The Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, commends the leadership of the National Assembly on the decision to investigate the Alleged Financial Improprieties in the Niger Delta Development, NDDC, following allegations that huge amounts of public funds have been expended within three months, without due process, by the management of the Commission.
The glut of petitions in the public domain against the interim management committee is not only disturbing but embarrassing. PANDEF, therefore, welcomes the setting up of Committees by both Chambers of the National Assembly to investigate the allegations. The probes would help determine the validity or otherwise of the assertions, and save the people of the Region from the anguish of the ignominy.
We further commend the spirit of patriotism demonstrated by the South South caucus in both Chambers, particularly, Senator Thompson George Sekibo of Rivers state and Honourable Peter Akpatason of Edo state for sponsoring and supporting the motions that called for the investigation, in the Senate and House of Representatives respectively.
Recall that PANDEF had supported the forensic audit of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, ordered by President Muhammadu Buhari last year. We made our position known in the communique issued at the end of the Forum’s National Leadership Retreat held at Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, in October last year. PANDEF’s backing of the forensic audit was informed by the appalling state of infrastructure in the region, and the Commission’s continued failure to fast-track the region’s development. The NDDC has been characterized with non-performance, poor management, misapplication and misappropriation of resources, and reckless perversion of its set objectives, while the Region is littered with abandoned projects.
We had, therefore, hoped that the forensic audit would expose and bring to book those behind the cacodemon of corruption in the NDDC. And that it would instill financial propriety in the management of the Commission, correct the years of underperformance, and subsequently, reposition the interventionist agency for better service delivery to the Region. But it now appears our hopes were misplaced.
President Muhammadu Buhari may have had good intentions in ordering the forensic audit, following the sack of the previous Board, and the subsequent appointment of an Interim Management Committee to oversee the affairs of the Commission for the period of the audit.
We further recall that, when some persons in the Region, who were opposed to the setting up of the IMC and jettisoning of the Board, which they considered an aberration of the NDDC Act, threatened violent protestations, PANDEF intervened and appealed for support for the IMC to carry out its assignment.
However, it is increasingly becoming difficult not to doubt if the process had not been hijacked by desperate politicians for selfish purposes. The Commission has been snared in a web of intrigues and counter intrigues since last year.
Regrettably, it is the people of the region that suffer the bane of the debauchery and continued failure of the Commission to deliver on its mandate.
Critical stakeholders of the region are concerned over these developments at the NDDC, and Mr. President’s reported extension of the period of the Interim Management Committee to December 2020.
PANDEF, therefore, implores the Committees of both the Nigerian Senate and the House of Representatives saddled with the task to rise above board, and write their names in gold, by conducting a thorough investigation, without fear or favor. They should be mindful of persons with vested interests that may attempt to frustrate or compromise the investigation.
It is also not unexpected that pressures may be put on the National Assembly even by highly placed individuals of South South extraction to abandon this enquiry.
We thus urge members of the National Assembly to be true patriots, and not accommodate partisan considerations in this probe, because the hope of the people of the Niger Delta region and indeed Nigerians, for an improved NDDC is at stake.
It must be appreciated that the peace and development of the region is paramount, and that the Ministry of the Niger Delta Affairs and the NDDC, have critical roles to play in this regard. It was for this reason that, increased budgetary funding for the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, and interventionist agencies in the region like the NDDC, was one of the issues PANDEF highlighted in the 16-Point Demand, presented to the federal government on November 1, 2016.
The Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, in particular, has a mandate to escalate socioeconomic development in the Region by formulating and executing projects, and programmes as well as coordinating intervention activities of Agencies, Communities, Donors, and other relevant Stakeholders involved in the development of the Niger Delta Region.
The Honourable Minister of Niger Delta Affairs having been a Governor of one of the States in the region for eight years, we presumed, sufficiently understands the peculiarities and challenges of the Region, and thus, would act accordingly, in the best interest of the Region and its people. But it seems the Ministry’s only focus now is the NDDC.
It is important to note that the first and only visible project undertaken by the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs is the East-West Road; after 13 years the road is still uncompleted; a haven for criminals and deathtrap. In fact, not even an inch of construction has been added in the last five years. To the 9th National Assembly, history beckons.
His Excellency, Air Commodore Idongesit Nkanga, rtd, OFR
National Chairman, PANDEF, and former Military Governor, Akwa Ibom State.