The Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions has issued a warrant of arrest on the interim management of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) following its refusal to appear over an allegation that it diverted and misappropriated N6.2bn COVID-19 palliatives.
The money was approved last year by President Muhammadu Buhari to cushion the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in the Niger Delta region.
The money was reportedly released to the former Interim Management Committee of NDDC headed by Prof. Keme Pondei, with Effiong Akwa, Caroline Naagbo and Cairo Ojougbo as members.
Akwa was later appointed a Sole Administrator of the commission by Buhari following the dissolution of the IMC.
A former agitator, High Chief Sobomabo Jackrich, who was appointed by the President to chair the distribution of the palliatives, later raised the alarm in a petition he sent to the Senate, alleging the NDDC management diverted and misappropriated the N6.2bn.
But the Senate Committee’s efforts to crack the case and make recommendations were being frustrated by the members of the NDDC management, who had consistently refused to appear before the Committee and make presentation.
The committee was angry that the NDDC management snubbed its invitation for appearance for the fourth time and proceeded to issue the warrant of arrest on the management.
The Chairman of the Committee, Senator Ayo Akinyelure, briefly stated the facts of the case and said while Jackrich consistently honoured invitations sent to him for appearance, NDDC refused to appear before the Committee.
Akinyelure described allegations of diversion and misappropriation of the N6.2bn palliative money approved for the needy and the poor in the Niger Delta as serious saying the commission must tell Nigerians how it spent the money.
He said: “High Chief Sobomabo Jackrich wrote against the management of NDDC over the misappropriation and diversion of N6.2bn being NDDC palliative money meant for the poor and indigent people of the Niger Delta during the covid19 pandemic.
“He required that the Senate should look into the matter and among others investigate the IMC of NDDC with a view to making them account for the N6.2bn allegedly misappropriated. On 17 December 2020, Jackrich appeared before the committee and made a presentation. But NDDC did not show up.
“On January 26, 2021, NDDC was invited and it did not show up too. The committee then resolved that they will be invited to attend this public hearing today failure of which the committee resolved that a warrant of arrest will be issued against the management of the NDDC.
“Today, we expected them to come but they didn’t come. The N6.2bn palliative money is a serious allegation that required the management of the commission to come before the committee of the National Assembly to explain how this money was spent. But they have consistently refused to appear before this committee.
“On that note the committee resolved that a warrant of arrest be issued to bring this management forward to tell all Nigerians and the whole Niger Delta region how N6.2bn palliative money was spent by the interim management committee of NDDC. On this note I rule that the warrant of arrest be issued”.
While reacting to the decision of the Senate Committee, Jackrich said it was irresponsible for NDDC to keep disobeying the invitations of the committee.
He said if the commission had nothing to hide, its management should come forward and explain what happened to the money meant to alleviate poverty in the Niger Delta region.