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NDDC under fire over N1.5bn palliative for staff

The Interim Management Committee of the Niger-Delta Development Commission, NDDC, is under fire as the Senate Adhoc Committee probing alleged financial recklessness in the commission queried payment of over N1billion to over 4,000 NDDC staff as Covid-19 relief allowance between February and May 2020.

Relying on documents submitted by NDDC, the Senate Panel chaired by Senator Olubunmi Adetunbi revealed how the allowance was shared with one staff receiving N10million as “palliative” for Covid-19.

A further breakdown showed that NDDC paid 7 million each to two other staff, N3 million each to 148 staff, N1.5 million each to 157 staff, and gifted N1millon each to 497 staff.

The least paid staff in the largesse; mostly cleaners and security officers in NDDC received N600,000 each.

The Senate panel also exposed how NDDC donated another N475 million to the Inspector General of Police, Mohammadu Adamu for face masks and hand sanitizers, bringing the total amount expended as Covid-19 relief for NDDC staff and the Police to N1.5 billion.

In all, a total of N3.14 billion was spent as intervention for Covid-19.

Defending the expenditures, NDDC Director of Projects, Cairo Ojuogboh, said the money was meant for the police command in all the 9 states in the Niger-Delta region.

The Senate panel also revealed how NDDC paid another N85.6 million in April to some of its officials to attend the graduation ceremony of some Niger-Delta students in the United Kingdom even last June.

This was as the Senate probe panel queried another N38.6 billion spent on Public Communications, N900 million on legal services, and a whopping N2.6 billion on medicals.

On Duty Tour Allowance for staff, NDDC spent N480 million between October 2019 and May 2020 and another N1.9 billion for Lassa Fever intervention.

Ojougboh explained that most of these expenses were inherited debts, pointing out that the IMC did not award any fresh contract.

Ojougboh, however, fired back at the National Assembly accusing the Chairmen of the two committees on Niger-Delta in the Senate and the House of Representatives of always hijacking the budget of the NDDC since its inception in 2001.

He specifically accused the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Niger-Delta Development Commission, Peter Nwuobosi and another Nelson Agbamoshe from the House of Representatives of using their positions to corner contacts for themselves.

On the allegation of missing N40 billion, Ojougboh said “no money was missing.”

He also denied allegations that the IMC had arbitrarily sacked some staff of NDDC.

Meanwhile, the Senate Probe panel expressed disappointment over the absence of the Minister of Niger-Delta Affair, Godswill Akpabio, who despite two separate invitation letters to him failed to turn up for the probe even though he sent the Permanent Secretary to represent him.

The probe continues on Friday.

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