The crisis rocking the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) hits harder as the Chairman of the Palliative Distribution Committee of the commission, Chief Sobomabo Jackrich, last Monday, alleged embezzlement of N6.2billion by the Interim Management Committee (IMC) led by Prof. Daniel Pondei under the guise of palliatives distribution.
Jackrich, in a 12-paragraph petition dated August 3, 2020, and separately addressed to the Senate President, Dr. Ahmad Lawan, and the Speaker, House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, stated that the N6.2billion palliatives scam was different from the N1.5billion relief funds shared to over 4,000 staffers of the commission and some members of the high command of the Nigeria Police Force by the IMC in April.
According to him, the N6.2billion was specifically approved by President Muhammadu Buhari in April this year for procurement and distribution of palliatives to residents of the nine states covered by the commission.
The commission’s Palliative Committee, chairman in his petition, titled “Demand for Investigation over alleged Misappropriation and Diversion of N6.2billion NDDC Palliatives Money”, further alleged that the Pondei-led IMC, pushed him aside as chairman of the Palliatives Distribution Committee when the money was to be spent.
He added that rather than using the money for the purposes for which it was meant for, the IMC only stage-managed the distribution of items not worth up to N1million.
The petition read in parts, “Today, all of that can be regrettably described as a show of shame and a scam. The 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 N6.2billion of our hard earned tax payers money was invested for its original purpose which the President approved.
”The materials and supplies according to the statement were to be done through Emergency Procurement method as provided in Sections 42(b) (c) and 43 of the Public Procurement Act, 2007″.
He consequently called for dissolution of the Pondei-led IMC to ensure thorough financial sanitation of the commission and allowing the motive behind the ongoing forensic auditing, to see the light of the day.
Expressing fury over the activities of the Pondei-led IMC, he further revealed that, “As the chairman of the Palliatives Distribution Committee, 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.
“That I was handed the template for the distribution of the Palliatives wherein it was indicated that nine trucks of food items will be distributed to each of the nine states in the region.
“However, the IMC hijacked the entire 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 food 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 hear surprisingly, is that the palliatives has been distributed. I managed to monitor from a distance the charade and show-off since I and my committee was stripped of our assignments by the IMC in the distribution processes and left us incommunicado.
“As chairman of the Palliatives Distribution Committee, I am aware that what was distributed under the guise of medical equipment were old goods and wares in the commission’s warehouses which was put on Camera just to deceive the unsuspecting public and mislead the President.
“This too was staged. No single kits or Covid-19 Test Centres were set up by the commission in the Nine Niger Delta states till date. It is for the records that I state these facts. The money for Palliatives approved by Mr. President was allegedly corruptly diverted by the IMC in concert with identifiable powerful forces and so cannot be accounted for.
“Surprisingly again, at their corrupt leisure and malevolent unbridled appetite, the managing director openly on camera admitted to some disturbing embzzlement of unbudgetted funds in the commission during this pandemic. Responding to questions at the National Assembly regarding the Covid-19 Relief Fund paid to NDDC staff the MD said “ONLY N1.3 billion was used to take care of staff” despite being paid their salaries.
“There have been several barefaced embezzlement of billions of Naira from the Commission that was originally established to help the people of the region but to no avail”.
Jackruch also alleged that the Pondei-led committee was grossly involved in contracts scams.
According to him, the IMC smartly procured some dubious non-governmental organizations (NGO)’s to defend and cover up their corrupt practices and give them a clean bill through procured reports and presentations during the course of the recent investigations.
Similarly, President Muhammadu Buhari has given the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) one week to pay the beneficiaries of the commission’s scholarship scheme.
The NDDC’s Director of Corporate Affairs, Charles Odili, revealed this after delivering the management’s invitation to the president, to inaugurate the 29-kilometre Ogbia-Nembe Road in Bayelsa State.
In a statement, yesterday, Odili said the students would be paid by the end of the week following Buhari’s order.
He explained that the delay was due to the sudden death of former Acting Executive Director, Finance and Administration, Ibanga Etang, in May.
“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,” Odili noted.
“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.”
The beneficiaries of NDDC’s scholarship in the UK, had, last Monday, protested over the non-payment of their tuition fees and allowances in one year.
The students gathered at the Nigerian High Commission in London, to express their displeasure over “negligence of their welfare”.
However, the Ijaw Youths Council (IYC) Worldwide has identified the ongoing delay in the payment of students under the scholarship scheme of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) as a fresh threat to the fragile peace in the Niger Delta region.
The new President of IYC, Comrade Peter Igbifa, who spoke in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, yesterday, described the conditions of the affected students in abroad as pitiable and unacceptable.
He said the youths were agitated to see their kinsmen carrying placards abroad to protest neglect by the NDDC and the Federal Government while huge resources belonging to their region were being diverted and squandered on frivolous activities.
“I watched the recent protest by the scholars and I was moved into tears. It is embarrassing, shameful and unacceptable to see our ambassadors abandoned and neglected by the NDDC and the Federal Government.
“Since my emergence as the 8th President of the IYC, this is one major issue that has been threatening the fragile peace and causing tension in the region.
“I have had to hold several meetings to calm down frayed nerves, who wanted to start fresh violent agitation over the suffering of our kinsmen sent abroad to study by the NDDC.
“There is a limit to which I can hold them back. If something drastic and urgent is not done to settle the financial obligations of these scholars, I am afraid, the temper will boil over and anything can happen,” Igbifa said.
The IYC boss wondered why sensitive issues affecting the region were not given the required swift attention by responsible authorities despite the huge revenue accruing to the country from the Niger Delta.
Igbifa called on President Muhammadu Buhari, the National Security Adviser (NSA) and the security chiefs to treat the issues of the abandoned Niger Delta students abroad as a matter of national emergency.
He said: “This is not the time to shift blames. The youths in the region are already angry and they don’t want to listen to any blame games.
“They don’t want the Federal Government to blame the NDDC and they don’t want the NDDC to blame the National Assembly or the Coronavirus pandemic. What they are expecting is an end to this shame.
“The NDDC management is appointed by the Presidency and it expected that the commission should be supervised strictly by the Presidency to ensure it lives up to the mandate of the NDDC Act.
“If it fails, it means the Federal Government has also failed in its supervisory role. Therefore, all of them have failed the Niger Delta.
“We hold them responsible for allowing this matter to degenerate to this embarrassing level.
“We want them to know that a new leadership of the IYC is on board and under my watch, the council, which is the umbrella body of all Ijaw youths worldwide will not tolerate this degree of recklessness”.
Igbifa appealed to Buhari to avert emerging crisis in the region by urgently giving directives to responsible authorities including the NDDC to settle the financial obligations of the abandoned students.
Meanwhile, the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), yesterday, said it stood by the list of prominent Niger Delta leaders released by the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, as contractors in the commission, saying that what the minister released was only a tip of the iceberg.
The Director, Corporate Affairs, NDDC, Mr. Charles Odili, said the commission has details of the contracts and proxies used to collect them.
Speaking on the release of list of NDDC contracts handled by members of the National Assembly, Odili said: “The one submitted by Senator Akpabio was not compiled by the minister but came from the files in the commission.”
The NDDC spokesperson clarified that the list submitted to the National Assembly was actually compiled by the then management of the commission in 2018.
He observed that there was another set of lists for emergency project contracts awarded in 2017 and 2019, but added that these were not submitted to the National Assembly.
Odili affirmed: “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’s 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 also said that prominent indigenes of the Niger Delta whose names were on the list should not panic, as the commission knew that people used the names of prominent persons in the region to secure contracts, adding 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.
Odili 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.
On the forensic audit exercise, he said that it was on course, and the commission had positioned 185 media support specialists to identify the sites of every project captured in its books for verification by the forensic auditors.
Odili advised members of the public to discountenance the “avalanche of falsehood being orchestrated by mischief makers,” regretting that “more insinuations and accusations may be thrown into the public space by those opposed to the IMC.”
On the payment of scholars, Odili explained: “The delay in the remittance of the fees was caused by the sudden death of Chief Ibanga Etang, the then Acting Executive Director, Finance and Administration (EDFA) of the commission in May.”
“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 (CBN).
“With the death of Chief Etang, the remittance has to await the appointment of a new EDFA.”
Alleged Insecurity In Rivers, Exaggerated, Envoy Affirms …$10bn NLNG Train 7, Proof Rivers Is Safe, Wike Insists
The Ambassador of the Republic of Korea to Nigeria, Kim Young-Chae, says the purported insecurity in Rivers State and some other parts of the country, was being exaggerated by the media.
Young-Chae, has meanwhile hinted that political stability of Nigeria remains key determinant factor for Korean companies willing to invest in Nigeria.
The Korean envoy stated this during a courtesy call to Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike at the Government House, Port Harcourt, last Saturday evening.
Young-Chae explained that contrary to negative media reports, he felt safe visiting Rivers, Bayelsa, Adamawa, Ogun, and other states in the country.
“I visited Bayelsa State. The other day, I visited Adamawa and Ogun states, and it seems to me that the security situation is in a way exaggerated. In most places, I feel safe. But the media coverage is often exaggerated and making matters worse.
“The biggest concern for Korean companies is political stability. So, political stability is key for Korean companies to decide investment in Nigeria. We want to see continuous political stability in Nigeria, and that is what I have seen here (Rivers).”
The ambassador, who was accompanied by his wife and officials of Korean Embassy in Nigeria, commended Wike’s able leadership over the years.
“We have seen enormous progress in Rivers State in terms of infrastructure. I salute your able leadership”, he said.
Young-Chae said Korea was seeking more economic cooperation with Rivers State and the rest of the country in the areas of construction, oil, gas, agriculture, fishery and even cosmetics, medicine, and pharmaceutical products.
He declared his readiness to help Nigerian companies penetrate into Korean and East Asian markets, which combined Gross Domestic Product (GDP) now surpasses that of Europe and North America, respectively.
He commended the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Chairman in Rivers State, Amb Desmond Akawor for being a worthy ambassador of Nigeria to the Republic of Korea.
In his response, Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike commended the Korean ambassador for his pragmatic and objective analysis of the security situation in Rivers State.
“Let me sincerely thank you for saying clearly that the issue of insecurity is being exaggerated. People pay the media to carry negative publicity against states. Nobody will deny the fact of the problem we are facing in the country today, and also the world in general.”
The governor disclosed that prior to the take-off of the $10billion NLNG Train 7 project, he held meetings with the managing directors of Daewoo and Saipem, and they were quite satisfied with the level of security in the state.
“Rivers State is one of the safest states in this country today. Get the security statistics from the police, from the State Security Services, from the military, they will tell you so. When people say Rivers State is one of the most unsafe states, you then ask them: where did you get your statistics from?”
He further added, “You and I know if there is insecurity today, NLNG Train 7 cannot take place, because that is one of the biggest investments in this country today, $10billion investment. Nobody can make that kind of investment in a state where there is so much insecurity.”
Speaking on the issue of unemployment, the governor explained that if the national economy is not stable, it will invariably affect the sub-nationals.
“If the national economy is booming, then, there is the tendency that the component units of the economy will also boom. So, people who do not have ideas of the economy will come up to say that there is so much unemployment in the state.”
Wike expressed the willingness of the Rivers State Government to partner with the Republic of Korea in agriculture, technical education and medicine.
The governor observed that most countries were now depending less on oil as a major source of revenue.
He added that for Rivers State to survive, the government was focusing on agriculture by establishing a cassava processing company.
He remarked that the state government was willing to provide all necessary documentation, land, and give all the necessary waivers and incentives to Korean investors wishing to invest in agricultural sector in Rivers State.
“We will make sure that we give you the concession for those private investors, even tax rebate as it may be”, the governor added.
Nigeria Going Through Worst Unemployment Crisis -World Bank
Nigeria is currently going through one of its worst unemployment crises in recent times, a new report by the World Bank has stated.
The multilateral institution also noted that the socio-economic challenges facing Nigerians in the last 10 years have led to an astronomical increase in the number of citizens seeking asylum and refugee status in other countries.
This is as the World Bank, in a separate report, has estimated that about 4,000 Nigerian children were made orphans by the Covid-19 pandemic between March, 2020 and July, 2021.
The report, which expressed concern about the country’s rising unemployment situation, was published by the Washington-based institution with support from the Korea World Bank Partnership Facility (KWPF) and the Rapid Social Response (RSR) trust funds.
In the report titled, ‘Of Roads Less Travelled: Assessing the Potential for Migration to Provide Overseas Jobs for Nigeria’s Youth’, the World Bank further estimated that there were 2.1million Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Nigeria in 2020 alone.
World Bank, however, blamed a combination of rising unemployment, booming demographics, and unfulfilled aspirations as resulting in increasing pressure on young Nigerians to migrate in search of gainful employment overseas.
In addition, the Washington-based institution disclosed that the number of international migrants from Nigeria has increased threefold since 1990, growing from 446,806 in 1990 to 1,438,331 in 2019.
It explained that despite this trend, the share of international migrants as a proportion to Nigeria’s population has remained largely constant, increasingly slightly from 0.5 per cent in 1990 to 0.7 per cent in 2019.
According to the bank, recent rise in irregular migration notwithstanding, the share of international migrants in Nigeria’s population was much lower compared to the shares in Sub-Saharan Africa and globally.
The data showed that the number has risen by over 1,380 per cent in the years between 2010 and 2019, indicating that in comparison, the number of persons coming into Nigeria from outside has been relatively stagnant in the decade under consideration
“An important trend that is observed in the data is the rise in the number of refugees and asylum seekers from Nigeria. The share of refugees and asylum seekers from Nigeria has increased drastically in the last decade, growing from 27,557 in 2010 to 408,078 in 2019,” it stated.
It noted that although the country was reaping dividends from the success of its citizens in the Diaspora, which was put at five per cent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2019, when it comes to the discourse on international migration, the narrative has not been palatable.
“Nigeria is facing one of the most acute jobless crises in recent times. Between 2014 and 2020, Nigeria’s working age population grew from 102million to 122million, growing at an average rate of approximately 3 per cent per year.
“Similarly, Nigeria’s active labour force population, that is, those willing and able to work among the working age population, grew from 73million in 2014 to 90million in 2018, adding 17.5million new entrants to Nigeria’s active labour force.
“Since 2018, however, the active labour force population has dramatically decreased to around 70million—lower than the level in 2014— while the number of Nigerians who are in the working-age population but not active in the labour force has increased from 29million to 52million between 2014 and 2020.
“The expanding working-age population combined with scarce domestic employment opportunities is creating high rates of unemployment, particularly for Nigeria’s youth,” the World Bank report noted.
However, between 2010 and 2020, the international financial institution estimated that the unemployment rate rose five-fold, from 6.4 per cent in 2010 to 33.3 per cent in 2020, with the rates being particularly acute since the 2015/2016 economic recession and further worsened as Covid-19 led to the worst recession in four decades in 2020.
Increasingly, it noted that educated Nigerians were struggling to find employment opportunities in the country while unemployment rates increased substantially for Nigerians across all education levels over the years, becoming progressively challenging for educated Nigerians to find employment opportunities.
“Combined with significant demographic changes and increased aspirations of the youth, Nigeria’s unemployment crisis is creating migratory pressure in the economy.
“Unemployment is considered to be a key driver of migration. Consequently, multiple surveys show that the number of Nigerians, who are looking to migrate internationally, is high and increasing,” it pointed out.
In the last few years, the bank stated that the number of persons eager to migrate has increased from 36 per cent in 2014, to 52 per cent in 2018, noting that the desire to migrate remains higher among unemployed (38 per cent), youth (39 per cent), secondary education graduates (39 per cent), urban residents (41 per cent) and post-secondary graduates (45 per cent) in Nigeria.
It maintained that since there has not been an expansion of legal migration routes for youth increasingly eager to find opportunities in the overseas labour market, young Nigerians are opting for irregular migration routes to realise their hopes for a better life.
“What is worrying, however, is the increase in the number of forced and irregular migrants from Nigeria,” it disclosed.
It stressed that to ensure mutual cooperation, the European Trust Fund for Africa (EUTF), which was established in 2015, with the aim to promote areas of mutual development interest between Europe and Africa, has since provided more than €4billion in aid to African countries to address various development-related challenges and priorities in Africa.
Since its inception, the EUTF, the bank stated, has provided more than €770million for migration-related projects in Nigeria, with most of the funds invested in border control measures, awareness campaigns to stop trafficking, and the creation of jobs domestically, including for returned Nigerian migrants.
While predicting that by 2100, Europe’s working age population between the ages of 20 and 64 would decline by 30 per cent owing to low birth-rates and increased longevity, it further projected that at same time, the working age-population in Nigeria could increase by 140 per cent.
“By expanding legal pathways for migration and implementing supporting measures to reap dividends from current migrants in the Diaspora, Nigeria can further benefit from international migration.
“Nigeria’s institutions are well-placed to promote managed migration approaches that help create opportunities for prospective Nigerian jobseekers to find employment internationally and can be supported to help design schemes that increase the returns to human capital investments for Nigerian youth,” the report concluded.
In a related development, the multilateral institution has estimated that 4,000 Nigerian children were made orphans by the Covid-19 between March, 2020 and July, 2021.
The report by the bank’s experts at the Imperial College of London, revealed that over 4,100 Nigerian children lost one or both primary caregivers within the aforementioned period, while 4,300 lost one or both primary and secondary caregivers.
The report posted on the bank’s blog was jointly authored by World Bank’s Lead Economist, Laura Rawlings and a senior technical advisor, Centre for Disease Control (CDC) Covid-19 International Task Force, Susan Hillis, and titled, “For every two Covid-19 deaths, one child loses a caregiver. We must do more to address the orphan crisis.”
The report stated: “The Covid crisis will leave many unwanted legacies. The world has been closely tracking the Covid-19 death toll, with official mortality counts now reaching over four million people, largely concentrated among adults. The children left behind have been practically invisible.
“Our estimates of the toll on children left behind, just released, are that for every two people, who die of Covid, one child is left orphaned, facing the death of a parent or grandparent caregiver, who had been living in their home.
“By the end of June 2021, because of Covid-19, our estimates show that nearly two million children under 18 years had lost a mother, father, and/or grandparent caregiver, who lived in their household.”
According to the experts, countries with primary caregiver death rates of at least one per 1,000 children include Peru (10.2 per 1,000 children), South Africa (5.1), Mexico (3.5), Brazil (2.4), Colombia (2.3), Iran (1.7), the USA (1.5), Argentina (1.1), and Russia (1.0).
They also noted that at the current rate, one child was being orphaned every 12 seconds due to a Covid-19-associated death, adding that the toll was growing.
The authors noted that the Covid-19 related deaths had a wide range of effects on the children from economic, developmental to psychological impacts, which would reverberate across generations.
According to them, children orphaned by Covid face a constellation of risks, which often arrive with rapid and broad consequences.
“The threats of poverty, malnutrition, displacement and separation from siblings or other family members, school dropout, depression, violence and child marriage can emerge suddenly from the Pandora’s box of Covid-19,” they said.
Nigeria had as of July 20, 2021, recorded about 2,128 Covid-19 deaths, suggesting that for every one death in the country, an average of two children become orphans.
FG Extends NIN-SIM Verification Deadline To Oct 31
The Federal Government has approved the extension of the deadline for National Identity Number (NIN)-Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) data verification to October 31, 2021.
The decision to extend the deadline was made following a request by stakeholders to accommodate registration in hard-to-reach remote areas, foreigners and diplomatic missions, Diaspora and address low enrolments in schools and hospitals, as evidenced by enrolment statistics.
The decision also followed a review of the progress of the exercise which indicated significant progress, hence the need to consolidate the gains of the enrolment and NIN-SIM verification process across the country.
As at July 24, 2021, there are over 5,500 enrolment systems within and outside the country, and this would significantly ease the NIN enrolment process and subsequent linkage of NIN to SIM.
A statement signed by the Head, Corporate Communications, National Identity Management Commission, Kayode Adegoke, reads, “The administration of President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the extension as part of efforts to make it easier for its citizens within and outside the country, and legal residents to obtain the NIN and it is important to take advantage of the extension.
“The NIN-SIM linkage also makes it easier for the security agencies to carry out their statutory duties and the relevant parastatals under the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy are supporting them as required.
“There are now a total of 59.8million unique NIN enrolments, with average of 3 to 4 SIMs per NIN. With the great number of enrolment centres within and outside the country, and many more coming up, every citizen, legal resident, and Nigerian citizens living in Diaspora should be able to obtain their NINs.
“The Honourable Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, on behalf of the Federal Government, commends the Kano State Government and other states that have made NINs a key requirement for school enrolments and access to other important services.
“The Federal Government is also excited at the news that the use of NIN in the process of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) exam significantly reduced the challenge of exam malpractice.
“The minister, on behalf of the Federal Government, appreciates Nigerians for their patience and compliance with the Federal Government’s directive on the NIN-SIM registration exercise.
“Similarly, the Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, and the Director-General/CEO of the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), Engr. Aliyu Azeez, urge citizens and legal residents to make sure they use the opportunity to complete the process of enrolment and verification before the October 31 deadline.”
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