PERFIDY IN NDDC – By Sotonye Ijuye-Dagogo

The Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC is in the eye of the storm. The agency that was established to bring rapid development to the Niger Delta Region, ravaged by the devastating effect of petroleum exploration and exploitation, is in the news for all the wrong reasons.

The stench of corruption oozing from the NDDC stinks uncontrollably in total contradiction to its mandate.

Whether N81.5 billion was spent between October 2019 and May 2020 or it was spent in just four months. Whether N1.5 billion or N1.3 billion was shared as Covid-19 palliatives to staff. Whether N4.2 billion was spent in one day in tranches of N49 million through budget splitting, or N40 billion is missing. Be it the payment of N536 million to a group of associates, N641 million to a Communication Company or N536 million for Save Lives Campaign. The figures are simply mind-boggling.

It is beyond belief that these humongous amounts of money represent activities in the NDDC for just the last eight months, a horrendous indication of what has been going on in the agency since it was established about two decades now.

A clearer picture of the huge amount was painted by Dr. Daminabo Briggs when he said that “Corruption is so systemic in Nigeria that we have lost the sense of one billion Naira. Let me break it down. If we spend one hundred Thousand Naira every day, we will need Ten Thousand days or twenty-seven (27) plus years to exhaust it”. This means that an individual would have to spend one hundred thousand Naira daily to exhaust one billion Naira in 27 plus years. Multiply that by 81.5 billion, then you’ll get the real picture.

The current Executive Director of Projects of the agency, Dr. Cairo Ojuogboh said on national TV that, NDDC contracts are extremely inflated, it is like winning a lottery. A contract of seven hundred million naira can be executed with ten to twenty million naira. Such is the dilemma of the Niger Delta, raped by its own people.

The NDDC was established in the year 2000 “with the mission to facilitate the rapid, even and sustainable development of the Niger Delta into a region that is economically prosperous, socially stable, ecologically regenerative and politically peaceful”.

How can these lofty goals be achieved in the face of massive looting of the coffers of the agency by its own people and their outside collaborators?

Recall, that the Oil Mineral Producing Areas Development Commission (OMPADEC) the precursor of NDDC was dissolved based on widespread complaints of corruption. Twenty years after, the same allegations that destroyed the OMPADEC are being investigated at the NDDC.

Some say that the NDDC was designed to fail because the federal government was not willing but pressurized to create the intervention body. This they say, accounts for the hundreds of billions of unpaid monies owed the NDDC by the federal government.

The situation is made worse by interferences in the agency’s operations by powerful forces in the presidency, especially First Ladies, Secretaries to the Federal Government, Chiefs of Staff to the President and Ministers. Appointments into the NDDC are made by big guns at the federal level who appoint people ready to do their biddings.

It is instructive that since it was created about twenty years ago and until President Buhari ordered a forensic audit; no federal administration has asked for the audited account of NDDC through which such humongous amounts were being channeled. Previous federal administrations couldn’t probe the agency because they all had their hands in the cookie jar.

Fredrick Nwabufor enlarged the looters’ gang when he said that what “we often see on the surface as corruption in government agencies is tap-rooted with connectors to social crusaders, polemicists, activists and civil groups. Corruption in Nigeria has a long value chain”.

This explains the strange silence of our traditional rulers, militants, ex-militants, social activists and ethnic leaders. None of the loud voices in the Niger Delta has said a word on the ongoing show of shame at the NDDC. They have maintained strange silence because they are all beneficiaries of the “food is ready” NDDC, where rice and stew are very plenty. Add politicians to the list and the picture is complete. Politicians use NDDC to fund elections.

The 2023 election is already playing out in the ongoing forensic audit. Gov. Wike of Rivers State is fully involved, “protecting his constituents” from midnight police harassment, just as the south-south governors, all of them PDP, voted to support the forensic audit. The PDP is doing all it can to make sure that the APC and the current IMC do not use NDDC funds for the next elections, beginning from the upcoming Edo and Ondo governorship.

On the other hand, the APC in the region wants the agency preserved ahead of 2023 because the party does not control any state coffers in the region and the NDDC is one huge source of election funds.

This is the story of perfidy, the plundering of the NDDC by sons and daughters of the Niger Delta and their outside collaborators. It is the sad tale of the most outstanding institutional response to the development of the region by the federal government.

Sotonye Ijuye-Dagogo resides in Port Harcourt.

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