By Elizabeth Adegbesan
Spaces for Change (S4C), a civic group, has called on the President, Muhammadu Buhari to immediately disband the five member Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) Interim Management Committe and rellieve the Minister, Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio of his duties due to misappropriation of funds.
According to the group, the allegations of corruption involving senior officials of NDDC, an institutional framework for accelerating development progress in the region, has turned out to be a drainpipe for chronic waste, executive profligacy and the brazen diversion of funds earmarked for community development.
S4C made this call in a press statement signed by Victoria Ibezim-Ohaeri saying “A coherent, holistic and people-focused intervention is now necessary to prevent surging local discontent from rising to a level that would be too difficult to repair.
Among other things the Group said:” It is on this premise that S4C is calling on President Muhammadu Buhari to mmediately relieve the current Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Mr. Godswill Akpabio,of his duties, pending the outcome of the investigations of alleged misfeasance in public office, particularly involving fraudulent handling of NDDC contract deals.
“Immediately disband the 5-member Interim Management Committee (IMC), and reconstitute the board of the Commission as stipulated by law. The IMC’s theatrical displays at the parliamentary hearings coupled with their continuing inability to account for N81.5 billion spent between January to May 2020, casts a strong shadow of doubt on their moral and professional capability to hold public office. ”
It noted that in the last few weeks, the electronic and print media, including a sea of social media sites have been deluged with screaming headlines detailing how NDDC officials splashed obscene amounts of money on ridiculous expenses like Lassa fever, condolences, imprest, maintenance etc.
Although international borders have been closed since March 2020 when the index case of coronavirus was discovered in Nigeria, NDDC officials claim a whooping sum of N85.6 million ($220,000) was expended on foreign travel between January to May 2020.
Shocking revelations emerging from the public hearing conducted by federal legislative committees—of both the Senate and the House of Representatives—showed how NDDC officials, with the tacit connivance of federal legislators raped the region’s resources with impunity.
The Committee also found that NDDC contracts worth over N67Billion were never executed. The lawmakers of both the Senate and House were not only indicted, but also, accused of ‘hijacking’ the commission’s budgets over the years, and appropriating most of the agency’s over-bloated contracts to themselves. The Niger Delta minister charged with the supervisory responsibility for NDDC’s affairs has also been named in a chain of fraudulent activities.