Politics

Group demands investigation into N3.14bn NDDC’s COVID-19 palliatives

Written by Maritime First

..As FG clarifies tax on house rents, C of O, others***

An advocacy group, the Niger Delta Rights Advocates (NDRA), has urged President Muhammadu Buhari to investigate the alleged misappropriation of N3.14 billion COVID-19 palliatives by the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).

The group’s Spokesman, Mr Darlington Nwauju, made the call in a statement on Friday in Port Harcourt, while reacting to the latest findings by the Senate Ad hoc Committee probing the agency’s alleged financial recklessness.

Sen. Olubunmi Adetunmbi had said at an Investigative Public Hearing on Thursday that NDDC spent N1.5 billion as COVID-19 palliatives to its staff and the police.

Adetunmbi said documents submitted to the ad hoc committee by NDDC Interim Management Committee (IMC) showed that the police got N475 million, while the 1,269 staff of the agency received between N600,000 and N10 million each.

Nwauju said the group was worried over the alleged misused of public funds, and, therefore, called for presidential investigation into the matter.

“The NDRA is appalled at the revelations from Sen. Adetunmbi-led Senate Ad hoc Committee, especially as the Niger Delta youths were being offered stipends as palliatives.

“We are appalled because youths were falling over themselves to receive the N20,000 IMC claimed to have been shared as COVID-19 palliative allowance in nine states, amounting to N270 million.

“While youths were falling over themselves, the NDDC IMC and staff were helping themselves to between N600,000 and N10 million as COVID-19 allowance.

“What other forms of disservice can the people of the Niger Delta got?” he asked.

Nwauju said that NDRA was concerned that N85.6 million was spent on trips to the United Kingdom to attend the graduation of some students on the NDDC foreign scholarships.

He wondered that IMC could have spent such money on the trip in May, especially at a time when most countries were under lockdown and schools closed due to the pandemic.

“Did they (NDDC IMC) embark on this travel using African magic, going by the fact that every part of the globe was under lockdown.

“How can they justify spending N122.9 million on condolences and N248.9 million on stakeholders’ engagements from Feb. 19 to May 3 and N475 million on face masks and hand sanitisers to the police?

“The NDRA wishes to call the attention of President Buhari to the current ‘abracadabra’ going on in the NDDC,” he said.

Also, Mr Charles Odili, NDDC’s Director of Corporate Affairs, when contacted to respond to the allegations, told the Press that he was indisposed and had not been briefed on the matter

In the meantime, the Director-General of the Budget Office of the Federation, Mr Ben Akabueze, says tax on rents, Certificate of Occupancy (C of O) and others is not a new law to the system.

Akabueze made the clarification while fielding questions from participants at a virtual presentation of 2021-2023 Medium Term Expenditure Framework and Fiscal Strategy Paper (MTEF&FSP) in Abuja on Friday.

He said the law that permited payment of tax on rents and others was an existing one but had not been observed for a very long time.

“It is not new, it is just N50 to be paid and the law has always been there. I recall in early 80s when I started work,  the receipt my landlord used to give me, he would paste a physical postage stamp on that receipt.

“Overtime, because the culture of postage has dropped off and that was not been implemented, what FIRS has done now is to make that into electronic stamp that you can still use to comply with the existing law,” he explained.

The Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) had last week announced that henceforth, there would be stamp duty paid on house rent and C of O in the service new adhesive duty.

FIRS urged Nigerians and other residents in the country to make sure that documents pertaining to rent or lease agreements for their homes or offices, C of O as well as a list of other common business-related transaction instruments were subject to authentication with the new FIRS Adhesive Stamp duty.

It stated that it was necessary in order to give these instruments the force of law and make them legally bidding on all parties involved in such transactions.

According to the service, the new FIRS Adhesive Stamp Duty was inaugurated in Abuja at the official inauguration of the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Audit and Recovery of Back Years Stamp Duties recently.

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Maritime First