Lawmakers, NDDC In Row Over Removal Of N10b Project

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The Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) on Thursday accused the two chairmen of the National Assembly committees probing the allegation of financial recklessness and maladministration of tinkering with the budget of the agency.

It accused the chairmen — Senator Peter Nwaoboshi and Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo — of replacing two key agricultural programmers in its 2019 budget with the supply of plastic chairs and desks as well as “ghost training programmes.”

Nwaoboshi and Tunji-Ojo denied the allegations, saying the IMC was peddling falsehood.

The IMC, in a statement by its Director, Corporate Affairs, Charles Odili, quoted the NDDC acting Executive Director (Projects), Dr. Cairo Ojougboh, as naming a N10bn rice farming project and a $129.17million Livelihood Improvement Family Enterprises scheme as the projects replaced by the chairmen

According to Ojougboh, Nwaoboshi and Tunji-Ojo insisted on the removal of the IMC for refusing to be a part of “ghost training programme.”

He claimed  that the Niger Delta would have been a rice haven  engaging women and youths in the region.

The acting Executive Director said: “We prepared farmers and they were ready. The CBN guaranteed N10 billion support for the project, but when the budget got to the National Assembly, the two chairmen of the committees on NDDC removed the N10billion for the project.

“Because of that action, the wet lands of the Niger Delta that would have been booming with rice farming have been lying fallow.

“This would have created employment for our women and youths. But, the two chairmen of the National Assembly committees preferred the supply of plastic chairs and tables to schools that are non-existent to active and lucrative engagements of the people of the region.

“The IFAD partnership was removed completely and replaced with ghost training programmes, which we refused to be part of. Because of that, they insist that the NDDC IMC should be removed.”

He, however, said the commission was making efforts to reintroduce the N10bn rice farming programme into its 2020 budget to boost agriculture and create jobs for the youth.

Ojougboh, while inspecting the multi-million-naira NDDC rice mill at Elele-Alimini, in Emohua Local Government Area of Rivers State, appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari to prevail on the National Assembly not to distort the NDDC 2020 budget to avoid truncating the agricultural programmes.

But, Nwaoboshi said the allegation showed  that the IMC has “exhausted all the lies in their bag.”

He said: “First of all, the NDDC’s budget for 2019 was not prepared by the present IMC. It was inherited by the  Joi Nunieh-led IMC.

“So, this IMC has no input in the 2019 budget of the commission. The person who defended the budget was Joi Nunieh.

“It was not defended by the present IMC and so, they don’t understand what was contained in that budget.

“They said that the 2019 budget was given to them on the 19th of April 2020 and so, they were not able to implement it. So, if the contract was awarded for non-existing schools, who awarded it?

“They have no lies again to tell. They have now exhausted all the lies in their bag.

“If the money they claimed was meant for agriculture was used to award contract for chairs and desks for non-existing schools, they should be arrested and held responsible for it.

“If at all they awarded the contract, they should be arrested for fraudulently awarding contract and fraudulently paying for it.

“This is the fraud and corruption we have been talking about in the NDDC and this is a sign that they have diverted the money again.”

Also, Tunji-Ojo said the latest allegation was nothing, but pure blackmail and mudslinging to divert the attention of Nigerians from the issues on the ground.

He said: “I had said this before and I am repeating it.  No project was removed from the 2019 proposed budget. The Executive Director, Project, is obviously a confused human being who thinks he can thrive on blackmail against truth.

“Like Comrade Oshiomhole said ‘you don’t wrestle with pigs’ If he thinks the best way to collaborate and work is through falsehood and blackmail, that is up to him.”

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