Call for immediate dissolution of board
Support NASS Probe C’ttee
By Gabriel Ewepu – Abuja
Following the ongoing probe by the National Assembly into alleged monumental corruption at the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, 37 Civil Society Organisations, CSOs, Wednesday, demanded thorough investigation and prosecution of those found culpable no matter their positions and political connections.
The demand was made in a statement signed by the leaders of the CSOs and made available to Vanguard, which includes, Nnimmo Bassey, Health of Mother Earth Foundation; Ken Henshaw, We The People; David Ugolor, Africa Network for Environmental and Economic Justice (ANEEJ); Tijah Bolton Akpan, Policy Alert; Emem Okon, Kabetkache Women Development Resource Centre; Onose Martha, Community Empowerment and Development Initiative; Comrade Nelson Nnanna Nwafor, Foundation for Environmental Rights Advocacy & Development (FENRAD).
Faith Nwadishe, Koyenum IMMALAH Foundation; Keme Opia, Bayelsa NGOs Forum (BANGOF); Harry Udoh, Support Training and Entrepreneurship Programme (STEP); Daisy Abiola Idufueko, Conference of NGOs Edo State (CONGOs); Clinton Ezeigwe, Christian Fellowship and Care Foundation; Obasanmi Jude, Josemaria Child Rights Network; Comrade Ede O. Edem, Green Concern for Development (GREENCODE); Umo Isua-Ikoh, Peace Point Development Foundation; Frank Oloniju, Life and Peace Development Organisation (LAPDO).
Adeosun J.O.J, Komuniti in Action Initiatives (KAI); Lawrence Dube, Citizens Trust; Pius Dukor, Pius Dukor Foundation; Anthony Aalo, Kallop Humanitarian & Environmental Centre; Idongesit Alexander, League of Queens international Empowerment; Grace Namon, Gbogbia Feefeelo; Lezina Patrick, Edee Ladies of Tai; Precious Ibegwura-Egi Human Rights and Environmental Justice Initiative; Nne Umoren, Women Initiative on Climate Change; Regina Fabian, Rural Health Women Development; Glory Alexander, Alauchi Women Development Initiative; Prof Zabbey Nenibarini; Ngozi Ugolor, Oghara Centre for Women and Girl-Child Development; Peter Nwadishe, Network on Good Governance; Ememobong Okon, Hope for Coastal Women Empowerment Initiative; Florence Aniedi, Justice Development & Peace Commission/Caritas; Susan Bassey-Duke, Gender & Development Action (GADA); AkpoBari Celestine, Ogoni Solidarity Forum-Nigeria; Anthony Aalo, Kallop Humanitarian and Environmental Center.
According to the statement, civil society organizations are perplexed and outraged by the gory tales of corruption in the Commission especially as it has been revealed by the National Assembly Probe Committee, they have long been aware of these happenings and have often called the attention of the federal government and the people of the region to the failures of the Commission.
They have embarked on project monitoring activities and written countless reports detailing the malfeasance in the Commission, but the government has consistently refused to take action, as all efforts to instill accountability and transparency in the Commission have thus far lacked the support of successive governments.
The statement reads in part, “We are deeply concerned about recent revelations on the scale of corruption and mismanagement in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
“We recall that the NDDC was established in 2000 as one of the first tasks of the new democratic government in Nigeria, and was conceived as a response to the agitations of the people of the region for greater benefits from the hydrocarbon resource exploitation, as well as responding to the dearth of development and basic social services in the region.
“It was established with the mission of facilitating the rapid, even and sustainable development of the Niger Delta into a region that is economically prosperous, socially stable, ecologically regenerative, and politically peaceful.
“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 have 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 disincentivize 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.
“To address the decay in NDDC and reposition the Commission to live to its expectation, we demand the following immediate actions:
“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 recognized audit firms with experience in similar audit exercises, who must be selected through an open, free, and competitive bidding process.
“That credible civil society organizations be allowed to closely monitor the audit process to ensure fairness, accuracy, and compliance with the highest standards; That immediate dissolution of the current board of the NDDC.
“A halt to reckless activities at the NDDC starting with the immediate freezing to withdrawals of the account(s). 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.
“Publication of the details of all contractors to the NDDC against the contracts they executed on behalf of the Commission; We also demand a publication of the list of NGOs that benefited from the cash grants from the NDDC; The NDDC must henceforth embark on projects determined by the communities to avoid the persistent frittering of resources through insatiable private pockets; Publish the report the Auditor-General and NEITI report on NDDC.
“The Niger Delta has become the prime example of a territory that has suffered virtually irreparable social and ecological damage. Many Niger Deltans have lost their lives in the struggle for the rescue of the region from utter destruction. It is unconscionable that a commission set up to ameliorate the situation has further added to the harm of the region.”
However, the CSOs also alleged that with five heads shortly one after the one to be in charge of the NDDC by the Buhari-led administration, the Commission has brought about instability in discharging its responsibility, “It is pertinent to note that the current Presidency has appointed at least 5 heads of the NDDC in a short period of 5 years, essentially contributing to the instability in the Commission.”
Meanwhile, the CSOs have thrown weight behind the Probe Committee of the National Assembly to do a thorough and comprehensive investigation to unravel all corrupt practices and those who perpetrated them.
Although, they pointed out that several times the Commission has been fingered of corrupt practices, which led to probe processes but never saw the light of the day.
“While we welcome the probe of the National Assembly, we recall that this is not the first time the NDDC has been in the spotlight in this regard. There have been investigative processes previously that revealed alarming levels of corruption in the Commission.
“Unfortunately, those processes did not amount to any significant changes in the Commission or even the prosecution of culprits. We are disturbed and genuinely concerned that the current hearing of the National Assembly Committee could end in the same manner, especially given the abrupt end of the public hearings.
“As civil society organizations and the people of the region, we have documented all the allegations of corruption and abuse of due process in the Commission revealed at the public hearing.
They also vowed to closely monitor public officials in the Commission in line with investigations ongoing and the outcome it.
“We will be closely monitoring the corresponding actions of all duty bearers in line with ensuring investigations and prosecution are carried out. This must not end in the manner other efforts ended”, it added.