Nigeria: NDDC in Need of Effective Cleansing

2 June 2020

THE Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, is seen as one of the most corrupt federal establishments. The common impression is that those appointed to commanding positions in the organisation routinely go there to acquire enough financial "war chest" with which to actualise political ambitions in their states.

Today, the NDDC, which was set up by former President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2000 as an intervention agency to ameliorate the general backwardness of our oil-producing zone, continues to be in the news over allegations of massive corruption.

On Tuesday, May 26, 2020, the new Acting Managing Director of the Commission, Prof. Kemebradikumo Pondei, who was sworn-in on February 20, 2020 as the head of the enlarged Interim Management Committee, IMC, alleged that over 500 non-existing projects were inserted into the 2019 budget by the Interim Management Committee, IMC, headed by the sacked Acting MD, Joi Nunieh.

He added that no single project was executed by the Commission during that budget year which ended in May 2020. Also, the Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on the NDDC, Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, alleged that the same budget was inflated by N63bn by the Nunieh-led IMC.

On May 6, 2020, Senator Thompson Sekibo who headed a Senate Standing Committee set up to probe the Commission, had also alleged that the IMC under Nunieh had spent over N40bn within three months without recourse to due process.

Just as there are flurries of allegations there have also been series of probes. The Senate and House of Representatives are respectively probing the NDDC. President Muhammadu Buhari had also ordered a forensic investigation of the finances of the Commission in February this year.

The whole place is enmeshed with confusion, with threats to lives being issued by faceless and known militant groups for and against the probes. It is obvious that those who are behind the fleecing of the Commission are employing every trick to muddy the waters and confuse the public.

Some of the politicians involved in the probes are also known to have benefited from the voodoo contracts and scams.

They will obviously do everything, including the use of threats, to divert attention. The situation in the NDDC is a frontal challenge on President Buhari's anti-graft war.

He must get to the bottom of this institution's corruption morass. All politicians must be made to give way and allow independent experts check NDDC's books since it was founded and tell the public how the trillions of naira voted for the development of the Niger Delta were spent.

The NDDC must be run on a new, transparent and accountable template that delivers results. Those threatening resumption of militancy will fail because the public fully supports the Commission's cleansing. The forensic audit is a task that must be done.

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