The Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) on Thursday, August 6, denied the diversion of N6.25bn approved by President Muhammadu Buhari as palliatives for the poor in the Niger Delta region.
This was in the aftermath of a petition sent to the National Assembly by the Chairman of the COVID-19 Palliatives Committee, High Chief Sobomabo Jackrich.
Jackrich, had accused the Prof. Keme Pondei-led Interim Management Committee (IMC) of diverting the money.
However, in response, the NDDC Director, Corporate Affairs, Charles Odili, faulted the claims.
Odili explained that his committee later became redundant because of new realities that emerged in the Niger Delta states.
Describing Jackrich’s claims as false, Odili said it was orchestrated by the same forces waging a campaign of falsehood against the commission and its management since Buhari ordered a forensic audit of the operations of the NDDC.
He said: “High Chief Jackrich approached the commission to work with it in different ways. He was then chosen to oversee the Committee involved in the distribution of the COVID-19 Palliatives to communities in the Niger Delta. The Committee was put in place to ensure transparency in the process.
“Immediately the constitution of this committee was announced, some of the state governors reached out to the commission that they would have nothing to do with it.”
“Instead, they demanded that the palliatives meant for their states be given to them. In fact, one particular governor declined to give the permit to move the items during the COVID lockdown unless the commission directly deals with his government in the matter.
“The Education, Health, and Social Services Directorate (EHSS), which oversees the COVID-19 response; raised a memo advising management to accede to the demands of the governors.
“On May 23, 2020, management approved the request of the EHSS directorate. As a result of this approval and the change in policy; the task of the High Chief Jackrich Committee became redundant.
“This means the High Chief was no longer and could no longer be involved in the direct distribution of the palliatives. This also means he could not have accurate information on the exercise.
“As of today, none of the nine state governments has denied receiving its own share of the food items; for distribution under the COVID-19 Palliatives programme.”
“The bulk of Mr. Jackrich’s petition dwelt on the refusal of the IMC to pay him a humongous amount of money; for being Chairman of the Committee. This has led to this blackmail”.