Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, was established by NDDC Act in the year 2000. The commission was inaugurated, January 2001. NDDC pedestal was working towards better future for the people of the region. Since the establishment of the NDDC, imbedded in NDDC management, past and present, has been allegations of deep-rooted corruption – fleecing budgetary allocations and plundering the resources of the commission, through ghost projects, crony contractors and vendors.
Insensitivity, lip service and grandstanding of various managements of NDDC, left the region groping in the dark. Forensic Audit of the Commission has been ordered by President Buhari. When the Forensic Audit is completed, NDDC would stink, going by the present revelations from Nigeria’s House of Representatives adhoc committee, probing the business activities of the commission.
In the year 2000, Olusegun Obasanjo, as president of Nigeria, established the NDDC, with the mission to facilitate “rapid, even and sustainable development of the Niger Delta, into economically prosperous, socially stable, ecologically regenerative and politically peaceful” oil producing region in Nigeria.
Obasanjo, while inaugurating the commission, charged that the people of Niger Delta, that have experienced long years of neglect and degenerative condition, must feel a sense of belonging by implementation of live-touching projects. Obasanjo’s intervention to bring succour to the people of the region, was not the first.
There was the Niger Delta Development Board, NDDB, by Henry Willink Commission in 1960. In 1980, another intervention agency, known as, Presidential Task Force, popularly known as 1.5 per cent committee, was created by Shehu Shagari, and replaced the NDDB.
The Oil Mineral Producing Areas Development Commission, OMPADEC, followed. Inadequate funding, lack of vision, undue politicisation and profligacy plagued OMPADEC, and was unable to touch the lives and change the development of Niger Delta region.
Obasanjo’s focus while establishing the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, was to avoide the mistakes of the past. NDDC Act mandated the commission to develop “master plans and schemes, designed to promote the physical development of the Niger Delta areas and the estimates of the cost of implementing such master plans and schemes.
“Implement all the measures approved for the development of the Niger Delta area by the federal government and the members states of the commission; and identify factors inhibiting the development of the Niger Delta areas and assist the members states in the formulation and implementation of policies to ensure sound and efficient management of the resources of the Niger Delta area.”
March 27, 2007, Obasanjo, launched the blue print or road map – Niger Delta Development “Master Plan”, to ignite the development of the region. It was a 15 years road map to change the impoverished region and turn its fortunes around for good. The master plan was to take the people of the region to where they had aspired to be, giving the long period of devastating neglect, in an oil-rich region.
Today, 20 years after its establishment, NDDC is still bleeding – riddled with massive corruption, in a country that should be in a hurry to breast the tape of development, due to its wealth from the region. Huge revelation of financial mismanagement in NDDC, was unveiled by Nigeria’s House of Representatives Adhoc committee probing financial activities of the commission.
The adhoc committee is investigating alleged misappropriation of N40 billion by NDDC management between October 2019 and May 2020. Joy Nunieh, former Managing Director, NDDC, who served within this period, had her job as the commission’s boss, terminated by the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, and was replaced by Interim Management Committee, IMC, headed by Kemebeadikumo Pondei, as Managing Director.
President Buhari had ordered Forensic Audit of the Commission by the new Interim Management Committee, headed by Pondei. Joy Nunieh, vowed to expose alleged misdeeds of Akpabio, Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, during the House of Representatives adhoc committee’s investigation.
Friday, last week, Nunieh, via video conferencing, testified before the Adhoc, and made strong allegations of financial misdeed again Godswill Akpabio. Nigerian Police, for hours on Thursday, occupied Nunieh’s house from about 4:00am, for unknown reason. She was rescued by Governor Wike who arrived the scene at 10:30a.m, and took her to government house. Nunieh accused Akpabio as mastermind of her attempted abduction by the police.
At Monday’s public hearing of the Adhoc committee, the Managing Director of NDDC Interim Management Committee, Kemebeadikumo Pondei, slumped in the course of questioning by the House Adhoc committee. He was rushed to the hospital. The Adhoc committee requested that all the documented he brought should be submitted to the committee, and that was enough for the committee to work with.
Godswill Akpabio, in his presentation alleged that 60 percent of NDDC contracts were awarded to members of national assembly. But made a U-turn, Akpabio, under intens question. He said he does not have any knowledge of any contracts allegedly awarded to the Tunji-Ojo, Chairman, Adhoc Committee, who excused himself as Chairman of the day’s sitting, due to accusations of alleged contracts scam at the NDDC, by Pondei.
Akpabio said the forensic audit ordered by President Buhari is ongoing, and the process was not hijacked by him as alleged. He said NDDC draws its funds from two sources – federal government and the oil companies. He said that management of the NDDC spent N4.2 billion, which is beyond its threshold by splitting projects into small components of N49 million to evade the approval of the supervising minister.
Contrary to allegations that the IMC had spent N81.5 billion between February to May, Akpabio said N23 billion was spent. He said he approved only three contracts since his appointment as Minister of Niger Delta Ministry. The contracts included the procurement of forensic auditors, purchase of official cars for NDDC and the award of emergency project on the control of COVID-19.
Akpabio said the contracts were approved by the federal executive council, except the emergency Covid-19 project. At the time of his appointment, there was no budget running, and could not have compelled the then IMC to pay N10 billion for Christmas bounty to all state. Prior to the implementation of the of the TSA account, the NDDC had over 300 accounts across commercial banks, with such systems, monies could get missing.