By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South
THIRTY-FIVE leading Niger Delta-based civil society organisations, CSOs, and community organisations, on Wednesday, raised the alarm that while the National Assembly probe into the activities of Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, was ongoing, ‘bulk withdrawal’ was made from its account.
The CSOs demanded immediate freezing of withdrawals from all NDDC accounts and cessation of reckless activities at the interventionist agency.
The groups, led by Nnimmo Bassey, Health of Mother Earth Foundation, include David Ugolor, Africa Network for Environmental and Economic Justice, ANEEJ; Ken Henshaw, We, The People and Tijah Akpan, Policy Alert, in a communique, said: “While the probe of the NDDC was ongoing at the National Assembly, a bulk withdrawal was said to have been made from the commission’s account.
“This is unacceptable in the face of the commission’s history of fiscal recklessness.”
They also demanded the “Publication of the details of all contractors to the NDDC against the contracts they executed on behalf of the Commission, including the list of NGOs that benefited from the cash grants from the NDDC.
“All emerging revelations of malfeasance in the NDDC must be thoroughly investigated and culprits duly prosecuted.
“The commencement and expeditious execution of the forensic audit of the commission; the audit process must be conducted by globally recognised audit firms with experience in similar audit exercises, who must be selected through an open, free and competitive bidding process.
“Credible civil society organisations must be allowed to closely monitor the audit process to ensure fairness, accuracy and compliance with the highest standards.
“We are saddened by the fact that rather than develop the region, the huge allocations to the NDDC has rather bequeathed a legacy of abandonment, neglect and underdevelopment.
“Despite the huge yearly allocations to the commission in the last 20 years, poor management and corruption has made it impossible for the agency to exert any reasonable measure of positive impact on the region.
“To ensure we do not drift off in the sea of allegations, it is important not to lose sight of what the real issues are. We need to determine what factors led to the level of reckless looting that has been associated with the commission since its inception.
“We also need to develop strategies that will disincentive stealing and mismanagement at the NDDC and ensure that the Commission lives up to its mandate.
“It is important to note that the corruption in the NDDC thrives essentially because of political influence and patronage. Successive governments in Nigeria have treated the commission as a conduit for settlement and compensation.
“The decision as to who leads the NDDC at different points in time appears to have never been done on the basis of track record, competence or any form of merit, but rather out of consideration for settlement.
“In this regard, the Presidency shares equally in the blame over what the Commission has become.”