The management of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) has denied allegations that the N6.5 billion earmarked for COVID-19 palliatives was embezzled by the Interim Management Committee (IMC).
The commission also accused one Chief Sobomabo Jackrich, who made the allegation of blackmail after the refusal of the commission to pay him a humongous amount for being a part of an initial committee charged with the responsibility of distributing the palliatives to communities in the Niger Delta.
This was disclosed in a statement on Thursday by the NDDC Director in charge of Corporate Affairs, Mr Charles Odili, adding that the commission did not work with Jackrich’s committee after it was constituted because state governors rejected the committee.
Odili stated: “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-19 lockdown unless the commission directly deal 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.
“The memo dated May 22, 2020, argued that in view of the need to collaborate with state governments in the Niger Delta, the management should grant approval for state directors to liaise with their respective state governments, on behalf of the commission in drawing up a programme for the flag off and donation of the COVID-19 Palliative items in their respective states.
“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 Chief Jackrich Committee became redundant. This meant the chief was no longer and could no longer be involved in the direct distribution of the palliatives. This also meant he could not have accurate information on the exercise.
“As at 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.
“Jackrich’s petition is another false claim orchestrated by the same forces, who have been waging a campaign of falsehood against the Commission and its management since President Buhari ordered a forensic audit of the operations of the Commission in the past 19 years.”