The Nigerian Senate has denied claims that lawmakers recieved N20 million each as COVID-19 palliatives from the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
This was contained in a statement signed by the senate spokesperson, Ajibola Basiru, on Tuesday.
His statement was in reaction to the allegation made by the commission’s director of projects, Cairo Ojougboh, who claimed that the agency gave N20 million to each senator and N15 million to each member of the House of Representatives as palliatives.
Mr Ojougboh made this claim in an interview with Vanguard Newspapers, where he also said that the country will break up if the NDDC releases a list of those involved in looting the commission.
“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 COVID-19 allowances,” the paper quoted him saying.
But in his reaction, Mr Basiru denied the claims and demanded proof that lawmakers collected the money. He also demanded an apology if Mr Ojougboh failed to provide evidence.
“The Senate hereby disclaims the allegation in its entirety. The Senate categorically denies that any senator collected the sum of N20 million or any sum whatsoever from NDDC as Covid relief fund for any purpose whatsoever.
“The Senate challenges Dr Ojougboh to publicly provide evidence of his claim and list the names of the senators he allegedly gave the alleged sum. Failure to provide evidence of his claim, the Senate hereby demands immediate retraction and public apology from Dr Cairo Ojougboh,” part of the statement read.
There have been a series of accusations and counter-accusations between the lawmakers and officials of the NDDC following a corruption probe launched by the National Assembly.
There have also been allegations of reckless spending by the agency, ranging from spending N1.5 billion as COVID-19 palliatives for its staff, to spending N85.6 million for top officials to attend a graduation ceremony in the United Kingdom during the lockdown in Nigeria.
The investigation became controversial when officials of the NDDC accused some lawmakers of being complicit in the reckless spending. Most of the lawmakers accused have denied the allegations.
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