The Chairman of the Niger Delta Development Commission COVID-19 Palliatives Distribution Committee, Chief Sobomabo Jackrich, has alleged that some underprivileged people in the Niger Delta region rejected the rotten food items distributed to them by the sacked Interim Management Committee of the NDDC because they could be poisonous.
He also alleged that the sacked IMC team, led by Prof Kemebradikumo Pondei, stage-managed the distribution of the food and medical items it claimed to have purchased with the N6.2bn approved for the indigent residents of the region, as palliatives by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd).
Jackrich’s allegations were contained in a petition he and other members of his committee presented to the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions, a copy of which was obtained by our correspondent on Friday.
According to the document, the petitioner said he was officially inaugurated along with members of his committee on May 6 to oversee the distribution of palliatives in the nine Niger Delta states.
He added that his committee was made up of directors in the commission covering the nine states.
The petitioner said, “The palliatives distribution was officially flagged off (sic) in Port Harcourt on May 21, 2020 with the mandate to commence distribution. Today, all of that can be regrettably described as a show of shame and a scam.
“The N6.25bn that was magnanimously approved by Mr President to help the poor and indigents of the Niger Delta during the 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 PDC, my findings are not only that the money cannot be accounted for, but there was nothing on the ground to show that that N6.2bn of our hard-earned taxpayers’ 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 but the Procurement Act was not complied with, particularly Section 43 Subsection 3 and 4.”
Jackrich alleged that though the palliatives were meant for the indigent and the poor, just a handful of food items, “though staged-managed,” were provided and distributed to an insignificant number of persons in the Niger Delta states under a “camera-party.”
According to him, some of the food items were politically shared among the “IMC choice areas,” including states of choice which aligned with them politically, allegedly to undermine the original essence of the palliatives approved with taxpayers’ monies.
“As the chairman of the PDC, I cannot account for the palliatives as my committee was totally sidelined and the IMC hijacked the process because of their secret plots. This happened 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.
“I was handed the template for the distribution of the palliatives wherein it was indicated that nine trucks of food items would be distributed to each of the nine states in the region. However, the IMC hijacked the entire process. They called and handed me 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 (sic). 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 heard, surprisingly, was that the palliatives had been distributed,” the petition read.’’
It added, “I managed to monitor from a distance the charade and show-off since my committee and I were sidelined by the IMC in the distribution processes and (they) left us incommunicado. All needed logistics that my committee was supposed to work with were entirely denied us.
“I am aware that what was distributed under the guise of medical equipment were old goods and wares in the commission’s warehouses which were put on camera just to deceive the unsuspecting public and mislead the President. This too was staged. Not a single kit or COVID-19 test centre was set up by the commission in the nine Niger Delta states.
“The Department of State Security Services, on Monday, August 24, 2020, invited me to meet with the state Director of the DSS in Rivers State. I honoured the invitation without fear on August 25, 2020.
“The invitation which came through a phone call from an operative from the Rivers State Command was said to be in connection with a petition from the NDDC, wherein the NDDC accused me, an appointee of the commission of using the letterhead of the NDDC to petition the National Assembly against the IMC of the NDDC.”
The petition also said, “Whereas the DSS in their wisdom acting on the said petition by the IMC had engaged professionally by giving me fair hearing.
“Obviously, these moves by the IMC was aimed at using state institutions and apparatuses to both circumvent and compromise the process over the petition which is yet pending before the National Assembly.
“The IMC sought to intimidate me from further insistence on justice in the matter knowing that the issues I raised in the petition against them are incontrovertible and undeniable.”