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.”
Catholic Bishops Vow To Work For Credible Polls In 2023
Bishops of the Catholic Archdiocese of Abuja have pledged to work with relevant stakeholders to ensure free, credible and transparent general elections in 2023.
The commitment is contained in a communiqué jointly signed by Most Rev. Ignatius Kaigama, the Archbishop of Abuja and Very Rev. Fr. Sam Tumba, after the 3rd General assembly of the Archdiocese.
In the communique issued on Saturday in Abuja, the bishops enjoined Parishes, families, Church societies and groups to dedicate special moments to pray for a hitch-free election.
“We call on Catholics and indeed all Nigerian citizens to be consciously and actively involved in the electoral processes at all levels.
“Voter registration, collection of Permanent Voters Card, casting votes on election days with a firm and clear conscience to elect credible leaders who will bring about the true dividends of democracy”, they said.
The bishops commended President Muhammadu Buhari for signing the Electoral Act into law to enhance the sanctity of the electoral process.
“We task the Independent National Electoral Commission to ensure political fairness and transparency, to consolidate the trust reposed in them by Nigerians.
“Parishes and Catholic institutions within our Archdiocese are encouraged to arrange and organize voter awareness programmes, seminars and workshops guided by the Justice, Development and Peace Commission, to better equip our people for greater political responsibility.
“We remain open and willing to collaborate with relevant government agencies, electoral bodies and security operatives to ensure peaceful and credible election processes in the coming year,” the communique added.
The bishops cautioned politicians not to regard the election as a ‘do or die’ affair, adding that they must also refrain from money politics, manipulative and divisive practices along ethnic, social and religious lines to win elections.
“Even though we decry the hard economic situations in the nation, we strongly discourage all Catholics and especially our youths from lending themselves as easy recruits for political thuggery and other criminal activities to enthrone selfish and incompetent aspirants into electoral offices.
“We discourage and condemn any form of vote buying or selling and other electoral malpractices during the elections,” the bishops said.
The bishops advised catholic politicians from all political parties within the Archdiocese to participate in Church activities, so as to be better known by the faithful.
They called on all people of goodwill to cooperate with security agencies to root out criminal elements within communities.
The bishops, however, urged security agents to remain professional in discharging their duties and resist any attempt to be used to intimidate the people by corrupt politicians.
The communique called on Catholics across the country to match work with prayer, for peaceful electioneering process.
They called for sustained prayers for the country, adding: “Nigerians should take courage and be of ardent hope, for the storms will soon be over.”
Take 2023 Elections Seriously, Wike Tasks Rivers People
The Rivers State Chief Executive, Chief Nyesom Wike, has urged Nigerians to take the upcoming 2023 General Election seriously by securing their Permanent Voter’s Cards (PVCs) and using it wisely and prayerfully.
Wike stated this during the Inter-Denominational Church Service in commemoration of the 62nd Independence Day Anniversary of Nigeria, at St. Paul’s Cathedral Church, Diobu in Port Harcourt, yesterday.
Represented by his Deputy, Dr. Ipalibo Harry Banigo, the governor said he believes God would use the 2023 elections to grant the pleas of Nigerians for a rebirth of a new nation.
“Nigeria must rise again, it must fulfil its divine purpose for which God has put it together, Nigeria has a prophetic agenda, whether the devil likes it or not. We must have the confidence that our votes will count and that we will use our votes to bring in the leaders after the heart of God”, the governor said.
Wike said under his watch, the state government has been resolute and consistent in providing the dividends of democracy to the people living and doing business in the state.
“We have seen it, in the massive improvement in security.We have seen it in social and physical infrastructure.What will you say, when public tertiary institutions have been on strike for the past seven months, and some of the students are being killed, some are roaming about, some are going into crime, while others are abusing drugs and going mental, but in Rivers State, all the state institutions are functioning none-stop, and salaries are paid as at when due and lecturers are teaching the way they should”, Wike further stressed.
The state chief executive expressed gratitude to the Almighty God for the 62nd Independence anniversary of the country and for keeping the nation as one in spite of all the security and economic challenges, adding that “God in His infinite mercy has kept us together as a people, what seems impossible with men, is possible with God”.
In his sermon drawn from Matthew Chapter 7: 7-12, Bishop Diocese of Niger Delta North,St. Paul’s Cathedral Church, Diobu, Port Harcourt, Rt. Rev. Wisdom Ihunwo, said “if Nigeria must go forward, we must obey the golden rule”.
He said,”We must not give up on Nigeria; no matter the challenges, God would make the nation great again, but it behooves on us to pray and do the right things at all times”.
A schedule of activities released by the state government shows that on Friday, September 30, 2022, a Jumma’at Prayer would be held at the JIBWIS Directorate Headquarters, Central Mosque, 36 Bonny Street, Port Harcourt Township, at 1:00pm.
According to the programme, signed by the Permanent Secretary, Special Services Bureau, Office of the Secretary to the State Government, Sir George Nwaeke, the grand finale would hold on Saturday, October 1, 2022, with a parade ceremony/march-past at Sharks Football Stadium, Port Harcourt by 10:00am.
The statement said that the state Governor, Chief NyesomWike, would preside over the activities at the grand finale on Saturday.
Buhari Launches INFF In New York
President Muhammadu Buhari has restated the commitment of his administration to the achievement of inclusive, broad-based and sustainable development.
The President spoke while delivering his keynote address at strategic High Level Event held on the sidelines of the 77th session of United Nations General Assembly in New York to launch Nigeria’s Integrated National Financing Framework (INFF) for Sustainable Development.
The President noted that Nigeria adopted the INFF as a tool to improve the financing of SDGs without increasing public debt and contingent liabilities to levels that will be detrimental to economic sustainability.
He commended the Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning; the Office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Sustainable Development Goals; and the United Nation Development Programme for working together to develop Nigeria’s INFF in a process which started in 2020.
“Today’s event marks the end of a long process which began in 2020, when the Steering Committee and the Core Working Group on Nigeria’s Integrated National Financing Framework were inaugurated.
“The Integrated National Financing Framework (INFF) has been developed to map out a much-needed sustainable financing plan for Nigeria to deliver on our commitment to the SDGs and our National Development aspirations,” the President said.
He further noted that as part of its commitment to sustainable and inclusive development, his administration aligned its 2017-2020 Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP); the 2020 Economic Sustainability Plan (ESP); the 2021 National Poverty Reduction with Growth Strategy (NPRGS); and the 2021-2025 National Development Plan (NDP) with the SDGs.
“It is in line with this commitment and with a focus on the National Development Plan (2021-2025) that, the Federal Government of Nigeria, with the support of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), has adopted the INFF as a tool to improve SDGs financing without increasing public debt and contingent liabilities to levels that will be detrimental to economic sustainability.
“The INFF is backed by Nigeria’s Medium-Term Revenue Strategy and the Medium-Term Expenditure Framework. As Nigeria champions the INFF process, we hope to promote the strategic alignment of financial policies with sustainable development and provide the enabling conditions for domestic and international, public, and private financial actors to best respond to our national needs.
“I urge all Nigerians, the international community, and our development partners to recognize the importance of this integrated approach to financing development, as you continue to count on my leadership in its immediate implementation,” the President said.
Speaking earlier, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on SDGs,Princess AdejokeOrelope-Adefulire, described the launch of the INFF report as a significant milestone in the commitment and efforts to achieve the SDGs in Nigeria.
She noted that the INFF is in line with Nigeria’s strategic approach to the implementation of the SDGs working at the National and Sub-national levels.
“At the National level, we work closely with the Federal Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAs) to integrate the SDGs into their sectorial policies and plans. At the Sub-national level, we are working closely with the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) to mainstream the SDGs into their medium and long-term development policies and plans”.
She noted that her office, with the support of UNDP, has supported 16 states to develop SDG-Based Development Plans as part of Nigeria’s Mainstreaming, Acceleration and Policy Support (MAPS) for the agenda.
The INFF report, she added, was also another feat recorded by the country in the bid to institutionalize the SDGs, noting Nigeria was the first country in the Global South to have successfully completed a country-led Independent Evaluation of SDG-3 on ‘quality health and well-being for all’ and SDG-4 on ‘qualitative and inclusive education and lifelong learning for all’.
The two reports, she said, were officially launched on the 25th of August, 2022.
The presidential adviser noted that on the 21st of December, 2021, Nigeria became the first African country to successfully realigned its National Statistical System with the requirements and indicators of the SDGs, hence the country will be now be able to track progress on the 230 Key Performance Indicators of the agenda on annual basis through the National Bureau of Statistics.
Orelope-Adefulire further noted that in 2019, Nigeria successfully domesticated the Integrated Sustainable Development Goals Simulation Model (iSDG Model) as a home-grown analytical tool for evidence-based SDGs policymaking and planning with the report launched on the margins of the 74th Session of the United Nations General Assembly by the President.
“The Integrated National Financing Framework (INFF) Report we are about to launch today is a product of series of efforts led by the Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning; Office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on SDGs; and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
“Nigeria is now among the INFF Pilot Countries that have made significant progress by completing the design process. Indeed, this is an expression of Nigeria’s commitment to the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development.
She expressed appreciation and profound gratitude to the President for accepting to launch the report as well as all the Institutional Members of the National Steering Committee and the Core Working Group on Nigeria’s INFF for the commitment demonstrated during the design phase.
“We look forward to similar commitment during the implementation phase,” Orelope –Adefulire said while affirming the commitment of her office to continue to drive the process of achieving the SDGs in Nigeria.
“I would like to conclude by re-affirming Nigeria’s commitment to the successful implementation of the SDGs. We look forward to working more closely with you all in this ‘Decade of Action’ for the Global Goals, so that no ‘One is left behind’.”
In his remark, Head/Sustainable Development, Minister Counsellor, Delegation of the European Union (EU) to the UN, Axel Maisonneuve, said EU had also support the mobilisation of capital for an inclusive and sustainable transition, which is at the heart of an INFF, in several ways.
“For instance, we know that whilst public finance of course has a key role to play, it will not be sufficient to bridge the SDG financing gap, and private finance needs to be mobilised as well.
“In the EU, we believe in fact that sustainable finance is critical to enable private financial flows being channelled towards sustainable investments.
“The EU’s Green Deal and the Global Gateway strategies are some of the key examples of the EU efforts in this direction. Indeed, sustainable finance is part and parcel of an INFF,’’ he said.
According to him, private finance is very much part of Nigeria’s Integrated National Financing Framework.
Maisonneuve said the INFF was designed to help the Nigerian government explore innovative financing options linking government with private sector and development partners to increase public revenue and private investments.
“Let me take this opportunity to praise Nigeria for the efforts undertaken toward the achievement of the 2030 agenda and the SDGs and for the key milestone that you have achieved.
“In September 2019, 16 countries committed to pioneer the development and implementation of INFFs, and Nigeria was among them.
“Now, Nigeria has successfully designed its INFF Strategy, and is offering a leading example for INFF progress toward a more systematic, holistic approach to achieve sustainable development objectives,’’ he said.
Goodwill messages were delivered by the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Shamsuna Ahmed, Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations, Amina J. Mohammed, and development partners.
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