NDDC-gate: Another Gory Exposure of An Ailing Nation

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NDDC-gate: Another Gory Exposure of An Ailing Nation
Nwolu Obiajulu

The Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) was developed by the Olusegun Obasanjo administration in pursuant of a concerted effort at genuinely developing the Niger Delta region which is blessed with natural resources. Nigeria has built its revenue generation around the income generated from crude oil such that sectors like agriculture have been sacrificed on the altar of oil.

During the administration of former President Obasanjo, agitation heightened in the Niger Delta due to what they perceived as neglect of the region in spite of its contribution to the treasury of the nation. Youths in the area rose in arms destroying pipelines and vandalizing oil installations to attract the attention to the people of the region who were facing underdevelopment and threat to health due to oil spills and harmful waste which contaminated rivers in the region. It was for the purpose of addressing the genuine needs that were raised that the Obasanjo regime established the NDDC to ensure development of the entire Niger Delta region.

Sadly, twenty years down the line, it could be safe to adjudge that the commission is yet to live up to its mandate. President Muhammad Buhari had last year ordered a forensic audit of the account of the NDDC from 2001 to date. The President had claimed that the projects in the region do not reflect the billions of naira that Nigeria allocates to the commission in yearly budgets. The country allocated N80.881 billion to the commission in the 2020 budget prior to its review to N44.200 billion as a fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic which has affected the economy of Nigeria, just like that of most other countries. This gives credence to the claim by the president. For a region that receives such huge sum in budgetary allocation, there should be more impact on the people of the region.

To entrench a new purposeful leadership with a sincere vision to develop the region, the president appointed a new Interim Management Committee (IMC) in October, 2019 headed by Joy Yimebe Nunieh, a lawyer from Ogoni, Rivers State. Nunieh’s take over from Dr. Akwagaga Enyia as the Managing Director of the NDDC would end up lasting four months as she was removed in February, 2020. After her removal, she made some grievous allegations against the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio.

The former MD claims that her removal was prompted by her reformatory policies. She alleged to have stepped on toes when she instituted the contract verification exercise in January 2020 which required contractors to go to the states where the contracts they executed took place, register it and be clarified by an interim panel which was setup for the purpose. Nunieh claims the verification irked bigwigs who got contracts from the commission but never executed them. She credits her removal to such elements who opposed her resolve to stamp out dubious contract execution. Not a few were angry she claims.

She fired shots at Akpabio for masterminding her removal due to her resistance to consent to his acts of corruption. She accused the minister and her successor Pondei of misappropriating fund to the tune of N40 billion naira, an amount that almost equals the 2020 budget of the commission.

Since then, Akpabio has been in a war of words with the former MD after the legislature setup a panel of inquiry to investigate the alleged mismanagement of fund. Akpabio denied any involvement in the management of fund during the tenure of Nunieh claiming she never gave him financial briefings. Just yesterday, the country was greeted with a sight which no longer appears surprising from its political actors, when the current Acting Managing Director of the NDDC, Kemebradikumo Daniel Pondei, a medical doctor by profession fainted on live Television during a hearing by the House of Representatives Ad hoc committee. Pondei fainted while entertaining questions from lawmakers on the spending of the commission under his watch.

The Bayelsa State Professor who has since been discharged from the hospital claims he attended the hearing against the advice of his doctors. NDDC says Pondei has been ill for the past two weeks but felt the need to attend the hearing to clear his name. Akpabio who took to the podium shortly after Pondei was rushed out for medical accused the lawmakers of being the biggest beneficiaries of contracts awarded by the commission. When quizzed by a lawmaker on his claims, Akpabio said, “I just told you that we have records to show that most of the contracts in the NDDC are given to members of the National Assembly.”

The failure of the NDDC to live up to its mandate goes a long way to buttress the many challenges stagnating the growth of Nigeria. Just recently, the chief anti-corruption officer, Ibrahim Magu was embroiled in a corruption scandal which he is yet to be absolve of. It will not be surprising to see the NDDC inquiry go in the direction of Dasukigate and Maina saga which till date remain inconclusive. Given the role which the lawmakers are claimed to have played in contract execution, it won’t be unheard of in Nigeria for the actors to resort to roundtable agreement to settle the discrepancies.

However, if the NDDC is to fulfill its mandate, this inquiry should be followed up to its conclusion and the looters, if any, brought to book.

 

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