In the book, Orchestra of the Minorities, by Chigozie Obioma, the Chi (the guardian spirit) of Nonso, a poultry farmer in a Niger Delta community when it arrived the celestial court to plead its case said “I have come in haste, soaring untrammelled like a spear through the immense tracts of the universe because my message is urgent, a matter of life and death….” Again, in the Niger Delta Region, some scheming god fathers have come together in their usual alliance pretending to be concerned with the destiny of our people when in reality their singular aim is to outwit the people and corner individually our collective patrimony.
We have tried to employ the simple tool of silence hoping that due process would prevail but these ambitious overlords who are proponents of Solipsism (the theory that only self exists, extreme preoccupation with and indulgence of one’s desires), masters of vituperative rants, who believe that humility is for losers and that the laws of physics can be changed by virements have openly and brazenly engaged in actions aimed once again to stunt the growth of the agency established to improve the living conditions of the people of the region. It is as a result of this that we bring this urgent message of life to Nigerians particularly the president.
NDDC can only be described as a woman of much sorrow. The commission has received several billions of Naira and hundreds of millions of US dollars yet it struggles to point to more than a few signature projects it has executed and yet fewer past victories. The axiom that the region is richly endowed by providence with human and material resources critical for its development and advancement is baseless because of the menacing grip of corrupt political elites on agencies such as NDDC.
The practice of the god fathers of NDDC has always been to secure appointments of their agents into the top three management positions on the board. These appointees who become puppets can only act according to the dictates of their benefactors without regard to the common good. There had been several instances where contracts were awarded according to their whims and caprices and payment schedules taken to them for approval or rejection in flagrant disregard to due process. Contractors borrow money at frightening interest rates, complete their jobs and remain unpaid for upwards of five years if they are not within the pecuniary influence of the god fathers. Budgetary provisions are not made for payments of on-going projects which most times lead to their abandonment. It’s no wonder that the commission has not made much progress as it should because the god fathers must be settled at all costs.
It is this same strategy they have employed in the composition of the new board. Does it not bother the public that highly placed politicians some of who are in charge of political structures in the country, some with supervisory authority over all arms of government and others as Ministers with several parastatals under them (some with budgets running into billions of dollars, others generating several billion dollars revenue) are determined to employ warfare tactics to deploy their agents into the top management of NDDC. In their areas of influence, no one dares to interfere with their activities and programmes yet they have consistently engaged in acts that have rendered the commission comatose.
These politicians are consummate practitioners of the hawk strategy. The hawk might be the most watchful of birds and can hover for hours on end, priming its target making an effort to strike as precisely as possible-so one strike might be enough. As a result of their wide and varied reach into the inner recesses of power, they devised a scheme to watch and wait. They caused to be announced the composition of the Board in the absence of the President and have pushed for the confirmation of their nominees again in his absence. What a tragic coincidence. We read with saddening amusement the story of the confirmation process. For an agency like NDDC where the President has ordered a forensic audit into its activities the members of the screening committee didn’t even bother to ask those who will be charged with its management any questions. They were asked to take a bow and go.
We are in a democracy and the basic tenet of democracy is the rule of law. It is a basic principle of law as has been ruled by the Supreme Court that once writs of summons have been filed and served on the parties, no party to the action should take further steps to destroy the substance of the matter. It is public knowledge that several groups, associations and persons have instituted court actions against the composition of the new NDDC Board not out of prejudice but solely on the ground that the board as constituted violates the provisions of the NDDC Act. Most of these court actions have been served on the Executive and the National Assembly, yet these politicians continue to drive a process that should have been halted. The law is clear. Those concerned know that it is not the turn of Edo to produce the Chairman of the Board neither is it the turn of Delta State to produce the Managing Director. They know that the MD should come from Bayelsa or Ondo but it’s not in their immediate interest. They behave as if Ondo State is not a member State of the Commission even when it produces more oil than Edo State.
They only care about the capture of the Commission for their private interests. This is the attitude that has led to the description of NDDC as an agency of neo- patrimonial prebendalism. Transparency International describes prebendalism as a social or political order where patrons secure loyalty or support of clients by granting benefits from state resources while neo-patrimonialism often fails to guarantee fair distribution of resources. It is high time we changed the narratives coming out of NDDC.
We welcome the forensic audit of NDDC as ordered by the President. It is the only viable means of arresting the decay in the Commission.The forensic audit would marshal out governance processes and lay the background for a paradigm shift, establish corporate codes that will instill the culture of virtue in the agency. The way the Commission has been run has retarded the efforts of both the private sector and government to improve the well-being of the region. New and acceptable standards are needed and that is what we expect the audit to establish in its recommendations. Let the government and oil companies operating in the region pay up their backlog of outstanding debts to the Commission and ensure that projects are delivered as proposed. We applaud President Buhari for ordering the forensic audit on NDDC. Let all hands be on deck to support the audit at the end of which a new board duly constituted according to law and equity can be inaugurated to drive the new processes.
Jomafuvwe writes from Sapele, Delta State