Niger Delta Forum (NDF) has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to inaugurate the Governing Board of Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) without further delay.
It said Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, speaking on behalf of the government, had promised the board would be inaugurated on April 1.
In a statement by its National Chairman, Boma Ebiakpo, the group said allowing the interim managements to continue running NDDC was an encouragement of illegality, emphasising that there was an urgent need to douse rising tension in the region.
The NDF said people of the Niger Delta are beginning to lose patience over “an unending forensic audit that has been used as guise in the past 18 months to hold down development of the region, despite approved budget of N799.5 billion.”
It said the demand for an end to the interim arrangement in the NDDC has been widespread, with Ijaw Youths Council Worldwide, Urhobo Progressives Union, Pan-Niger-Delta Forum and Movement for the Survival of the Izon Ethnic Nationality in the Niger Delta also lending their voices to the cause.
They recalled that governors of the South South had also made a case for the inauguration of the NDDC board, in accordance with the Act setting up the intervention agency.
“We wish to remind President Buhari that during their March 8 meeting in Port Harcourt, Rivers State capital, the South South Governors’ Forum chaired by Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State, also advised that apart from payment of workers’ salaries, NDDC funds should be reserved in an escrow account, pending the inauguration of the board.”
The group said Akpabio’s promise in October 2019 that no contract would be awarded and no contractors paid pending the conclusion of the forensic audit, had been flouted as about N799 billion had been spent so far by various interim managements.
“Sadly, it has taken one year and six months for an audit that should not last longer than six months.
“In this intervening period, there have been established cases of misappropriation, kleptomania, fleecing of the commission’s treasury and gross underdevelopment in the region as was revealed in the Senate probe of May 2020, which was adopted at plenary in July and subsequently submitted to the Presidency,” it said.
The NDF expressed sadness that the Federal Government had approved and released N799.5 billion for the 2019 and 2020 budgets of the NDDC “with no tangible projects that Akpabio can lay hand on as his initiatives under the period in view.”
The group said the Niger Delta people are tired of manipulations of the NDDC, which have affected its “primary duty to spur the development of the region.”
It expressed disappointment that after forwarding to the Senate, for confirmation, names of 16 people who would make up the NDDC board, with 15 confirmed by senators since 2019, President Buhari has not inaugurated the board.