The politics and corruption of NDDC

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The Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) for a long period has been in the eye of the storm for not too good reasons. Massive corruption allegations have been leveled against the management of the commission.

The NDDC was set up by the Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration in 2000 to cater for specific needs of the oil producing states in the country. The focus of the commission is to engage the restive youths of the region in productive engagement that would in the long run contribute to the diversification of economy in the region and by extension, the country.

Revelations recently show that the commission is plagued with abandoned projects running into billions of naira and are littered the region. This was part of the reasons President Muhammadu Buhari ordered forensic audit of the commission from 2001 to 2019. The President, in the fall of 2019 after a closed door meeting with the governors making up the region, ordered the audit. He lamented that the state of the region does not justify the huge resources made available to the commission.

“I tried to follow the Act setting up these institutions especially the NDDC. With the amount of money that the Federal Government has religiously allocated to the NDDC, we will like to see the results on the ground; those that are responsible for that have to explain certain issues.

“The projects said to have been done must be verifiable. You just cannot say you spent so much billions and when the place is visited, one cannot see the structures that have been done. The consultants must also prove that they are competent,” he had said.

This opened the can of worms the commission has allegedly sealed tightly. The commission reportedly carried out about 8000 projects since inception in 2000, yet the region has remained under developed. The Minister of Niger-Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, while speaking earlier in the year about the forensic audit ordered by Buhari, assured that the audit firm contracted to carry out the assignment would do its job without fear or favour. He said the Bureau of Public Procurement and the Office of the Auditor General of the Federation has assessed the company and finds it worthy of the assignment.

The former head of the Interim Management Committee (IMC) and the then Acting Managing Director of the commission, Joi Nunieh, shortly after that, alleged that her life has been under threat over the audit. She said assassins were sent after her by powerful persons in and outside the region stating that she suspects highly influential people who benefitted from huge contracts awarded by the commission but did not execute any projects. Her eventual sack, she said was not far from the audit process of the commission.

Recently, at a House of Representatives Committee panel investigating the alleged financial irregularities in the commission, she accused Akpabio of contract scams and other corrupt practices in the commission. She also alleged that Akpabio attempted to sexually harass her. The minister quickly in a statement debunked the rumour and counter accused Nunieh of trying to divert attention from the probe of her time as an acting MD of the commission.

With the current management led by Kemebradikumo Pondei, accused of spending over 80 billion naira within eight months and the drama ongoing at the National Assembly public hearing, Nigerians are yet to see the sizes and colours of the worms being released from the can of a commission tainted with allegations of corruption.

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