The President of the Ijaw National Congress (INC), Professor Benjamin Okaba, has flayed President Muhammadu Buhari for the delay in making public the entirety of the NDDC forensic audit report, for all Nigerians to see and the unfulfilled promise, since 2019 to bring to justice those who the Federal Government have been accusing of allegedly fleecing the commission.
According to Okaba, it is diversionary that after two years of Buhari’s promise to punish alleged looters of NDDC, he is still saying that “funds looted at the Niger Delta Development Commission will be recovered and those found culpable in the forensic audit report shall be punished.”
Rather the INC president reiterated that “what we want is the NDDC substantive board to be inaugurated, that is the only thing that will excite us, not these promises. He does not need the permission of Nigerians to prosecute anybody, we want to see action.”
Okaba who was referring to the delay by the Federal Government which promised since November 2019 to bring people who they claimed fleeced NDDC to justice, believes that this new round of promise by Buhari to recover every loot is another round of rigmarole and is perceived by Niger Delta stakeholders as ploy to divert attention from the ongoing running NDDC with interim management/sole administrator contraptions, in breach of the NDDC Act.
Buhari had again made the statement on recovery of NDDC alleged looting in his address in Abuja at the virtual opening of the NDDC Hostel at the University of Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, on Thursday.
But Okaba who spoke on a programme on an international television station on Sunday night described the president’s statement as “mere rhetoric”, stressing that there was nothing exciting about it as Buhari had made similar promises since 2019 on several occasions.
Indeed several government functionaries, including the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, had claimed that people had diverted funds from NDDC and would be brought to justice yet nothing has happened since 2019 when the Federal Government started making the allegations.
The INC chief said, “I won’t say I’m excited by the president’s dseclaration. We expected this long ago. For many Nigerians, this is just rhetoric. We have said earlier that forensic auditing should be a routine administrative process of the NDDC. It is not anything that anybody should celebrate.
“Buhari has made several promises. People have called for the audit report to be made public. The issues, as they are, remain mere allegations and as far as the INC is concerned, we have before now demanded release of the forensic audit report and as many persons that have not delivered on the assignments given to them, let appropriate actions be taken.”
He reiterated the call on the President to inaugurate the substantive board of the NDDC, adding that “this is the only thing that will excite us and not the promises he is making.”
Okaba further said, “He (the president) does not need the permission of Nigerians to prosecute anybody found wanting. We want to see action. We want to see the list published, we want to see persons involved. We want to believe that whatever is made public is the true report.”
Recall that in tandem with the unending calls, demands and peaceful agitations of youths, men, women, political, traditional leaders and civil society organisations across the length and breadth of the Niger Delta region, the Ijaw National Congress had stated that “any further delay in the inauguration of the NDDC Board is a clear betrayal of trust and display of state insensitivity on Ijaw nation and Niger Delta region.”
INC had also frowned at “the continued delay of the inauguration of a substantive board for the NDDC as an inexplicable aberration that defies logical reasoning and is infuriating the region and the continued existence of the grossly illegal vehicle of Interim Administration at the NDDC.”
This followed President Buhari’s promise to the nation on June 24, 2021, while receiving the Ijaw National Congress (INC) at the State House in Abuja that the NDDC Board would be inaugurated as soon as the forensic audit report is submitted and accepted.
The president said: ‘‘Based on the mismanagement that had previously bedeviled the NDDC, a forensic audit was set up and the result is expected by the end of July, 2021. I want to assure you that as soon as the forensic audit report is submitted and accepted, the NDDC Board will be inaugurated.”
However, the Forensic audit report has been submitted to President Buhari since September 2, 2021. Since then, stakeholders have been calling on the Federal Government to make the forensic audit report public for all Nigerians to see and review. Stakeholders have as well called for the inauguration of the board of the Commission in compliance with the NDDC Act to ensure proper corporate governance, accountability, checks and balances, and fair representation of the nine constituent states.