By Magnus Effiong
Controversy has greeted this year’s annual distribution of rice consignments from the Niger Delta Development Commission to the nine NDDC States as the coordinator of the programme in Cross River state, Rt Hon Orok Otu Duke, said he received only N10 million worth of rice instead of the N30 million said to have been earmarked for the state.
Recall that Rt Hon Duke had, last week, distributed bags of rice to All Progressives Congress ward executive from the Southern senatorial district, women groups, youths, defunct Bakassi Strike Force agitators and many others.
Duke, who disclosed that the gesture was an annual palliative steps from the NDDC to cushion the biting effects of hardship, however lamented that this year’s exercise was witnessing hitches unlike that of last year.
“This is like a normal yearly ritual from the NDDC to the nine NDDC States and has been running for about 25 years now but it is unfortunate that for about 22 years, it has not been so widely distributed as it is being done within the last two years, all thanks to the Honourable minister for the Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio.
“The minister had insisted that we should touch as many people as possible, especially youths and women. Last years, we were able to cover all the 196 wards in Cross River state. It was successfully executed. There was no friction anywhere and everyone was happy.
“But this years, there seems to be a sort of confusion and lack of control about the consignment. I was informed that N30 million worth of rice was sent to Cross River but we saw only N10 million worth.
“Some hours ago, I got a sms from an NDDC official informing me that N6million had been deducted as VAT from the N30 million rice earmarked for Cross River. You mean VAT from a gift to the poor, hungry Cross River people?
“According to the said official, he was sending N7million worth to the central and another N7 million worth to the northern senatorial district. I do not know why they have not brought the whole thing centrally for us to do the exercise together.
“I have told them I am a person of instructions, directives and discipline. The NDDC, in a letter sent to me over the distribution had said ‘Cross River state is supervised by Hon Orok Duke, assisted by Hon Cletus Obun’.
“When I am in charge, I always insist on being in charge so I would be held accountable and liable for success or failure. When someone tries to limit us to specific senatorial districts, he creates problems for the exercise.”