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Heavy weight of corruption allegation callapsed Acting NDDC MD, Pondei, says PDP

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Heavy weight of corruption allegation callapsed
Acting NDDC MD, Pondei, says PDP

***Akpabio accuses lawmakers of benefitting from NDDC contracts

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has alleged that the acting Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission, Prof Kemebradikumo Pondei, fainted before a House of Representatives investigative panel as a result of the “weight and shame of overwhelming collective guilt brought on him by the exposure of massive corruption” in the commission.

It was earlier reported that Pondei collapsed while he was being interogated by lawmakers investigating mismanagement of funds up to the tune of N81.5 bnin the NDDC.

In a statement titled ‘Collapse of NDDC MD Underlines Weight of Corruption in APC’ and signed by PDP National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, the party asked the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), to suspend the supervising minister of the commission, Godswill Akpabio.
The statement partly reads, “The Peoples Democratic Party says the dramatic collapse of while being grilled by the House of Representatives, further underscores the weight of corruption that has bedeviled the All Progressives Congress administration.

“The PDP said it was obvious that the embattled NDDC acting Managing Director collapsed under the weight and shame of overwhelming collective guilt brought on him by the exposure of massive corruption being perpetrated by NDDC officials and APC leaders.
“It is rather curious that Prof. Pondei slumped after lawmakers demanded that he offers explanations on the contentious payment of billions of naira, alleged unbudgeted sums, to certain companies by the NDDC.
“This is particularly as Nigerians recall that the embattled NDDC boss had, last week, stalled proceedings by challenging the legislators and walking out on the House of Representatives investigative panel.

“Our party restates our submission to President Muhammadu Buhari to immediately suspend the Minister of Niger Delta Affair, Akpabio, as well as disband the NDDC Interim Management Committee, if he indeed desires the coordinated probe he ordered to yield any credible results.”

Meanwhile, the sitting by the House of Representatives committee probing the alleged misuse of N81bn by the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) witnessed many dramatic scenes.

One of the scenes unfolded when the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Apkabio and the acting Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Prof. Kemebradikumo Daniel Pondei took turns to testify.

Pondei was the first to testify.He mounted the podium and was interogated over alleged extra-budgetary expenditure by the Commission under his leadership. The exercise turned tragic as Pondei suddenly slumped.

Pondei, who appeared before the Mr Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo led committee last week, had walked out on the lawmakers on the excuse that Tunji-Ojo lacked the moral grounds to chair the panel. He was first to arrive at the venue of the hearing about 10.30 a.m.

Other members of the NDDC Interim Management committee, including its Executive Director, Project, Dr Cairo Ojuogbo, arrived about 11.15 a.m. The Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, who was also summoned to appear before the committee arrived with aides.

The proceeding commenced at 11.30 a.m.
Pondei looked unruffled as he presented his case. He disclosed that contrary to notions that he oversaw the expenditure of the sum of N51.1billion from February to date, he explained that N38.6bn was spent on capital expenditure, while the sum of N20.5bn was expended on recurrent expenditure during the period.

Making reference to newspaper publications which captured how the money was utilised, he cited payments on training of the NDDC personnel, hotel accommodation in both Port Harcourt and Abuja, and arrears of money owed contractors.

He however began to lose his composure when the lawmakers queried him on the expenses he made without the approval of the National Assembly.Further enquiries by Ben Ibakpa (PDP: Delta), Wole Oke, who chairs the House Committee on Public Accounts (PAC) on the discrepancies revolving around payment of students scholarship, the NDDC headquarters building and the COVID-19 palliative expenses further unsettled Pondei.

Pondei, who admitted approving payment for the NDDC headquarters, denied ordering payment for the Lassa fever treatment. He also disclosed that the sum of N38.6bn was paid for various projects before the House resolution to probe into the affairs of the NDDC.

He was further scrutinised by Ben Kalu (Abia APC), as to whether payment of the sum of N1.9bn for COVID-19 palliatives was in tandem with the 2019 budget. Pondei in his response said the money expended was N1.32bn.

When asked to show evidence of the expenditure, Pondei was not forthcoming as he responded repeatedly, “I will provide answers because I don’t want to lie under oath.”

Asked how much he had received since he assumed office at the helm of affairs of the NDDC, he disclosed that he got N72bn, adding the N2.4bn approved by the Federal Executive Council (FEC), the sum of N350m was approved for forensic audit before the 31st of last year.

Asked to explain monies paid to Clairpoint Consulting Media, he explained that it was meant to pay coordinators in the 129 local councils in the nine NDDC member states as part of the audit.

That, he said, was aimed at engaging locals to identify the locations of NDDC projects.
But Pondei suddenly collapsed as he was further asked to explain the payment of the sum of N336m to Save Life Campaign in the Niger Delta. NDDC officials, including Dr Ojuogboh, promptly attended to him; one of them was sighted fanning him with a white handkerchief amidst the confusion that that followed.
Within a minute, Pondei regained ‘consciousness’ and he struggled to put on his shoes, which were removed as part of efforts to revive him.

One of the officials was overheard saying repeatedly: “Let’s take him to the hospital.”
The development forced the lawmakers to adjourn abruptly for 15 minutes to enable them ascertain whether to go ahead with the hearing or not.

THE drama heightened as Akpabio, in his presentation, accused members of the National Assembly of having 50 per cent of contracts awarded by the NDDC.The claim by the Minister angered members of the committee who prevailed on him to name beneficiaries of the projects in the National Assembly.

Boma Goodhead (Rivers PDP), who was livid over the accusation said such claim equally implied that Akpabio who was Senate Minority Leader in the 8th Assembly must have benefited from such projects immensely.

Shehu Koko (Kebbi : APC), who noted that there was such a pending allegation, demanded from Akpabio to clarify if Tunji-Ojo was one of the beneficiaries of the projects.

Akpabio, who remained adamant on the issue, however, said such contracts were usually given piecemeal to fall within the NDDC threshold. He said he could not lay his hands on specific facts at the hearing.

The minister assured the panel that he would change the ugly trend in line with ongoing efforts to reposition the NDDC.Akpabio insisted that the forensic audit approved by FEC was an ongoing exercise, adding that contract for the COVID-19 palliatives was executed in line with rules and regulations.

Admitting that he initiated the forensic audit in line with the President’s directives, he said he left the issue to the IMC after the approval of N4.5bn for the exercise and a certificate of no objection from the BPP.

Akpabio insisted that his ministry was empowered to oversee the NDDC in line with the powers conferred on the President. He justified the decision to relieve Joy Nunieh of her appointment as acting MD IMC, saying it was based on insurbodination and the discovery that she falsified her NYSC certificate.

The NDDC has said its acting Managing Director, Professor Kemebradikumo Pondei, collapsed because he had been sick for two weeks.
NDDC said it was however delighted that the Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on NDDC, Mr Olubunmi Ojo, had recused himself from the hearing.

The Director, Corporate Affairs, Charles Odili, explained that Pondei’s condition deteriorated yesterday and his doctors advised against attending the hearing which he ignored.

“He ignored his doctors’ advice because of the realisation that his traducers will use his absence at the hearing to soil his name and reputation. He thought he could make it through the hearing and take care of his health later. As it turned out, his doctors were right. Prof Pondei is in a stable condition at a clinic in Abuja” he said.

In a related development, 20 Civil Society Organisations have urged President Muhammadu Buhari to direct anti-graft agencies to investigate the financial and procurement activities of the Niger Delta Development Commission.

The groups also suggested that the NDDC Act be amended to clarify the mandate of the intervention agency and state penalties for non-compliance with the provisions of the Act.

The positions of the CSOs were contained in a communiqué it sent to the President. It was jointly endorsed by Vivian Bellonwu-Okafor (Social Action, Nigeria); Harry Udoh (Akwa Ibom State Civil Society Organisations); Osazee Edigin (Edo State Civil Society Organisations, (EDOCSO); Torki Dauseye, (Bayelsa State Non-Governmental Organisations Forum (BANGOF); Peter Mazzi (Anti-Corruption Network, Rivers State); Jaye Gaskia (Take Back Nigeria Movement) and others.

The CSOs said contract frauds, procurement law infractions, non-budgetary and extra-budgetary spending, audit violations, cronyism, fiscal recklessness and flagrant disregard for procedural rules in the NDDC should spur the President to completely overhaul the commission.

Citing recent events in the NDDC, the groups said the Commission had undoubtedly become a cesspool of corruption for which many of its past and present leaders had not only been complicit, but had been indicted (in both past and present probes and investigations), but were neither prosecuted in a court of law nor made to refund misappropriated funds.

They claimed that the National Assembly had failed in its oversight function of conducting regular assessment of the Commission to prevent the infractions. They lamented the lack of internal or external controls to monitor the operations of the NDDC and prevent the diversion of funds and other corrupt practices.

In another reaction, a group, Global Coalition for Security and Democracy in Nigeria, yesterday, called on President Buhari to immediately suspend Godswill Akpabio as Minister of Niger Delta over the ongoing probe.

In a statement by GCSDN, jointly signed by Frederick Odorige, Global Coordinator; and Edmond Ikeh, Secretary; the group held that the revelations made by Joy Nunieh, former acting managing director of the NDDC, on how Akpabio used his position to order some persons to unlawfully remove some files out of the commission’s office should not be overlooked.

The statement read: “These actions are punishable offences and they will definitely impede the work of the investigative panel. This is a resemblance of the report that some persons attempted to break into the computer of the EFCC to steal sensitive information.

“The unlawful attempt to arrest Joy Nunieh in order to prevent her from testifying before the panel further, confirms that some persons are very desperate to frustrate the forensic audit which you set up but eventually hijacked.”

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Crime

Group challenges Buhari to bring to book killers of protesters at Lekki, others

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Group challenges Buhari to bring to book killers of protesters at Lekki, others
By Doris Ferdinan Igwe

A group, made up of Nigerian Mothers from all works of life has challenged President Muhammadu to ensure Justice is done through a transparent panel of inquiry to unravel killers of unarmed #ENDSARS protesters in Lekki and other parts of Nigeria.
This was contained in a statement that was signed and issued by conveners of Mothers United and Mobilised (MUM) to midwife the future, Boluwaji Onabolu and Sonye Allanah. The statement asked rhetorically about the person that ordered the shootings? who carried it out and how they are being held accountable?

The group said they watched as their girls were raped, stripped naked and tortured before everyone to confess to crimes they did not commit.

“We watched as our children in unison spoke up with one voice peacefully asking that no more should the nation watch while those given uniforms and arms for protection; kill, maim and extort money and their lives from them.

“The Lives they did not nurture nor give were taken away under the guise of ending robbery or internet crimes.”
“We are Mothers United and Mobilized, Nigerian mothers from all walks of life, ethnic and religious groups, based in Nigeria and in diaspora.

“We mothers of both the police and ‘the EndSARs protesters’, united in one purpose and one mission only; the protection of our children, the amplification of their voices and mediation between the Father of the nation and the youth of the nation.”

“President Mohammadu Buhari; Father of the Nation, we watched as the state sponsored the infiltration of these peaceful protests with thugs and hoodlums to beat and kill our children, your children.

“We watched videos showing government and political operatives ferrying these thugs in their vehicles and releasing them with one aim only to attack, pollute and bury the messages of these young ones.

“The Statement indicated that, prisoners were set free; cars were burnt and protesters were attacked by those sponsored to stop the peaceful protests.In Ibadan, Abuja, Benin and other towns in the nation.It indicated that the politically sponsored tactics and outcomes were the same; infiltrate, discredit, distract, maim and kill.

“In the past 48 hours youths are being hunted and their blood spilled solely because they clamored peacefully for the kind of governance which forbids brutality against its own children.

“We watched and saw military men, trained for war and armed for battle using the Federal might of live bullets against unarmed protesters, our own children, your own children at Lekki gate on Thursday.

“President Mohammadu Buhari, Father of the nation Nigeria, 20.10.20, is a date embedded in our hearts forever and never again will we watch as those we entrusted our children to for protection, try to stop their voices with bullets.

“As mothers united and mobilized we amplify the voices of our youth and our future and refuse that their message is hijacked or lost in the distraction of ethnic divisions,  fear, terror and the smoke of the blazing guns.”

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Crime

Govt wields the firepower as Security agents attack #EndSARS protesters in Lekki

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Govt wields the firepower as Security agents attack #EndSARS protesters in Lekki

The Nigerian Governmemt may have done the unimaginable as it has succumbed to the unpopular use of firepower hoping to stop #ENDSARS protests.

The Lekki tollgate protest ground was first plunged into darkness after sporadic gunshots were fired at peaceful unarmed protesters by security agents.

The gunshots were heard about two hours before the 24-hour curfew imposed by the state government begins at 9 pm.
The curfew was scheduled to start at 4 pm but was shifted after  governor Sanwo-Olu was criticised for the short notice given.
Many people are feared dead already and many more with various degrees of injuries.
The protesters were alleged to have been sitting down Peacefully waving the Nigerian flag as they chorused the Nigerian National Anthem.
Videos shared on Twitter several minutes before the shooting began showed the protesters sitting on the floor at the Lekki toll plaza, singing the Nigerian national anthem and waving the country’s flag.

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Abuja residents in panic mode as #ENDSARS protesters face counter force

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Abuja residents in panic mode as #ENDSARS protesters face counter force

There is apprehension among residents of FCT over fears of reprisals from those whose properties were destroyed on Monday allegelly by the pro-SARS  protesters that came to counter the #ENDSARS group that have been very peaceful.
Many have been calling their loved ones to stay indoor tomorrow as the fear of the unknown envelopes the city.
The NationalUpdate gathered that Monday’s protest turned violent at the Apo District of the Abuja car spare parts market hub as thugs opposed to the endless protests unleashed mayhem setting ablaze dozens of cars for sale.
The video of the scene of burning cars went viral as many residents expressed fear that Tuesday may not be a day of peace.
At press time, the authorities are yet to make any official statement on the matter as angry traders chased around the alleged hoodlums with axes and cudgels.
Though the protests have been taking its toll on the economy as the youths have been holding everybody to ransome but it had been mostly been peaceful until the Apo incidence.

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