•NASS also triggering problem in the commission
•Demand immediate inauguration
By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South, Sam Oyadongha, Festus Ahon, Egufe Yafugborhi, Davies Ihemnachor, Emem Idio, Chioma Onuegbu, Perez Brisibe, Paul Olayemi and Francis Efe
UNDERSTANDABLY, traditional rulers, leaders and stakeholders of the coastal states of Niger Delta region are enraged about the endemic fraud in the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, especially the up-to-the-minute revelations at the investigative hearing by the National Assembly, NASS, on alleged N40 billion scam in the commission.
NASS instigating distraction – Nkanga, ex-MILAD, A’Ibom
Former Military Administrator of Akwa Ibom and National Chairman, Pan Niger-Delta Forum, PANDEF, Air Commodore Idongesit Nkanga (retd.) said he was interested in the quick completion of the probe of NDDC by the National Assembly.
“PANDEF had said before now that whoever was a contractor within that time frame should be made public so that we know those that have done well and those who have not done well for Niger Delta. So our concern is for them to finish whatever investigation they are doing in time because within the one and half years now, nothing has come into the Niger Delta from the NDDC.”
“We are not interested in the drama they are doing at the National Assembly. It is childish, that is why I do not want to make any comment on that. All those things as far as we are concerned are a distraction. We just want the National Assembly to do its own investigation without fear or favour. That is my take on that.”
Buhari should swear in NASS-approved board – Ovie of Agbon
One of the royal fathers, His Majesty, Michael Omeru, Ogurime-Rime, Ukor’i 1, Ovie of Agbon Kingdom in Delta State, told Saturday Vanguard: “President Muhammadu Buhari should inaugurate the NDDC Board cleared by the National Assembly with Chief Bernard Okumagba as Managing Director now. President Buhari may have realized that the contrived Interim Management Committee, IMC, was sold to him with adverse purpose going by the absurd revelations coming from the committee members themselves at the NASS probe.”
“Chief Okumagba, a technocrat and financial management expert, could not have involved a board under him in what the country is witnessing now. I would like to appeal to the President to take a close look at suggestions and submissions from his appointees to avoid the numerous flaws in his government. Most appointees put their personal interest first and foremost. “Furthermore, he should allow due process to take center stage from now on.
Inaugurate new board – Dr. Mudiaga-Odje, constitutional lawyer
Constitutional lawyer and human rights activist, Dr Akpo Mudiaga-Odje, also posited: “Indeed, I agree and in concord with the Senate hearing on the raped and deprived NDDC. In July 2000, the courageous Senator Chuba Okadigbo and Hon Ghali Nabba overrode the assent of Olusengun Obasanjo as President, under Section 58 (3 & 4) of the Constitution. Since then, this NDDC has become a labyrinth of corruption and endemic sleaze.”
“The statements and counter statements from the hearing are scandalous and beyond shame.
“As to my take on this, I agree with Prof Itse Sagay SAN, that the way forward should be to immediately swear in the substantive board approved by the Senate on November 5, 2019.
“Once this is done, the Federal Government should monitor their spending and regulate the award of contracts in the commission. Mr. President should do the needful now. In the meantime, we call on the federal government to immediately pay all arrears of the shortfall of the payment of 10 percent instead of 15 percent as directed by Section 14 to the Commission.
“And oil and gas IOCs should immediately pay up all arrears of payment of 1 percent instead of 2 percent as directed by the NDDC Act 2000. We cannot be doing forensic audit without complying with the law,” he said.
Akpabio should go – Ambakederimo, campaigner
Niger Delta leader and Founder/Lead Executive Director, Global Forum for Accountability and Transparency Nigeria, Mr. Joseph Ambakederimo said: “With the scandalous revelations coming out of the NASS probe of NDDC, it becomes deeply troubling the way and manner the NDDC expends monies without recourse to prioritization of projects that will impact on the people of the region. The revelations must fully be investigated and decisive and far reaching action taken to reposition the NDDC to better serve the people of the region.”
“This is the appropriate time for the President to act swiftly on the NDDC as he did with the NSITF, EFCC and others. The NDDC cannot be treated in isolation when so many financial infractions are been committed on a daily basis. Even when we express our disgust and revulsion on the attitude of the President on issues currently unfolding at the NDDC, we will continue to impress it on the President to do the needful and take the necessary action to stop the hemorrhaging at the NDDC.
“If one would ask without trying to preempt the outcome of the forensic audit, will the audit capture the mismanagement of resources that have come out as a result of the NASS probe? Once again, we reiterate that if the President may decide not to discontinue the forensic audit, we urge the President to discountenance whatever the report that will emanate from the audit. The reason been the report will not be all encompassing to trigger the desired outcome to achieve the purpose for which it was intended.
“Going further, the Minister and the Interim Management Committee, IMC, have this habit of trivializing very important issues of allegations of corruption leveled against them. Instead of addressing the issues of financial improprieties, they take pleasure in name calling.
“With all of these disclosures such as claims of giving monies to the Nigeria Police up to the tune of N475 million to buy sanitizers and face mask, and N3.14billion expenditure for Covid-19 pandemic palliatives to selected staff of the commission when their salaries subsist, the issue of attending graduation ceremony in the United Kingdom in the months when the entire world is on lockdown and payment of scholarship grant into personal accounts of top officials of the commission.
“These schemes follow a pattern that are ingrained in NDDC, which have become institutionalized corruption where the purported beneficiary agency of government does not get the items claimed to have been requested for. It is just a scheme to take out monies from the coffers of the commission and that is stealing directly from the treasury.
“We need to hear from the Nigeria Police what they actually got from the NDDC, is it cash or the physical items of sanitizers and face mask? These are proving questions which answers must be provided for.
“Akpabio failed definitively with his handling of affairs in the NDDC. The NDDC is in the midst of one of the worst governing failures in its history. The intervention has become terrible and his lawlessness cannot be left unnoticed for too long. He has brought too many embarrassments to the President, therefore, Akpabio should quit,” he said.
NASS, major problem of NDDC- Jackson, activist
Chancellor, International Society for Social Justice and Human Rights, ISSJHR, Dr. Omenazu Jackson, however, berated the National Assembly, saying it was the major problem affecting the delivering of development by NDDC.
He said: “The NASS is part of the problem equally. Even aside the current leadership or chairmen of NASS Committees on the NDDC, the previous ones are equally culpable in terms of negative influence on the commission.”
“When one considers the level of underdevelopment of the Delta region, level of poverty and ecological devastation which is tantamount to environmental genocide to the people of the region, yet the Akpobios and Nuniehs are busy washing their dirty linings in public, I consider their behavior nonsensical.
“If one considers the billions of naira so far invested in NDDC and evaluate the development in the region, then all those who have got anything to do with that commission should be jailed, mostly those that have got to do with its management from inception till date. The forensic audit should be holistic and those found wanting jailed as a deterrent to others,” he added.
Jackson noted: “It is unfortunate that Niger Deltans found themselves in this sorry state of affairs. Mr President should be stern in his quest to sanitize the commission. There should be no sacred cows in this regard, only those who are enemies of the Delta region will behave the way most managers of the commission behave.”
“Unfortunately, the people of the region have been so docile and refused to take ownership of the commission. A situation where a contractor comes to your community, executes shabby job and goes home without been questioned by the community tells how unprepared and unpatriotic we have been.
“Until the people ask pertinent questions and demand answers, we may be heading to the scrapping of the commission or the enemies of the region will hijack it and return it to the table of those whose interest is to make our people second -class citizens. I weep for Senator Godswill Akpabio and Barr Joi Nuienieh for their public show of shame and unpatriotic approach to the Niger Delta course,” he stated.
Amend NDDC Act to stop leakage – Olorogun Egbo
All Progressives Congress, APC, 2023 governorship hopeful in Delta state, Olorogun
Jaro Egbo, told one of our reporters: “Every reasonable citizen of Niger Delta and indeed every Nigerian is embarrassed by the humongous money being mentioned as looted fund why the people of the region are wallowing in abject poverty and underdevelopment.”
“Until the interventionist agency is seen as a vehicle of development of the region, rather than a cash cow to feather their selfish and self-serving political nest, we will continue to witness such show of shame.
“I am certainly frustrated and disappointed that billions of naira are being frittered away while the core mission of the commission is unattended to. Genuine contractors are being owed why someone can boastfully say that as acting managing director, she paid N23 billion for yellow fever. My God, N23 billion for non-existing yellow fever that was not budgeted for.
“I suggest that the forensic audit should be handled by a presidential panel like the one investigating EFCC chairman, Ibrahim Magu, so that both Ministers, IMC and NASS members, who are implicated in contract racketeering are made to face the full weight of the law.
“The NDDC Act also need to be amended to make it more effective in blocking leakages and frittering of the commission’s resources.”
Akpabio playing to the gallery – Nwauju, NDRA spokesperson
Spokesman, Niger Delta Rights Advocates, NDRA, Darlington Nwauju, asserted: “It only confirms the fact that the IMC has deviated completely from the very purpose for its setting up. My frustration is with the revelation that the supervising minister had only been grandstanding over his mission and commitment to his job.
“Going forward, I think it has become a consensus that Akpabio be sacked by Mr President. The IMC should be dissolved because it has completely lost the confidence of the people of the region.
“The appointment of lead consultant for the forensic audit should be reviewed immediately and an audit firm with pedigree engaged. Then a proper NDDC board be inaugurated according to the Establishment Act.”
Sack or retool NDDC – Jonjon, environmental crusader
Ijaw leader and environmental crusader, Chief Oyinfie Jonjon, asserted: ”The NDDC corruption problems are beyond human imagination. The allegations of corruption and incompetence levied against the immediate pass acting managing director, the IMC led by Professor Pondei and the Minister of the Niger Delta, Senator Godswill Akpabio, show high state of managerial dysfunction in the agency.”
“Can you imagine in this era of COVID-19 lockdown that we are hearing of such millions being payed as palliatives?
“Meanwhile, nothing for the people who own the wealth. So, NDDC has been turned to a failing cash cow for the corrupt predatory class in Nigeria.
Justice Salami panel should join NDDC probe – Castro, IPAC scribe
Speaking to Saturday Vanguard, Secretary, Inter party Advisory Committee, IPAC, Cross River, Castro Ezama, has called President Buhari to direct the Justice Ayo Salami panel to join in the investigation of the NDDC in a bid to solving the quagmire.
According to him: “Also if it is possible the Justice Ayo Salami panel should be brought in from the presidency because I believe that he is a no nonsense person and I believe he can do a good job at NDDC and will be able to solve this quagmire and ensure the truth is unraveled. Anyone found guilty should face the wrath of the law. NDDC is one of the most sensitive commissions in Nigeria and must be treated as such.”
Constitute NASS approved board for NDDC
”We completely condemn the inactivity currently going on in NDDC ,they should rise up to the occasion ,We call on President Buhari to as a matter of urgency constitute the Board , it is important to the region.
“My frustrations is the level of corruption at the commission, they should be investigated and the funds recovered and put into what it was originally meant for .The board should be constituted to create the channel of communication and make it easier for states to access their commissioner.
NDDC requires clinical surgery- Eteng, APC stalwart
On his part, APC stalwart in Cross River, Utum Eteng, said: “The happenings and commentary about the wastage, financial scandals, looting extraordinary and mismanagement in the NDDC are sad, frightening and extremely scandalous.”
“The situation requires the immediate intervention of PMB if the image of this government and indeed the NDDC are to be redeemed quickly. The NDDC is seen as a goldmine and fraud centre where every man and woman of fraudulent disposition fervently prays to be sent. Obasanjo made no mistake when he established the commission to be used to touch the sufferings of the people, who lay the golden eggs upon which the Nigerian nation harvest the money to run this country.
“The probe by the National Assembly should go on alongside many others because the stealing there is huge, Eteng said.
S’South politicians fueling crisis – Mrs. Oyibu, Delta APC women leader
Delta State APC women leader, Mrs Janet Oyibu, blamed the current charade going on in the NDDC on the insensitivity of politicians from the South- South, stressing that they see the commission as a place to make money to finance their next elections.
She said: “They should allow the forensic auditors to do their work, they should also allow the National Assembly to do their investigation too. What I see in all these is that everybody is watching their backs and this will make the public know their stand.”
“But the unfortunate thing is that we, from the south- south, like shooting ourselves on the foot and at the end of everything we will start saying that the northerners are sidelining us. I am of the view that politicians from the south- south see the NDDC as a means of making money for their subsequent elections. They do not have the interest of the masses at heart.
“There is something like this (NDDC) in the north and they are doing well for themselves. But here in the south-south, there is this power tussle whereby people feel that if it is not me, then it cannot be any other person. If you want to cast aspersions based on hearsay then you will offend so many people.
“I do not want to take sides in this matter because I believe that the President has given an order and that order is been checked by the National Assembly,” she said.
In Akwa Ibom, the spectacle in the ongoing has dominated discussions in Uyo, the state capital due to involvement of the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio who hails from the state.
Akpabio should be fired – Peters, lawyer
Uyo-based legal practitioner, Mr. Mfon Peters said: “What is happening is not new to some of us. For people who followed Akpabio closely for eight years as governor, it is not a new thing to us. I do not believe that the lady, Joi Nunieh would make frivolous allegations if there are no elements of truth. So the only solution is for President Buhari to dissolve the interim Board of the NDDC and the Interim Management Committee (IMC).
“He should remove Akpabio as Minister of the Niger Delta Affairs, but the forensic audit should be allowed to go on because it is critical,” he said.
Nobody is guilty yet – Hon Eyibo, ex-parliamentarian
However, a former member of House of Representatives, Honourable Eseme Eyibo, said the public should not start judging which of the parties in the investigation process was right or wrong pending the conclusion of the probe, describing the investigative hearing as a normal process of check and balancing.
“It is not a media trial. It is not something that public opinion prevails. The public should allow all the parties to be heard. There has to be a conclusion. The presumption that a person is guilty or not will be determined by the Court.
“That woman (Nunieh) was only expressing her opinion. Within the context of our Constitution, she has the right to say what she wants to say. Akpabio also has a right within the context of what the woman alleged to either reply the woman or keep quiet,”Eyibo said.