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 NDDC’s Endless Dance of Corruption

NDDC’s Endless Dance of Corruption


The Niger Delta Development Commission is one of several interventionist agencies established by successive governments in Nigeria. According to the information gleaned from the website of the agency, the “NDDC was established in 2000 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.” What a tall order!

The NDDC was mandated to carry out the following functions by the Act setting it up. They are:  “Formulation of policies and guidelines for the development of the Niger Delta area; conception, planning and implementation, in accordance with set rules and regulations, of projects and programmes for sustainable development of the Niger Delta area in the field of transportation including roads, jetties and waterways, health, employment, industrialisation, agriculture and fisheries, housing and urban development, water supply, electricity and telecommunications; surveying the Niger Delta in order to ascertain measures necessary to promote its physical and socio-economic development and preparing master plans and schemes designed to promote the physical development of the Niger Delta region and the estimation of the member states of the commission.”

Others are: “Implementation of all the measures approved for the development of the Niger Delta region by the Federal Government and the states of the commission; identify factors inhibiting the development of the Niger Delta region and assist the member states in the formulation and implementation of policies to ensure sound and efficient management of the resources of the Niger Delta region and assessing and reporting on any project being funded or carried out in the region by oil and gas companies and any other company, including non-governmental organisations, as well as ensuring that funds released for such projects are properly utilised.”

Not only that, the NDDC is saddled with the responsibility of “tackling ecological and environmental problems that arise from the exploration of oil mineral in the Niger Delta region and advising the Federal Government and the member states on the prevention and control of oil spillages, gas flaring and environmental pollution; liaising with the various oil mineral and gas prospecting and producing companies on all matters of pollution, prevention and control as well as executing such other works and performing such other functions, which in the option of the commission are required for the sustainable development of the Niger Delta region and its people.”

Nineteen years on, what is the scorecard of the NDDC? Abysmal! The commission is almost always in the news for the wrong reasons. The agency is simply a cesspool of corruption. At least, that is the impression many Niger Deltans and indeed Nigerians have about the commission. Below are some of the corruption allegations against the agency. In August 2008, President Umaru Yar’Adua ordered an investigation into allegations that the then Chairman of the agency, Ambassador Sam Edem, spent N1bn to secure the services of a sorcerer to employ spiritual means to enable him get contracts from the Akwa Ibom State Government. In August 2015, the then Auditor General of the Federation, Samuel Ukura, said that at least N183bn that was meant for the development of the Niger Delta was diverted by those put in charge of the commission.

In July 2017, a former Managing Director, Nsima Ekere, announced the revocation of over 600 contracts worth N200bn. According to him, the rationale behind the action was because the management discovered that some of the contracts were either not properly awarded or some of them were awarded but the contractors had not yet gone to site. Hear him, “Some of the contracts were awarded as late as 2002 with some of the contractors collecting advance payments from the commission with zero work done at the sites. So, we terminated these contracts worth about N200bn, which is the first phase of our restructuring the commission’s balance sheet,” he said.

Just in October, the Senate said it was probing the award of the Water Hyacinth Emergency and Desilting Contracts awarded by the agency from 2017 to 2019. The Chairman, Senate Committee on Public Accounts, Senator Matthew Urhoghide, made this known when the Director, Special Duties of the NDDC, Nosakhare Agbongiasede, appeared before the committee in Abuja. Urhoghide said investigation became imperative because the initial cost of the contract at N2.5bn was allegedly increased to N65bn.

On Saturday, October 26, 2019 on the Nigerian Television Authority, the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, said corruption and political interference had disrupted the original purpose of setting up the commission. He said the NDDC was noted for substandard and abandoned projects. He said inter alia, “We currently have about 12,000 abandoned projects across the nine states of the Niger Delta. If those things were completed, you can imagine that the area would have been turned into an Eldorado… I think people were treating the place as an ATM, where you just walk in there to go and pluck money and go away. I don’t think they were looking at it as an interventionist agency.”

Recently, another revelation showed that a serving senator is single-handedly handling about 300 contracts for the agency.  The acting Executive Director of Projects, Cairo Ojougboh, said 120 of the contracts had been fully paid for. This was as Gbene Nunieh, acting managing director of the commission, said the management  had suspended the monthly payment of N1bn to a consultant that collected money from international oil companies on its behalf.

Even the current set of governors in the Niger Delta region are unhappy with the commission. During their visit to President Muhammadu Buhari on October 17, 2019, the leader of the delegation, also the governor of Bayelsa State, Henry Seriake Dickson, expressed the disappointment of other governors with the operations of the NDDC which, they said, was characterised by poor choice of projects, shoddy handling, uncompleted jobs and lack of the required support for the efforts of the states and local government administrations in the region covered by the organisation. Any wonder President Muhammadu Buhari promptly ordered a forensic audit of the commission? The ordered financial probe of the operations of the commission is from 2001 to 2019.

It remains to be seen whether the audit will yield any positive result. My pessimism stems from the fact that even the N183bn scam uncovered in 2015 by the Office of Auditor General did not lead to any sanction.  Already, there is a power play as well as intrigues going on between the Interim Management Committee inaugurated by the Niger Delta Affairs minister about two weeks ago and the newly screened and confirmed NDDC board asked to take over immediately by the President of the Senate last week.

It is saddening that this monumental fraud has gone on for 19 years! The situation in the NDDC is an exemplar of man’s inhumanity to man. It is said that the ant eating the vegetable is comfortably nestled on it. The enemies of the Niger Delta are not elsewhere but among the sons and daughters of the region who have been saddled with the responsibility of developing their region but rather chose to line their own pockets.   As of today, it is reported that despite the accusations of poorly executed jobs and project abandonment, the NDDC still has a gargantuan N3tn liabilities to its contractors.

How come the graft of this magnitude has gone on for close to two decades without the culprits being arrested and prosecuted? It is a crying shame that despite being under the supervision of the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation all these years, before being recently moved to the Ministry  of Niger Delta Affairs, and in spite of the purported oversight by the Senate and House of Representatives Committees on Niger Delta, this mind-blowing heist was allowed to go unchecked. Even in my state of despair, I hope the forensic audit will be done without let or hindrance and that the report when submitted will be acted on promptly by the President. Looters of the Niger Delta patrimony should not be allowed to go scot free!

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