AFTER over two years of delay, the report of the forensic audit of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, was submitted to President Muhammadu Buhari last week Thursday, September 2, 2021, just a few weeks after Buhari signed the Petroleum Industry Act, PIA.
Expectedly, it shows that the Commission, established by the Olusegun Obasanjo administration as his response to the militant agitations in the Niger Delta in 2001, is indeed a cesspit of corruption, abandoned projects and political patronage.
The dramatic manner in which public hearing of the House of Representatives on the NDDC ended on July 20, 2020 intensified the necessity for the forensic audit.
We commend the Federal Government for seeing it through, making its findings public and promising to launch a criminal investigation into the abominable scope of corruption that has bedevilled the Commission from its inception. Nigerians who have always clamoured for an audit of the Commission now have the opportunity of examining its raw metrics.
Among other mind-boggling facts, the audit disclosed that in spite of the N5.5 trillion disbursed to the Commission in 18 years, it left 13,777 abandoned or “compromised” projects throughout the nine states of the Niger Delta.
The commission reportedly maintained 362 bank accounts which were classified as lacking in “proper reconciliation”.
The corruption in the NDDC is nothing new or peculiar. There is hardly any public institution that will be subjected to a thorough probe in Nigeria that will come out clean.
The case of the NDDC is that it has gone the way of earlier intervention agencies such as the Niger Delta Development Board, NDDB, set up in 1958 by the British colonial masters, and the Oil Minerals Producing Areas Development Commission, OMPADEC, established in 1992 by the General Ibrahim Babangida military regime.
They were all bedevilled by the same malaises: excessive corruption, untenable overhead costs, lack of commitment to their core mandates, political interference and patronage.
We hope President Buhari will summon the courage to conduct a professional criminal inquest, recover all stolen public funds and bring offenders to book irrespective of their ethnic background or political leanings.
We, however, warn that these failures should not in any way be reduced to a weapon of blackmail and the hampering of the region’s right to benefit from the abundance of its land.
The quest to devote special funds for the Niger Delta must continue, so should the manhunt for those who stole the funds already devoted for that purpose.
We still believe that full resource control with tax paid to the centre is the only way that true development of the Niger Delta, and indeed other parts of the country, is possible. These federal intervention agencies will always be channels of patronage. The approach has been tested and it failed thrice.
It’s time to try something new.