Thirty-five leading Niger Delta-based civil society organisations, CSOs and community organisations, yesterday, demanded immediate freezing of withdrawals from all accounts of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, and cessation to reckless activities at the interventionist agency.
The groups led by Nnimmo Bassey, Health of Mother Earth Foundation, David Ugolor, Africa Network for Environmental and Economic Justice, ANEEJ, Ken Henshaw, We, The People and Tijah Akpan, Policy Alert, in a communique, said, “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.”
They also demanded the “Publication of the details of all contractors to the NDDC against the contracts they executed on-behalf of the Commission, including the list of NGOs that benefited from the cash grants from the NDDC.”
They said, “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 recognised audit firms with experience in similar audit exercises, who must be selected through an open, free and competitive bidding process.
“Credible civil society organizations must be allowed to closely monitor the audit process to ensure fairness, accuracy and compliance with the highest standards.
“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 has 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 that 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 disincentive 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.”
Meanwhile, Ijaw Youth Council, IYC, worldwide, has said that it would embark on an independent fact finding mission to the National Assembly and the NDDC, to ascertain the root causes of the crisis rocking the commission and make recommendations after due consultations with stakeholders from the region.
Speaking at the inaugural meeting convened by its National President, Peter Igbifa, at Ijaw House in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, he said, “We have decided to embark on a fact finding mission to the National Assembly and the IMC independently to ascertain the root cause of the crisis rocking the NDDC and make recommendations after due consultations with stakeholders from the region.
“Ijaw youths frown seriously at the unnecessary accusations and counter accusations currently going on between the national assembly and the IMC. We are calling for the implementation of the original master plan for the development of the Niger Delta region.”
The youths also called on President Muhammadu Buhari to, as a matter of urgency, appoint a substantive Coordinator for the Presidential Amnesty Programme, PAP, and as well begin the implementation of the remaining legs of the Programme.
On his part, Emmanuel Okotie-Eboh, son of First Republic Minister of Finance, Chief Festus Okotie-Eboh, yesterday, knocked some so-called leaders of Niger Delta and agitators for restructuring and resource control for their bizarre quietness over the financial malfeasance in NDDC.
Okotie-Eboh told newsmen: “The silence of the owners of the Niger Delta region today is deafening and the negative news booming out of the NDDC is a sad song from the creek.
“I keep asking myself what was the meaning of all the dance and shout for resource control and cry for development from the leadership and agitators in the Niger Delta for. Must we restructure the nation before we start our own development, if the oil dries up tomorrow, what will happen to us?
“We want President Buhari to decentralise the NDDC, I will also advise that those of us from the Niger Delta should face the issues of corruption blowing wind in NDDC and stop insulting the people of other regions for our underdevelopment.
“The problem we have today did not start from the First Republic because those leaders were better, they love their people. Chief Obafemi Awolowo did not come from the moon, our problem is gluttony. How can you just pick someone from street and take him directly to Central Bank? What do you expect from such a person?
“We have good technocrats outside the political parties where we can pick from to do the job for us. When people know that you are not going to do their bidding, they look for little and unimportant issues to run you down.
“We have to take things one step at a time, our problems are within. Have they mentioned any Northerner that was given any mighty contracts in NDDC? All the names mentioned for now are our own brothers and sisters. So, we should leave the North out of our underdevelopment, they have their own regional problems they are handling in their zones. We should face our own issues.
“The people should be consulted through town hall meetings to know the projects that are mostly needed in their places, same with the traditional rulers.
On way forward, he suggested: “The president should take control by putting in place a Presidential Monitoring Committee, PMC, in place now to stop this outright looting going at the commission and in some other sectors around the country.”
Meanwhile, a Rivers State High Court sitting in Port Harcourt, has ordered the NDDC, to always seek the consent of the state government before executing any project in the state.
In 2017, Governor Nyesom Wike through the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice of the State had dragged NDDC, its former Managing Director, Nsima Ekere, and former Executive Director, Finance and Administration, Derick Meene, to court for carrying out activities in the state without consent of the government.
Trial judge, Justice Adolphus Enebeli in his Judgment, yesterday, on the matter granted a declaration sought by the government that under Rivers State Physical Planning Law, State Land Law and Urban Development Law, the NDDC or its agent have no power to claim any land or execute any project in any part of Rivers State without the consent of the Government.
Enebeli with reference to 60 planned projects by NDDC which resulted to the suit, held that the projects if allowed to be executed would affect urban development and Land a Act of the State.
He ruled that the NDDC should seek the consent of the state government for the execution of the projects.
Meanwhile, Enebeli, refused to grant the declaration sought by the claimants to void section seven and eight of NDDC Act which borders on the developmental map of the nine states of the Niger Delta region.