By Obot Uduak Udofia
The NDDC has remained in the news mostly for the wrong reason particularly on corruption related allegations from various Niger Delta stakeholders under the firm suzareinty of czar Obot Godswill Akpabio as commander in-chief being the supervising minister.
Corruption has become a cancer with no known antidote for it’s cure just like the deadly coronavirus currently ravaging the world. NDDC under the supervision of my fellow kinsman Obot Godswill Akpabio is no exception to this unfortunate corruption virus which has eaten so deep into our social fabrics.
Recall that Nigerians woke up to the news that, President Muhammadu Buhari had sent a list of 15 board-member nominees for the NDDC to the Senate in October of 2019 who were duly cleared awaiting inauguration before the Minister, Godswill Akpabio convinced the President to set up an illegal interim management committee (IMC) which is still being strongly opposed by stakeholders because it is in clear breach of the NDDC establishment act, 2000 with a mandate to supervise a Forensic audit. An audit that has become a ruse and being manipulated by the committee to loot and fritter away over 60 billion naira that was enough to complete the long abandoned East-West road project and other meaningful impactful projects that could have been beneficial to the Niger Delta region.
The above development elicited alot of reactions from Niger Delta stakeholders as reproduced below.
Reacting to the development, the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) Worldwide on Monday 5th November, 2020 called on the minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Goodswill Akpabio, to dissolve the interim committee which is in contravention of the extant laws establishing the NDDC.
IYC, which made this call at a press briefing also demanded for a substantive board for the NDDC.
President of the IYC, Eric Omare who made the call, also sought that the forensic audit of the commission, ordered to be carried out by President Muhammadu Buhari, should be supervised by the president himself and not the Niger Delta Affairs ministry.
Omare said, the crisis Akpabio had thrown the NDDC into would derail and slow down the development of the region, adding that virtually all the roads in the Niger Delta were bad, and that rather than the NDDC going to work it was embroiled in unnecessary crisis, which he said was not in the interest of Niger Delta region.
“The IYC completely rejects the interim management committee set up by Chief Akpabio because it is illegal and not in the interest of the NDDC and the Niger Delta region to set up such a committee.
The unresolved issues surroundering the illegal contraption called interim management committee (IMC) by the President, has given tacit approval for an all round corruption in the NDDC leading to the IMC performing the roles of a substantive board ranging from illegal employment of over 500 staff, payments of over 60 billion naira contracts for non impactful contracts such as water hycynth, de-silting, lassa fever kits to various beneficiary companies of an “Udorji style” award aimed at looting the resources of the commission dry.
Unfortunately for the Niger Delta indigenous people but fortunately for the illegal Interim Management Committe (IMC) and their leading Czar, the novel coronavirus created yet another platform to loot the commission. They wasted no time as usual, to approve over 1 billion under the guise of fighting coronavirus which was never used to procure a single ventilator or other vital protective kits to help those already infected and those vulnerable. This is laughable. Stakeholders are therefore asking Czar Obot Godswill Akpabio and his illegal interim management committee if the core mandate of the NDDC included appropriation of resources indiscriminately?
The other question raised by stakeholders is that, while constituting the Interim Management Committe (IMC) though illegal, did President Muhammadu Buhari also empower them to alter, validate/backdate contract award letters and make humongous payments to their cronies companies of interest including collecting kick-backs? what then happened to the so much publicized forensic audit?
Did the President appoint them hiding under the ploy of a Forensic audit that has now been abandoned for mass looting to remain perpetually as a substantive management board?
Stakeholders are also asking why the so called Forensic audit report is yet to be submitted to the President six months down the line? could this be another case of the more you look, the less you see?
While calling on President Muhammadu Buhari to sack Obot Godswill Akpabio along side the illegal interim management committee (IMC), the Niger Delta people are of the view that it seems corruption has now become part of governance in Nigeria if the President fails to order the probe of Obot Godswill Akpabio and his Corrupt infected illegal interim management committee in the NDDC who are indirectly blackmailing his good name with their squandering of the commission’s resources.
Obot Uduak Udofia is a development policy expert from the Niger Delta writes from Uyo.