…demands sack of Minister of Niger Delta, disbanding of IMC
Following the mind boggling allegations of corruption involving senior officials of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), a Rights group, Space for Change has asked President Muhammadu Buhari to without further delay direct the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to launch an independent probe on contracts awarded by the commission.
Also, the group known for defending the civic space, wants the Minister of Niger Delta, Godswill Akpabio suspended from his appointment and the 5-member Interim Management Committee (IMC), disbanded.
A statement from the group’s National Director, Victoria Ibezim-Ohaeri, made available to Daily Sun expressed shock at what it described as “the massive looting of NDDC with disregard to principles of accountability and due process”
The statement reads in part “Nigerians are no longer in doubt about the reason behind the endemic poverty and underdevelopment in the oil-rich Niger Delta region. The incredible allegations of corruption involving senior officials of the Niger Delta Development Commission shows the agency has turned out to be a drainpipe for chronic waste, executive profligacy and the brazen diversion of funds earmarked for community development.
“We demand that President Buhari Immediately relieve the current minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Mr. Godswill Akpabio, of his duties, pending the outcome of the investigations of alleged misfeasance in public office, particularly involving fraudulent handling of NDDC contract deals.
“We want Mr President to immediately disband the 5-member Interim Management Committee (IMC), and reconstitute the board of the Commission as stipulated by law. The IMC’s theatrical displays at the parliamentary hearings coupled with their continuing inability to account for N81.5 billion spent between January to May 2020, casts a strong shadow of doubt on their moral and professional capability to hold public office.
“We demand that Buhari should direct the EFCC to immediately launch an independent probe into NDDC contracts, especially abandoned projects and projects awarded and paid for, but not executed from 2015 till date. Indicted contractors should be prosecuted with the aim of recovering and remitting all misappropriated funds into the Commission’s coffers.
“We request that the presidency should Investigate allegations of the hijack of NDDC budgets and preferential contract awards to serving public officers and federal lawmakers, with a view to identifying, naming, prosecuting and bringing all indicted persons to book.
“Recognizing that oil revenues, including NDDC budgets, have been grossly mismanaged and distributed inequitably, FG is urged to consider an alternative benefit-sharing regime that prioritizes communities’ choice, capabilities, and agency, through legal guarantees of the pre-eminent rights of communities to approve or veto NDDC projects. Any new benefit-sharing framework considered must establish robust grievance mechanisms that are accessible to communities and linked directly to NDDC project performance.
“Set up an independent 10-man civil society project monitoring unit attached to the NDDC, comprised of reputable traditional rulers, civil society leaders, women and youth movements operating in the region, with the responsibility of maintaining active relationships built on trust with communities, carrying out participatory baseline studies of the community’s socio-economic priorities and providing an advisory opinion to the NDDC Board during the appraisal and evaluation processes of proposed and completed projects respectively”.
The group expressed worry that “After several years of lull in violence and considerable peace in the region, it is clear that the multiple grievances that triggered the violent conflict of the late 90s, necessitating the establishment of the NDDC, have remained largely unmet. The latest revelations, if unpunished and stolen monies unrecovered could pave way for the resumption of militancy activities in the region, with disastrous consequences for the country’s oil output and revenue earnings.