President Muhammadu Buhari has ordered that the beneficiaries of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) scholarship be paid by the end of the week.
NDDC director of corporate affairs, Charles Odili, disclosed this after delivering the NDDC management’s invitation to the president to inaugurate the 29-kilometre Ogbia-Nembe Road in Bayelsa State.
The beneficiaries of the commission’s scholarship in the United Kingdom had on Monday protested the non-payment of their tuition fees.
The students converged on the Nigerian High Commission in London to express displeasure over “negligence of their welfare.”
The scholars lamented that they have been stranded since the NDDC stopped paying their tuition and allowances one year after they were awarded the scholarship.
In a statement, Odili said scholars of the commission “who are facing hardships abroad” because of the non-remittance of their fees and stipends would be paid by the end of the week following the order of President Buhari.
He said the delay in the remittance of the fees was caused by the sudden death of NDDC former acting executive director, Finance and Administration, Ibanga Etang, last May.
He stated: “Under the commission’s finance protocol, only the executive director (finance) and the executive director (projects) can sign for the release of funds from the commission’s domiciliary accounts with the Central Bank of Nigeria.
“With the death of Chief Etang, the remittance has to await the appointment of a new EDFA. Senator Akpabio, the Honourable Minister, said President Buhari who has been briefed on the protest by students at the Nigerian High Commission in London, has ordered that all stops be pulled to pay the students by the end of this week. We expect a new EDFA to be appointed this week. As soon as that is done, they would all be paid.”
On the list of NDDC contracts handled by members of the National Assembly, Odili said the one submitted by Akpabio was not compiled by the minister.
The NDDC spokesperson said the list submitted to the National Assembly was compiled by the management in charge of the commission in 2018.
He said there was another set of lists for emergency project contracts awarded in 2017 and 2019 but these were not submitted to the National Assembly.
“The Interim Management Committee, IMC, of the commission stands by the list, which came from files already in the possession of the forensic auditors. It is not an Akpabio list but the NDDC’s list. The list is part of the volume of 8,000 documents already handed over to the forensic auditors,” he said.
Odili asked prominent indigenes of the Niger Delta whose names were on the list not to panic as the commission is aware “that people used the names of prominent persons in the region to secure contracts”, and that the ongoing forensic audit would unearth those behind the contracts.
The spokesperson said the intention of the list was to expose committee chairmen in the National Assembly who used fronts to collect contracts from the commission, some of which were never executed.
He added that the list did not include the unique case of 250 contracts which were signed for and collected in one day by one person ostensibly for members of the National Assembly.
NASS Probes Alleged Diversion Of N6.2bn N’Delta Palliatives Fund
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 NDDC.
Moves to probe the palliatives fund is coming sequel to a petition dated August 3, 2020 and sent to the leadership of the National Assembly by the chairman of the NDDC Palliatives Distribution Committee, High Chief Sobomabo Jackrich.
In the petition which was acknowledged by the offices of the Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Jackrich 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.
LEADERSHIP 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 copy of which was obtained by LEADERSHIP yesterday, 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.
Our People Running Out Of Patience – Ijaw Youths
The umbrella body of Ijaw Youths worldwide, the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC), has expressed worry over the ongoing conflict between the Interim Committee of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and National Assembly.
According to the IYC, the brouhaha between NASS and NDDC
management Committee which has contributed to the delay in appointing a substantive coordinator is heightening tension in the coastal region.
Spokesman of IYC, Comrade Ebilade Ekerefe lamented that while the NDDC is yet to address the issues for which it was established, it has instead become a conduit pipe for corrupt politicians to siphon money.
He said, “As a council, we are part of the agitation that birthed the NDDC, hence we would critically ensure that we engage all stakeholders to resolve all these issues.
“The IYC leadership is calling on the federal government and all stakeholders to monitor the audit committee and ensure that the issues are resolved.”
On the appointment of a coordinator for the Presidential Amnesty Program, Ebilade noted that IYC was dissatisfied with the lingering uncertainty over the matter.
He advised that a credible and illustrious son of the Niger Delta with requisite knowledge of the happenings in the region should be given the job.