Benjamin Babine, Abuja
Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ) have launched a 70-page report calling for the prosecution of those involved in corruption and financial mismanagement within the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
The PTCIJ who had previously launched a series of investigations into the activities of the NDDC in 2019 through its Natural Resources and Extractives Programme condemned the NDDC’s financial mismanagement and called for the prosecution of those found culpable of the corrupt acts.
The investigation claims to reveal how the abandonment of projects, poor maintenance, diversion of money, among other acts, of the NDDC in the Niger-Delta region. As a follow-up to these investigations and to also drive reform within the NDDC, PTCIJ launched a 70-page report.
The report is said to highlight the patterns and trends of mismanagement of funds by NDDC and its impact in the Niger-Delta region. It also claims to provide policy recommendations which are will reform NDDC and make it fulfil its purpose.
Speaking during the launch of the report, Dayo Olaide, the Deputy Director of MacArthur Foundation, lauded the work of PTCIJ as a trailblazer in its role of using investigative journalism to strengthen citizens’ voice by exposing corruption and influencing public discourse.
He said:”the NDDC issue is a classic illustration of the resource curse” which can only be solved by strengthening accountability. Corruption thrives on institutional failure, If we don’t have strong media that are speaking out, we are in trouble,” he added
During the panel discussion on the NDDC Probe, Vivian Bellonwu, Head of National Advocacy Centre for Social Action, expressed disappointment over the silence of the anti-corruption agencies in the country.
“We are actually disappointed by the silence of the ICPC and EFCC in this matter concerning the NDDC in the Niger Delta,” she said.
Speaking on the report, Dr. Tobi Oluwatola who is a policy analyst and country director, Solar FTP Nigeria, as well as the lead consultant on the research said they conducted field and desktop research to come up with the findings in the report.
Dr Oluwatola said: “We have to prosecute and get the money back from a lot of the people who have reallocated funds meant for the public in NDDC. We tracked a sample of 172 NDDC projects, 22% were not funded, 23% were abandoned, 12% uncompleted and 43% completed.”
He highlighted the problems identified with NDDC. Among them are: awarding of contracts to unqualified companies; conflict of interest in the award of contracts; re-awarding of “completed” projects; false reporting of project status; failure to deliver on contracts; delay in paying contractors leading to project cost overruns and abandonment; poor quality and maintenance of completed projects; poor alignment of projects with actual needs of communities and state governments, among others.
The PTCIJ further called on the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) to intensify efforts to make its company register open, comprehensive and linked to the beneficial ownership details of all registered companies in Nigeria.
In their recommendations, PTCIJ also said anti-corruption agencies should work with media and civil society organisations to prosecute and, if possible, recover contract funds from identified defaulting NDDC contractors.