We note, with cautious delight, the general improvements in the anti-graft war of the Muhammadu Buhari administration, especially at this outset of his second term. There has been a general scaling-down of the blame game and greater inclusion in the anti-graft war as opposed to the perceived one-sidedness it was accused of during the highly politicised atmosphere of the first tenure.
The prosecution of Abdulrasheed Maina, the fugitive former Chairman of the Presidential Task Team on Pension Reform and interim forfeiture of his alleged stolen assets; the sack and prosecution of Okoi Obono-Obla, the former Chairman of the Special Investigation Panel for the Recovery of Public Property for alleged corruption and a number of new measures point to a repositioning of the war on corruption to regain the flagging confidence of the people.
President Buhari’s decision to conduct a forensic audit of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, which was established by former President Olusegun Obasanjo on June 5, 2000 to address the developmental needs of the nine-state region, is well received. The audit is to cover the duration of the Commission’s existence till date.
Buhari said in a recent tweet: “I have ordered a forensic audit of the Niger Delta Development Commission. With the amount of money the Federal Government has allocated to the NDDC, we’d like to see the results on the ground, those that are responsible for that have to explain certain issues”.
NDDC, which is allocated N81billion in the 2020 budget, is believed to have gulped trillions of naira in its 19-year existence, yet scant evidence of its benefits are visible. Many of the projects are substandard or abandoned, while scores of contractors complain of being denied their fees after jobs done. On the other hand, many contractors obtained mobilisation fees and absconded with public money. It is important to take stock and see where we can right the wrongs wherever they exist.
The push for this forensic probe started in the House of Representatives when Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila set up a 72-man committee to investigate the activities of the Commission since inception in line with Section 88 of the Constitution.
We join genuine stakeholders in the Niger Delta affairs who have risen in support of the probe, and urge the Federal Government to ignore those who want it abandoned. Unlike similar self-serving probes conducted by appointed officials of the Commission which did not make their findings public, we demand that the result of the forensic audit and the House probe should be made public, and those behind the rot appropriately sanctioned.
If this probe is done the right way, it will rekindle the faith of Nigerians in the anti-graft war and force those entrusted with public funds to sit up.