The Keme Pondei-led Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) has been accused of misappropriating and diverting N6.25bn approved by President Muhammadu Buhari as COVID-19 palliatives for indigent persons in the area.
Chairman of the Palliative Distribution Committee (PDC), High Chief Sobomabo Jackrich, laid the allegation in an August 3 petition forwarded to both the Senate and House of Representatives.
In the petition, Jackrich alleged that the Prof. Keme Pondei-led IMC orchestrated a “scam” in the management of the funds, urging the National Assembly to compel Pondei to account for the money.
He said that when President Buhari was inaugurating the palliative committee, he made it clear that the N6.25 billion was for the sole purpose of uplifting the poor in the region.
According to him, the distribution of the palliatives commenced in Port Harcourt, Rivers State but quickly turned to a show of shame and a “scam”.
Jackrich said that the Pondei-led IMC staged a camera show of distributing food items to an “insignificant number of persons in the Niger Delta to falsely give the impression that the palliatives had been distributed.”
The petition read in part, “The N6.25 billion that was magnanimously approved by Mr. President to help the poor and indigent of the Niger Delta during this difficult period of the COVID-19 pandemic as palliatives has curiously been allegedly misappropriated and embezzled by the IMC of the NDDC and its 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 the ground to show that N6.25billion of our hard-earned tax payers money was invested for its original purpose which the President approved. The materials and supplies were to be done through Emergency Procurement method as provided in Sections 42(b) (c) and 43 of the Public Procurement Act, 2007.
“Whereas the palliatives were meant for the indigent and poor, curiously, just a handful of food items though staged-managed, was provided and distributed to an insignificant number of persons in the Niger Delta states under a camera-party just to falsely give the impression that the palliatives have been distributed.
“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 Buhari which was approved with tax payers monies.
“As the chairman of the PDC, I cannot account for the palliatives as my committee was sidelined just because I, as the chairman, demanded for accountability and transparency in the processes as well as value for money with respect to the palliatives.”
He said that while he had been led to believe that nine truckloads of food items would be distributed in each of the nine Niger Delta states, the IMC shut his committee out of the process.
”They called and handed me with few bags of rice and beans just to induce me to play along with them giving the false impression that the process was successful. This appears to me as a cover-up plot. Most of the foods items that they claimed to have distributed were spoilt and unhealthy for human consumption.
“Thus only the IMC can tell where they got those poisonous and rotten food items from. The next thing we heard surprisingly, was that the palliatives had been distributed. I managed to monitor from a distance the charade and show-off since I and my committee were stripped of our assignments by the IMC in the distribution processes and left us incommunicado. All needed logistics that my committee was supposed to work with were denied us,” Jackrich stated.