N3.14b COVID-19 NDDC Staff Palliatives: N-Delta Ex-militants, CSOs To Embark On Mass Protest

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…urge Buhari to dissolve NDDC Interim Management Committee

By Obioma C. Appolos

Coalition of Niger Delta Agitators (CNDA), in collaboration with civil society groups, ex-militants, and some voluntary organizations have concluded plans to carryout a mass protest against corruption in the 9 states of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) over “illegal sharing of commonwealth of Niger Deltans.”

According to a statement made available to The Labour and jointly signed by the Leader of Niger Delta Watchdogs/Convener of Coalition for Niger Delta Agitators and 12 other groups, John Dukku, the scheduled protest will take place in Abia, Imo, Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Ondo, Bayelsa, Edo, Delta and Cross River.

The group said they are shocked that NDDC could disburse 3.14 billion to its staff members as palliatives to cushion the economic effect of coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic just within 4 months, when the rest of Nigerians especially the Niger Delta states are languishing in abject poverty.

Further expressing displeasure following the revelation of what they called mammoth corruption in NDDC, they went on to urge the President Buhari to order for immediate dissolution of the Interim Management Committee of the Commission and prosecution of suspects to restore the hope of the Niger Deltans in the government.

In full, the statement read: “The Coalition of Niger Delta Agitators (CNDA) has resolved to lead a Mass Protest across the States of the Niger Delta, in condemnation of the large-scale corruption perpetrated by some highly-placed Nigerians who were given authority to superintend over the affairs of the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs and the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), respectively.

“It will be recalled that in a Communiqué earlier released on 23rd June, 2020, the Coalition had raised an alarm concerning the large-scale fraud and massive corruption by the Interim Management Committee of the NDDC, calling for the immediate suspension of the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio for his alleged involvement, the dissolution of the IMC, and the commencement of investigations into these allegations by the anti-corruption agencies in the country. Rather, the Presidency has continued to display a high level of irresponsiveness in the face of this blatant rape on the Niger Delta people.

“It is indeed very shocking and shameful for the Interim Management Committee of the Commission to openly declare and defend its illegal expenditure of a whopping sum of N3.14 Billion on Covid-19 pandemic as relief funds for just four (4) months (February – May 2020). According to the details provided by the Commission at the probe, one of its staff went home with N10 million, two others were given N7 million each, while N3 million was given to each of 148 staff. N1.5 million was given to each of 157 staff, N1 million to each of 497 staff, while each of 464 staff working in the Commission offices across the Niger Delta states received N600,000. That means that 1269 staffers of the Commission received a minimum of N600,000 each as palliatives to cushion the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Other outrageous expenditures include N1.3 billion for Community Relations, N83.3 million for Consultancy, N486 million for Duty Tour Allowance, N1.956 billion for Lassa Fever (which is not in existence in any part of the region), N2.6 billion for Medicals, and N906 million as Legal fees, among others. Even if these stated amounts were truly spent, it is very criminal to do so as this amounts to illegal sharing of the hard-earned Commonwealth of the Niger Delta region among a few privileged individuals who have made virtually insignificant contributions to the development of the region, at the expense of the poor, vulnerable masses of the region who should have benefitted from the palliatives.

“In a more civilized society administered by true democrats and those who do not pay only lip service to the governance of the nation, they would have been immediately arrested and prosecuted for financial crimes which they have openly admitted to have committed, except those in the corridors of power are also involved.

“We wish to state here for the avoidance of any doubt, that the planned protests shall be total and down-to-earth, but peaceful, until government yields to the cries, yearnings and demands of the Niger Delta people.”

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