of Nigeria, was false and baseless.

Akinyelure explained that the committee had confirmed as earlier explained by the minister that there was no attempt at any wrongful act.
He said it was a lawful plan for core regional projects to be included in the amended NDDC 2021/2022 budget as approved by President Muhammadu Buhari for a new regional development scheme in the nine states of Niger Delta.

The Senate committee chairman commended the minister for working to ensure the transmission of the NDDC budgets for 2021/2022 and 2023 to the National Assembly for legislative approval.
He also expressed satisfaction with the minister’s contribution to efforts to constitute the governing board of the NDDC which is currently undergoing legislative approval at the Senate.
The committee dismissed as untrue the allegation that the minister wanted to sack the interim administrator  of the NDDC.
He noted that the tenure of the administrator had come to an end as his appointment was meant to last for the period of the forensic audit into the activities of the NDDC.

The committee praised Buhari for approving the constitution of the Board of the NDDC and for the transmission of the NDDC budgets of 2021/2022 and 2023 to the National Assembly for appropriation.
On the alleged sacking of 100 workers of the NDDC, the committee noted that there was no evidence that such disengagement had ministerial approval.
He urged the minister to ensure that cases of undocumented employments and unauthorised sack of workers of the Commission were addressed.
The panel specifically urged the minister to address the cases of employment racketeering in the Commission, which were allegedly perpetrated during the regime of his immediate past predecessor.

He explained that there were series of Petitions before his panel by aggrieved job seekers from the oil-rich Niger Delta region of the country, alleging that the agency’s management did not allow them to carry out any documentation despite issuing them, original letters of employment.
Akinyelure explained that one of the petitions, signed by a former deputy governor of Ondo State, Agboola Ajayi, specifically alleged that the employment into the NDDC were sold for various amounts depending on the financial strength of the applicant’s family.
He explained that the minister had already denied the allegation of sack of 100 NDDC workers by him on resumption of office, when he appeared before his panel.

Akinyelure said the current minister had described as untrue, the allegation that he approved the disengagement of some workers.
 The Senator however said the minister should redress the anomaly, as soon as the Board of the NDDC was inaugurated after confirmation of its members by the Senate.
Akinyelure said the engagement his committee had with the minister had yielded fruits as the 2021, 2022 and 2023 budget estimates of the NDDC had been presented before the Senate for consideration and approval.

He also said the interaction with the minister led to approval and composition of the Board of the NDDC by Buhari.
He commended Buhari for appointing a Woman, Lauretta Ifeanyi-Onochie as the Chairman of the Board of the Agency.
He said, “Since men had been managing the agency for a long time and there were no much significant improvement, Mr. President may think that the appointment of a woman could change a lot of things at the NDDC.”

Group Alleges Plot to Undermine Buhari’s Move to Reconstitute Board

Meanwhile, an alarm has been raised by some stakeholders over moves by certain individuals allegedly of vested interest to undermine the confirmation and reconstitution of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) board.      

The group under the aegis of Foundation Against Fraud, Indiscipline and Corruption (FAFIC), yesterday alleged that people in high places in government were working against the interest of the president, who they said has the prerogative to make appointment for the head of the board.
Consequently, the group called on the people of Niger Delta region to resist any attempt by people they said have held the Commission by the jugular since inception, therefore denying them the dividends for which the Commission was created for.

In a statement titled, ‘We Must Not Let Corruption Win’ and signed by its President/National Coordinator, Dr. Uche Diala, which was made available to journalists in Abuja, the group cautioned  that any move made to undermine the confirmation and reconstitution of the board, “would be inimical to the efforts of the president to restore sanity, excellence, probity and accountability to the Commission and to return it to the path of delivering dividends to the people of the Niger Delta and member states.”

Diala stated: “We are aware of some clandestine and desperate moves by certain individuals and vested interests to undermine the president’s nominations as the Senate confirmation hearings loom.
“It is our objective view that the NDDC Board as re-constituted by the president and awaiting the confirmation of the Senate is an important first step to repositioning the Commission and implementing the recommendations of the forensic audit as the nominated board is made up of qualified Nigerians and is significantly headed by a woman of integrity and impeccable character who is not tainted in any way by corrupt tendencies and affiliations nor has she any record of corruption against her.

“It bears stating that, Laureta Onochie; if confirmed by the Senate, would be the first woman ever to head the Commission since its inception. We acknowledge it as a plus for the often sidelined Nigerian women who nonetheless in their majority have always proven to be diligent, dependable, hardworking and accountable when assigned such tasks.”

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