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Probe: Nigeria’ll break if we release list of looters in NDDC — Interim Committee

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THE Interim Management Committee, IMC, of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, has said that if it releases the list of those involved in looting the commission, the country will break.

The IMC has also accused members of the National Assembly of plotting to stall the forensic audit ordered by President Muhammadu Buhari.

The Executive Director in charge of Projects at the NDDC, Dr. Cairo Ojougboh, who made the allegation while speaking to Vanguard in Abuja, said that Nigeria would be shocked if the commission releases the names and calibre of persons involved in contract scam in 2017 and 2019 especially among members of the National Assembly.

Recall that the Federal Executive Council, FEC, meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday last week approved the forensic auditing of about 12 thousand NDDC contracts.

But Dr. Ojougboh alleged that the recent pressure by the National Assembly to probe the activities of the IMC was instigated by the fear of the forensic audit.

He said that the mission of the IMC to the NDDC and the Niger Delta region is to ensure that every naira that had been put into the region through the commission is accounted for and vowed that the committee would dare every odd to ensure that the mission is accomplished, not minding whose ox is gored.

The NDDC Executive Director on Projects took a swipe at the National Assembly for condemning the N51 million monthly imprest for the office of the Acting Managing Director of the Commission and the N18 million imprest for his office, saying that such monies are not personal money but for the upkeep of the place especially in security.

He alleged that a highly placed member of the National Assembly from the South-South whom he accused working against the IMC has a cumulative imprest of about N100 million monthly without the kind of security challenges the NDDC management faces on daily basis.

According to him, “My MD feeds 100 policemen every day and in Port Harcourt as an executive of NDDC, you need security more than anything, till tomorrow, you know of it. When they are sending these policemen, the instruction is fed them, cater for them, that is what is in the letter the police hierarchy sent.

“So people are talking about 51 million of imprest for the MD, it is a security vote, it’s not for his personal pocket, the money does not go to the MD’s account. Myself, N18 million, it does not go to my account, it goes for security and other expenses and it is retired, there is no fraud in it.”

He said when President Buhari nominated them, and they arrived at NDDC office Port Harcourt, Rivers State capital, the first thing they noticed was that the two Chairmen (NDDC Committee) in the National Assembly, were the “De Facto management, managers and the executive of NDDC.”

He said as a former member of the National Assembly and a former liaison officer to the President, he has been in the Chambers and in all his life he has been in government since 1999 till date. “So I know what time of the day it is in politics and in governance. So we told them it cannot be business as usual, then they said we must leave.”

Asked what was responsible for the sudden interest of the National Assembly in the activities of the IMC, he said,” God bless you. It’s the forensic audit that the President has instituted because the National Assembly is culpable. At the end of the forensic audit, you will see members of the National Assembly…

“A Senator came and said that in the list of 2016 they brought, that he had only six contracts, I said no, that he had more. What he didn’t know is that we did not release the list for 2017 and the one for 2019. If we release it this country will break.”

Also asked why the country should break, he said, ” Oh because of the people looting, the calibre, the names and people looting the NDDC. And who engineers it? The Chairmen of the NDDC in the senate and House of Representatives in the National Assembly.

“So, when I explained, I told Mr. President to look, my job here is very simple. Mr. President looks, even if it is the only thing I achieve in my life to make sure that things are put right for the people of the Niger Delta to have the benefit of the NDDC. You can call me any name, you can do anything, you can say anything, I don’t care but I must do the right thing and the right thing is that no one penny will be missing.”

He further alleged that the National Assembly had planned to truncate the progress of the forensic audit through various means; first by using the probes by the committees and later by refusing to sign the budget, saying the refusal to sign the budget is an instrument of blackmail against the IMC.

He said, “Mark you, the National Assembly sabotaged, through the instrumentality of the Chairmen of the House and Senate, they sabotaged … if you give them to report, they will say you did not bring performance report. We brought everything that they’ve asked us to bring, but they used the budget as the instrument of blackmail.

“So they have blackmailed the nation and the Niger Delta in the last 20 years, that is why you see that you cannot go to the Niger Delta today and see ten kilometres of dualised roads done by the NDDC, no. What do you see, 500 meters here, 200 meters there and all of them one billion each”, he said.

He, however, said despite efforts of the National Assembly to muzzle the IMC and frustrate the forensic audit, the audit process had progressed as the first leg of the job had already been concluded and the second and final leg would soon kick-off.

He said, “It has started. Why are we here if it has not? The National Assembly wanted to truncate it, they said they will not pass our budget. You know the forensic audit is in two stages; we have procured the lead auditors and they are at work, they have all the files of all the contracts at the NDDC from inception till date.

“The second stage is to send the various auditors to each of the states, the National Assembly people know that’s where they are culpable so they stopped our budget, but the President said the forensic audit must continue that he will fund it.

“The lead auditors have finished their initial job, they have written their report, now each of the states will have one auditor looking at all the contracts and projects in it. That’s what we came here for today. These auditors will now go back to the states tomorrow, once we finish here today and the Council approves it.”

On the allegations of misappropriation against the IMC by the National Assembly committees, Ojougboh said the allegations were just another attempt at blackmail, explaining that the IMC had not awarded a single contract, but had been sorting out what he described as obligatory debts of the NDDC to its contractors.

“That’s the problem. The reason they are touting those multiple billions is just to give us a bad name, the multiple billions that are payments for obligatory debts. The payment is not for me, every year the NDDC spends as much as four to five hundred billion, it is the debt we met on ground.

“People have done their jobs, are we going to say they should not be paid? We have not awarded one contract, people are taking us to court every day. So we look at the projects, we clear them and we pay. They said we spent, but we didn’t spend, rather we paid historic debts”, he explained.

He further said, “They are talking about COVID-19 payment, the federal government is given every citizen N30,000 each, do you know how much federal government has spent? The CBN and many other corporations have been giving COVID-19 allowances, which are within their purview, just like NDDC did.

“In the National Assembly, each of the senators got N20 million, while the House of Representatives members got N15 million for COVID-19 from the National Assembly. They all received COVID19 allowances.”

Asked if the money spent by the commission on COVID-19 palliatives was budgeted for, he said the money was spent under emergency.

He said, “It was not budgeted for because it was an emergency, it’s allowed. It comes under emergency. The N30,000 per person that the federal government is giving to the citizen, was it budgeted for? Did anybody budget for COVID-19? Nobody budgeted for COVID-19. The SGF is the Chairman of the COVID-19 Task Force in Nigeria, was that task force budgeted for? It’s an emergency and it’s allowed.

“What we are saying is that Nigerians must appreciate Mr. President. Like when we got to the headquarter building, no one thought that building could be completed. Today we have completed it, we are inside it, but they will come to tell you that we are inside an uncompleted building, which is a very huge lie.

“We are inside the building that is where I go to work every day. It’s all propaganda by Omo-Agege (Deputy Senate President) and his cohorts just because they want to throw us out of the place because of politics and if we didn’t go there that headquarters building would not be completed.”

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Why we didn’t distribute looted COVID-19 palliatives – Official

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The Osun Food and Relief Committee on COVID-19, on Friday, said the looted items at a warehouse in Ede town were not hoarded, but rather kept for flag-off of official distribution.

Bayo Jimoh, secretary to the committee, in a statement in Osogbo, said that the looted items were donated to the committee as palliatives to the people by Private Sector Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID).

Some angry youth in the early hours of Friday broke into a warehouse in Ede town and carted away COVID-19 palliatives meant for distribution.

Items such as beans, noodles, sugar, salt, garri, rice, pastas, vegetable oil, among others, were looted from the warehouse located within the moribund Cocoa Industry, Ede.

The incident, however, happened barely 24 hours after the state government announced the suspension of dusk-till-dawn curfew imposed following the #EndSARS protest.

Governor Adegboyega Oyetola had in April inaugurated a 21-member Food and Relief Committee to cushion the effect of COVID-19 on the people of the state.

Mr Jimoh, however, said that the looted food items had no direct bearing with the state government, adding that the items were within the purview of the Food and Relief Committee.

He said as such, the items could only be distributed after a formal flag-off by the CACOVID Office, Abuja.

The statement read partly, ”We do not have the authority to distribute the food items without approval from Abuja.

”Besides, the Committee is still expecting the rice component of the donated items, which is 40, 230 bags of 5kg.

“All these are part of the reasons the items were still in the warehouse up till the time of the invasion.

“The following items were donated; Pasta FMN – 29, 992; Pasta OLAM -10, 282; Noodles- 80, 644; Garri -40, 322; Salt- 40, 320; and Sugar – 40, 227.

“However, the rice components of the donated items are yet to be delivered until now. The Committee wrote to CACOVID as recently as Sept. 28, 2020, reminding it of the rice component, which is yet to be delivered.

“However, until this moment, we are yet to receive response from CACOVID.

“This is the truth about the status of the donated relief items until the unfortunate looting,” Mr Jimoh said.(NAN)

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LAGOS CONDEMNS VANDALISATION OF WAREHOUSE FOR CACOVID FOOD PALLIATIVES

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The Lagos State Government has condemned the vandalisation of the warehouse at Mazamaza housing the food palliative packages donated to the government by the Private Sector Coalition against COVID-19 (CACOVID) group. The items belong to the Southwest, contrary to social media reports that they are all for Lagos.

Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu had on September 22nd 2020, formally taken receipt of the food palliatives from the CACOVID team meant for distribution to the indigent.

The State had repackaged its share of the consignment and was distributing it before the protests that have affected activities in the State. The repackaging was being done to account for every beneficiary, according to the agreement with the CACOVID Group, which monitored the process.

The warehouse in question is not State-owned and its usage was made available to the CACOVID group.

The distribution was on-going but had to be halted due to protests, before the invasion of the warehouse today.

For effective distribution of the food palliatives, groups such as Transport Unions, Ethnic Groups, Religious Associations, Artisans and Tradesmen Association, Marketmen and Women Association, People Living with Disabilities, Orphanages and Old Peoples’ Homes among others were being used as the distribution channels to their members.

The State Government, however, regrets the invasion of the warehouse and appreciates the support offered by the CACOVID group to the citizenry of Lagos.

 

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WE DID NOT ORDER LEKKI SHOOTING – SANWO-OLU

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Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, has, again, spoken on the ugly incident that happened at the Lekki Toll Plaza on Tuesday evening, in which military personnel used live ammunition to disperse EndSARS protesters who camped at the tollgate to demand for the end to police brutality.

Sanwo-Olu maintained that the State Government did not order the military shooting, which left about 11 of the youths severely injured. The Governor also sustained his earlier assertion that, no protester died in the incident, stressing that he and officials of the State Government had gone round private and public health facilities across the State without being able to identify bodies of those allegedly killed in the incident except one that died from blunt force trauma and another corpse that was recovered by the police in the Victoria Island area with bullet wounds.

The Governor appeared on The Morning Show programme aired live on Arise News, said the State was already investigating whether the deceased was a protester.

Sanwo-Olu asked members of the public with credible information on anyone or group of persons killed in the incident to come forward with the claim. He said the social media overblew the proportion of the incident with what he described as “false information” being shared by those who were not at the scene of the incident.

He said: “There have been several false information that we have seen over the incident and we will appeal to people to show more restraint in posting information that cannot be verified.”

The Governor spoke on the alleged removal of Close-Circuit Television (CCTV) security cameras at the Toll Plaza before the shooting started, debunking the claims that he ordered the action. Sanwo-Olu said the cameras that were removed were not security cameras but laser cameras meant to capture vehicles’ electronic tags and number plates. He said the removal of the laser cameras was a decision taken by Lekki Concession Company (LCC) that owns the facility.

He said: “When I spoke to the Managing Director of LCC over the matter, he told me the company took the decision to remove installations critical to their service when the curfew was announced. Those cameras that were displayed in the viral pictures were not security or motion cameras. They are laser cameras for vehicles, specifically designed to pick electronic tags and number plates on cars. Security cameras installed at the Toll Plaza are still there as I speak and the footages from them are the ones that we will be using in probing the Lekki incident. Since Tuesday, the security cameras at the Toll Plaza are still there and nobody can touch them.”

Sanwo-Olu said multi-agency investigation into Lekki incident may begin next Monday when order would have been fully restored across the State, pointing out that the recordings of the CCTV security cameras at the Toll Plaza would be useful in unraveling the circumstance that surrounded the incident.

Members of the public, the Governor said, will be part of the investigation for transparency. He added that security experts would be involved to analyse the recordings of the CCTV security cameras to ensured the footages captured since the time the protesters started camping at the tollgate were not tampered with.

On the allegation that he influenced the switching off of the billboard that illuminated the Toll Plaza area at night, Sanwo-Olu said the concessionaire that operates the billboard took the decision independently after the curfew order was announced.

Speaking on the aftermath of the organised attacks on government properties, iconic buildings and private assets, Sanwo-Olu said the nature of the destruction indicated an attempt by the arsonists to keep the State in limbo. He said the attacks were specifically targeted at emergency response infrastructure of the State to weaken its response in the case of large-scale violence.

The Governor disclosed that the arsonists, in the organised destruction, razed four State-owned fire stations and five fire trucks. He said the reconstruction of the damaged assets would cost billions, but said the State would bounce back after the devastation.

Sanwo-Olu said it would be insensitive for him to buttress the narrative linking the arsonist attacks on public buildings to sectarian elements, saying his immediate priority was to salvage the damaged assets and prevent further attacks. He, however, said all materials suggesting the arson may have been organised by secessionists would be left for security agencies for proper analysis.

Clarifying his statement that forces beyond him were behind the deployment of troops to Lekki axis, the Governor said: “The hierarchy and chains of command in the military are not within my purview. This is not something I have responsibility for. I do not have such power to control or activate the military. That essentially is what I was trying to say in that particular phrase.”

He also explained that he reached out to President Muhammadu Buhari on two occasions to seek for more help as public assets in the State were being destroyed. He said the President responded, directing the Chief of Defence Staff to liaise with him.

He said: “I made phone calls to speak to the President twice yesterday (Wednesday). The first time, he (president) hadn’t come to the office. The second time, he was at the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting. Indeed, I haven’t spoken to him directly. He was actually the one who directed the Chief of Defence Staff to call me and I feel that it was when he got my message. Because, when the Chief of Defence Staff called me, he said to me it was the President that asked him to call. But, I haven’t spoken to the President directly; maybe later today, that might happen.”

Aftermath of the destruction, Sanwo-Olu urged the residents of Lagos to come together and heal the wounds inflicted on the State by the arsonists. He said the ugly incident put citizens’ patriotism to test, urging them to unite and re-build the State from the ruins left by the attacks.

He said: “We are at a point where all of us as a people living in the State must come together more than ever before. Our patriotism has been put to test and we need to re-engage ourselves and heal the several wounds that have been inflicted on us. We do not have any other country; this is our country.

“In Lagos, we cannot afford to put to waste what our forefathers and the generation of leaders before us have put in place. We need to preserve our heritage and we need to know that indeed we can build a future for our children. We need to put an end to any form of anger, protest, confrontation and bleeding. Let us come together and start a real healing process.”

 

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