…says Commission’s officials must choose development over politics
…thanks Nigerians, Media for standing by his C’mte during the probe
By Levinus Nwabughiogu-Abuja
Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, Hon. Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo has said that the need to amend the Commission’s act was to make it more development orientated in the service of the region.
He said that many deficiencies inherent in the extant laws regulating the affairs of the Commission are stifling efficiency and transparency.
Tunji-Ojo spoke against the background of a bill introduced in the House on Tuesday to repeal the NDDC act to make it effective.
Essentially, the bill will provide minimum qualification for those to be appointed into a management position within the commission and proscribe minimum qualification for the appointment of the Managing Director and Executive Directors of the Commission.
Fielding questions from Journalists on the introduction of the bill, Tunji-Ojo said expressed worry that a Commission that sits on top of billions Naira has been operating from a rented apartment.
He also underscored the need to make Executive Directors possess requisite technical competencies in their areas of appointments.
He said: “The desire to contribute our own quota to the development of the country is the reason why we are here in the first place. We have put our hands on the plough to get a commission and a Niger Delta and a country of our dream and we are not holding back.
“Just yesterday, we had the first reading of the NDDC repeal and establishment bill. The journey for the rebranding of the NDDC will not end with the issue of the probe. That is just a very minor aspect of the whole process.
“Our major desire is to hand over a well-structured organization that will have an unparalleled level of efficiency in terms of the legislative framework for people coming after us. For an organization to develop, you have to concentrate on building strong institutions rather than strong personalities.
“For this reason, we are going to work on the laws of the NDDC to make abuse of office impossible; to make it difficult for anybody to abuse office. We have to amend our laws to make sure that when people come into a particular office, they will not circumvent that office.
“I want to assure you that by the grace of the Almighty God, every kobo of the Niger Delta people works for the people of the Niger Delta. We will ensure that NDDC will be a platform for the rebirth and transformation of the Niger Delta.
“We will do our best at this level to ensure that our oversight functions are done in line with global best practices and every kobo appropriated will be accounted for, for the development of the people. We have started it. This happened to be the first time in the 21 years of the NDDC that such a thing is happening. It showed that the will is not absent.
“We have the will and the support of the leadership to do all that is needed to be done to transform the Niger Delta region. The Niger Delta region gives more than 70 per cent of the revenue of this country and the money coming into the Niger Delta region is enough to transform the region.
“But over the years, there has been nothing to show for it. It makes me sad as a Niger Delta. Now that God has given us this opportunity to contribute our quota, we will be very unfair to generations yet unborn and will be abusing the grace of God on our lives if we do not take decisive action of making the commitment to work.
“I am happy that the new Interim Administrator came and we can see what he is trying to do and very soon, they will commissioning the headquarters building. That is a very big achievement because an agency spending trillions cannot house itself. What an irony. We hope the commission will work to the satisfaction of the people.
“The bill is not an amendment bill. We are repealing the act because there are so many things that are not right. The NDDC is one act that has no punishment for whatever you do and when you don’t have deterrent measures, definitely there will be an abuse of office.
“Secondly, there is over politicization of the commission and that is why the commission is why as an instrument to foster political interest. You must pick one. It is either you want to play politics or you want to do development and for us, we are setting a commission for development and not for politicking.
“You have an MD who sits and control billions and yet, there is no basic qualification for those who will head the commission. So, we should have a basic qualification that should take away from politics.
“In all organisations that are working, there is the basic qualification for the head because once the head is bad, it affects everybody. You also have somebody who is a Doctor being appointed Executive Director in charge of the project and you are supposed to go and inspect multi-billion bridges and yet you don’t have the technical capacity for that. If you must be in that position, you must be a registered engineer with a certain level of experience. We are looking at all these lacunae.
“We saw issues of remittances to NNDC. By virtue of the act, there is no punishment for non -remittance. We have worked the law in such a way that the power to collect this revenue lies with the FIRS and remove the third party gap of agents collecting the revenue. So, we have to amend the law to make it more workable.
“Stakeholders’ management is not known to the NDDC act and peace is very key to the development of that region. Is you don’t have those saddled with that responsibility, the issue of peace management becomes impossible.
“We have to also look at the number of politicians we can have on the board at any given time. We must be able to balance politics and development. But when you are playing politics at the expense of development, then that is a massive disservice to the people that you have taken an oath to serve”.
Speaking on the heels of an award by a group of online Journalists operating in Abuja, Tunji-Ojo expressed gratitude to Nigerians for standing by him during the probe of the NDDC by his Committee over financial irregularities.
“In this era, when we know that there are always two sides to every story, and anybody can decide to promote which side that pleases him or her but you decided to promote the truth all through the while and I want to thank the media for the unprecedented level of coverage that we had during the whole process, I personally on behalf of my committee and the national assembly remain grateful for that.
“I have to say this very clearly that our efforts wouldn’t have been possible without the active support of the leadership of the House of Representatives and the national assembly most especially from the speaker, Hon Femi Gbajabiala who stood by us like a rock on the matter and who gave us all the support for us to excel in that assignment even though as a human being when you are been bashed front and back in the eyes of the media and you decide to stand by the truth, you need your leadership to provide that strong level of support.
“I want to tell Nigerians that that was not missing at that particular point in time. So, we are forever and internally grateful to the leadership of the House of Representatives for the trust they repose on us.
“So, on behalf of the committee, this is not just an award for me, it’s an award for the committee. It takes the committee to do a marvellous job. I can’t work alone”, he said.