Niger Delta Minister dismisses N480bn fraud allegation

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… Denies sacking 700 NDDC staff

By Emmanuel Obisue

Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Umana Okon Umana has rubbished the allegation of a N480bn fraud in a fresh summon notice issued to him by the National Assembly.

The Nigerian Senate had on Thursday summoned the minister over an alleged plot to siphon the said sum, which is an intervention fund belonging to the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, and domiciled in the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN.

The Red Chambers had accused Umana of plotting to withdraw the fund without its approval, among many other allegations.

Reacting in a statement issued on Friday by his Special Assistant on Media, Iboro Otogaran, Umana said the allegations were “false” and “totally baseless”.

He also refuted the allegation that he sacked 700 workers in the NDDC upon assumption of duty as minister.

“In rejecting the false allegations made by professional petition writers to the National Assembly, Umana said no fraud has been committed under his watch in the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, and that no money has been released or expended on the projects cited in the petition.

“The minister explained that in line with his directive at the last meeting of the National Council, adjustments had been made in the 2022 budget proposals of the NDDC to accommodate core regional infrastructure projects based on a new template for the development of the Niger Delta region. It is senseless for the petitioners to allege that the compilation of projects to include in the budget proposals of NDDC for 2022 for transmission to the National Assembly is a crime,” the media aide quoted Umana as saying.

“Everything is at the proposal stage; no contracts have been awarded and no money has been disbursed or expended. Anything to the contrary is false and should be dismissed in its entirety,” the minister added.

The statement added that Umana recalled that on assumption of duty, he was briefed by both the ministry and the NDDC, whose interim administrator at the time complained of a bloated staff strength which made him (the minister) to ask what the interim administrator had done about it.

He explained that after the inaugural briefing, the interim administrator of the NDDC never came back to him on any action he had taken or planned to take on the issue and that whatever he did about “the bloated staff strength” he had complained of had no ministerial approval.

“The allegation of non-performance peddled in the same petition is also baseless. The Honourable Minister of Niger Delta Affairs reports to the President, and not to hired petition writers. It is the President that assesses the performance of his ministers,” the minister stated.