The Federal Government has received the report of the forensic audit of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), with a vow to prosecute those involved in the misuse of about N6 trillion appropriated for the commission between 2001 and August 2019.
The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, who received the report from the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, on behalf of President Muhammadu Buhari, expressed government’s displeasure over the colossal loss occasioned by the uncompleted and unverified projects in the Niger Delta region in spite of the huge allocation to the agency.
He also revealed that over 13,777 projects executed by the NDDC were substantially compromised, adding that the government was also concerned with the commission’s multiple bank accounts put at 362 and lack of proper reconciliation of accounts.
According to the minister, the Federal Government will apply the law to remedy the deficiencies outlined in the audit report as appropriate, through initiation of criminal investigations, prosecution, recovery of funds not properly utilised, review of the laws to reposition and restructure the NDDC for efficiency and better service delivery, amongst others.
President Buhari had some months ago ordered a holistic forensic audit of the activities of the agency from inception in 2001 to August 2019, in response to the demand of the people of the oil-bearing region to reposition the NDDC for efficient service delivery. The government also engaged reputable audit firms to conduct the exercise.
We welcome the Federal Government’s stance on the report. It is a step in the right direction, which will make the agency efficient in its service to the region. NDDC was established on June 5, 2000, by President Olusegun Obasanjo administration, with the mandate of developing the oil-rich Niger Delta region. Its establishment was largely in response to the yearnings of people of Niger Delta, an area inhabited by diverse minority ethnic groups. They included the Ijaw and the Ogoni. They had, during the 1990s, confronted the Nigerian government and multinational oil companies in the region with demands for greater autonomy and control of their oil resources due to the environmental degradation and pollution from oil exploration in the region since the late 1950s.
Such demands for environmental protection had often led to violent confrontations with dire consequences to the oil companies and the host communities. It was to arrest the ugly development that NDDC was established.
The commission has the mandate to improve the social and environmental conditions in the Niger Delta region. Between 2001 and 2019, the government approved about N3.4 trillion as budgetary allocation and N2.4 trillion as income from statutory and non-statutory sources, making a total of about N6 trillion given to the NDDC. Despite the huge allocation to it, the operations of the agency have been mired in controversy, characterised by shoddy jobs and opaque accounting procedures, making many to refer to it as a cesspool of corruption.
We commend the panel for a thorough job. The findings of the committee showed that the successive management of the agency did a shoddy job. It is good that the government has pledged to fully implement the recommendations of the audit panel. Nothing should be covered in implementing the report. Let the findings of the audit panel serve as an awakening to other agencies. If the recommendations are not implemented, the essence of the report would be lost. Implementation of the recommendations will be in line with the pledge of the President to tackle corruption and encourage transparency in governance.
It is sad that the NDDC, which was set up to ameliorate the travails of the Niger Delta region, has been turned to a conduit pipe for milking the region. Individuals, groups and organisations involved in compromising the contracts must be prosecuted. There should be no compromise in dealing with those found culpable.
We commend the Minister for Niger Delta Affairs for instituting the audit panel. We believe that the report of the forensic audit will make the government beam its searchlight on other interventionist agencies in the country.