The interim management committee of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) recently said a serving senator is single-handedly handling about 300 contracts for the Commission. NDDC’s Acting Executive Director, Projects Dr Cairo Ojougboh, who disclosed this, said 120 of the contracts have been fully paid for, though he was silent on whether the contracts were executed. He also did not name the senator, though the social media fingered a Delta senator.
Ojougboh also said NDDC owes contractors about N3trillion and that the ongoing forensic audit would help to uncover how the debt piled up. He said, “Some genuine people that have done jobs for the board have not been paid for over 15 years and their families are suffering. Many of those who were paid are these phantom contractors.” He said NDDC owes some of its workers 15 years’ salary arrears. According to him, all the members of NDDC’s interim management team have no vested interest in it and “our job is to make sure that we avail the auditors all the necessary documents and information they need to do their job as required.” Other members are Acting Managing Director Dr Gbene Nunieh and Acting Executive Director, Finance and Administration Ibanga Utang.
Ojougboh also accused the unnamed Senator of sponsoring a smear campaign against NDDC’s interim management, which he said would function for less than six months and hand over to a substantive board. Those opposed to the audit, he said, have something to hide as they must have played a role in NDDC’s mismanagement. He said, “NDDC Interim Payment Certificates that are pending are worth over N3 trillion. That is what the NDDC owes these phantom contractors. It is these phantom contractors that are making noise to stop the probe. All they want is for the stealing to continue.”
Meanwhile, the Oil and Gas Host Communities of Nigeria [HOSCON] has urged President Muhammadu Buhari to return NDDC to the Presidency’s direct supervision. It said the Niger Delta Ministry may not effectively supervise NDDC, which the President said was mismanaged despite huge allocations. This is also as former Niger Delta militants have pledged support for NDDC’s interim management committee.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo established NDDC in 2000AD with the sole mandate of developing the oil-rich Niger Delta region of Nigeria. In September 2008, President Umaru Yar’adua created the Niger Delta Ministry, and the Commission became a parastatal under it. One of the core mandates of NDDC is to train and educate the youths of the Niger Delta region to curb hostilities and militancy in addition to developing key infrastructure in the region.
It would be recalled that President Buhari recently ordered a forensic audit of the operations of NDDC from 2001 to 2019. The story of NDDC has been that of wanton corruption characterized by unexecuted and abandoned projects. About 18 years since its establishment, there is very little infrastructural development to show for the huge resources appropriated to the Commission by successive governments, even though the region suffers much from environmental degradation occasioned by many decades of oil exploration, production and transportation.
Leaders of the Niger Delta region must now admit the truth to themselves that they are part of the underdevelopment narrative of their region. NDDC authorities and other elements in the Niger Delta region are depriving the region of the needed infrastructural development. While the Federal Government should remain committed to ameliorating the problems of the Niger Delta region, it is time to admit that NDDC as a vehicle for delivering on that promise has failed. A new vehicle is therefore needed.
The on-going forensic audit should be diligently carried out and its findings should be made public. That way, all Nigerians will realize how badly NNDC’s huge resources have been mismanaged over the years. We also recommend that NDDC officials, contractors, community leaders and ex-militants who together collaborated and turned this agency into a cash cow for personal aggrandisement should be brought to book.