BY: IFEANYI IZEZE
It would have just been okay to stay comment on all the ramblings
concerning the Ministry of Niger Delta and the Niger Delta Development
Commission (NDDC) but for the fact that the people of the region are
being deliberately helped to divert from core issues that has completely
disabled the interventionist agency instituted to correct years of
outright criminal neglect of the region by the centre, the oil
companies, and a few privileged natives.
Good as it sounded that General Mohammadu Buhari has recognized and
acknowledged that endemic corruption is the major problem in the agency
and ordered a forensic audit of its financial dealings, but is he going
about it the right way?
Does it surprise anybody that even as we talk, the Interim Management
Acting Executive Director Projects, Cairo Ojougboh has been carrying on
as if he is the forensic auditor, ICPC, and the EFCC all in one. He has
already sentenced hundreds of people in his mind by his unguarded
In what supposed to be more of an intelligence gathering assignment,
Ojougbo has been running manifests of hundreds of projects criminally
awarded and paid for with threats of “heads rolling” from his
investigation. It ought not to be so because by so doing, the interim
team is creating enemies among people whose cooperation the committee
may critically need in the audit proper if we are really serious about
sanitising the organisation.
It is very pathetic that we always squander every opportunity to right
the wrongs of our past in the Niger Delta. The interim team was only
asked to create the “enabling environment” for the audit proper
and not to become the auditor and the prosecutor.
More importantly, how can you have an Interim Management Committee
without a deadline for its assignment? By implication, they could be
there for as long as those who appointed them desire. Is that how to go?
This is an outright breach of the Constitution and should be seen as
Also, within the pendency of the reign of the Interim Management Team
and the actual forensic audit, what happens to the funding of the NDDC
and its projects? Does the interim team have the constitutional rights
to receive monies on behalf of the commission and engaged in project
execution and/or new contract awards? If yes, to me it sounds more like
the familiar patronage for party loyalty. And if the answer is no, then
there is an issue of what happens to the agency’s funds.
Without denying that corruption has remained a major drawdown to the
effectiveness of the agency in delivering on its original mandates,
making it look as if the problem was created by the people of the
region, to me is an outright mischief to steer away from the epicentre
of the evil that has been bedevilling the spirit and intent of the
supposed interventionist agency.
By the NDDC Act, the Commission was supposed to give annual and
quarterly report to the President about its activities and expenditures.
Has the Commission been doing that before now (2020)? If yes, we may
need to know what was reported to the President. If the agency has not
been doing that, we also need to know why the Presidency did not compel
them to submit such briefs. Effective supervision could have helped a
lot in checkmating the corruption in the NDDC system.
Nigerians particularly the Niger Delta people need to know the sum total
of the amount of money that was supposed to be given to the commission
within the period under review (even to this year). Was the money
released to the agency as at when due and if not, we also need to know
why the balance was withheld and where the withheld money is kept.
Some Nigerians may think it’s not necessary to ask the above questions
but my people, that is where the major problem of corruption and
misappropriation in the NDDC is being bred.
Without mincing words, the failure of NDDC to live up to its mandate is
attributable to its structure of governance where what happens in the
commission is dictated from Abuja by a political class dominated by
people from outside the Niger Delta. This is the truth!
Clearly, the major problem of the NDDC is the manipulative exercise of
power by those who maintain proximity to the Presidency for self-serving
The Commission has merely become an agency for enriching political party
loyalists from all sections of the country rather than an organisation
set up to deal with the fundamental issues of the development imbalance
of the Niger Delta region that has been bearing the full brunt of the
adverse effects of producing oil and gas to sustain the entire country.
Honestly, it should be vexing to any genuine indigene of the Niger Delta
region that in spite of all the efforts (real and cosmetic) to develop
the region, and after billions of naira have been pumped into the region
by government and corporate donors, the development imbalance in the
area rather than improve, is becoming worse as all indices of
development continue to point south-south. How do explain that despite
that fund for hundreds of projects have been collected by those who were
supposed to do the jobs, the region is littered with huge numbers of
abandoned projects and shabbily completed ones? But this is just one
half of the pathetic story of this failed interventionist agency.
The other half is that there seemed to be a deliberate sabotage of the
entire concept by people who have been in and around the corridors of
power in Abuja. If my people know how NDDC contracts are racketeered at
the Presidency and National Assembly, nobody from the region would have
ever accepted any job contract that had to do with NDDC projects.
The patronage disposition of the successive boards of the commission and
the monumental corruption that characterises their activities clearly
depicted the sorry fact they were unilaterally appointed by the
Presidency in Abuja to service loyalty and not the Niger Delta region
and its peoples.
Of a truth, the focal point of corruption and project racketeering that
has bedevilled the NDDC is domiciled in the Presidency. Most of the
contractors or service providers that work for the Commission in the
Niger Delta only get a percentage of budgets for project contracts
awarded them. So what do they do? They just mobilise to the sites and
also use just a meagre percentage of whatever they got from the Abuja
racketeers to do as much as the marked down fund can go. This is the
main cause of why we have thousands of abandoned projects littered all
over the region.
Now let’s look at it: when the Commission came into being in January
2001, it was expected to be funded from 15 per cent federal allocation
to the nine oil producing states of the region, 50 per cent of
ecological fund due to the nine states, and three per cent of annual
budget of oil producing companies. How this was to be implemented
remained at best blurred and at worst obscured.
For whatever reasons, those that packaged the funding concept including
representatives of the various interest groups in the region were blind
to the structure being handed them.
It was an outright mischief by the Presidency to have demanded 15 per
cent of the federal allocation to the nine oil producing states of the
region as part of the funding arrangement for what was supposed to be a
federal government interventionist operation in the oil states.
Also, if the core idea of a special development intervention for the oil
producing region was to compensate and/or correct years of neglect by
the federal government, how come the various state governments of the
region has to forfeit 50 percent of their entitled allocation from the
National Ecological Fund? So what makes the idea of special attention to
the region in this arrangement when other states of the federation that
are not as battered as the states of the region continue to receive 100
percent of their monies from the Ecological Fund?
The bigger problem lies in the oil producing companies being asked to
bring 3 percent of their annual budgets to co-fund the NDDC. Have they
been doing it? The answer is no! It is a near impossibility to get the
actual funds from these foreign operators who are masters in the act of
voodoo budgeting and expenditure manipulations. For the oil companies,
it has become convenient for them to hide under the excuse that managers
of the Commission need to account for monies received before getting new
Whether anybody wants to hear this or not, the NDDC was structured to
fail. The Presidency was so mischievous that they could not muster
enough political will power to be honest in the packaging of the entire
idea of declaring a development marshal plan for the victimised oil
producing region. So to rid the agency of the plethora of malaise
infesting it and to make it to become effective as originally intended,
the governance structure must be reworked. The Steve Orosanye Panel
Report had very descent recommendations along this line and the
Presidency should revisit the report.
(IFEANYI IZEZE WRITES FROM ABUJA: IIZEZE@YAHOO.COM; 234-8033043009)