The Federal Government has been asked to ensure that urgent steps are taken to carry out a proper forensic audit of the Niger Delta Commission, NDDC accounts with a view to ensuring that punitive measures are taken against any individual or group that has been involved in the looting of the Commission’s funds over the years.
In this interview with TUNDE THOMAS, National Chairman of Pan-Niger Delta Elders Forum, PANDEF, Commodore Idongesit Nkanga (Retd) said he was making the appeal against the backdrop of revelations of corrupt practices that have been going on in the Commission by some stakeholders and individuals during the recent House of Representatives probe into the NDDC activities.
What’s your reaction to the revelations that have been unfolding following the probe of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC by the House of Representatives?
Shocking, and embarrassing. But some of us are not shocked because we know all along that a lot of corrupt practices were going on at NDDC, and that was why in November last year PANDEF expressed support for the directive by President Muhammadu Buhari ordering a forensic audit of the NDDC. Let us have a list of all the beneficiaries of the NDDC contracts. We want to know the list of those who had secured different contracts from the NDDC, whether they are just only people who are from Niger Delta or whether there are people from other parts of the country that have benefitted. What transpired between the Minister for Niger Delta Affairs, members of the House of Representatives, and the management of the NDDC is nothing but a show of shame. Allegations, and counter-allegations of corruption, this is a big shame, and very embarrassing .For this show of shame we are witnessing , nobody should blame people of the Niger Delta. We are just victims because politicians have turned the Niger-Delta into a cash cow, everybody that wants to contest election usually approach whoever is the MD of the NDDC for cash support to run the election.
Even the federal government is not left out of the loot ,and plundering of the Niger-Delta as prominent government officials, also take money from the NDDC coffers to run elections. We know all these looters of the Niger-Delta resources ,and that’s why we are happy with the on-going investigations by the National Assembly. But the investigations should be done without fear or favour. But for us ,I mean PANDEF, what we are insisting on is a forensic auditing of the NDDC books by a reputable accounting firm so that all those involved can be exposed and shamed. Exposing those involved will help us to know the truth about what has been going on within the NDDC over the years.
There has been allegations, and counter-allegations between members of the House of Representatives, and the Minister for Niger-Delta Affairs….
Cuts in… This is why I said that there should be forensic auditing of the NDDC books. By the time the report comes out ,Nigerians will be shocked by what will come, I mean the revelations. But before I proceed further ,PANDEF’s position is that the Interim Management Committee, IMC set up to run NDDC should not have been set up in the first place. IMC is an illegal entity, and it is not known to the law. It is an illegal body, and that was why we opposed its being set up moreso when a board to run the Commission had already been put in place but President Buhari in his own wisdom decided to set up the IMC. PANDEF now said since the President is insisting on setting it up that we should tolerate the IMC to do its work, and go away quickly, so that the Act setting up the NDDC can now be implemented with the NDDC board already in place.
One thing Nigerians should realize is this, all these people involved in the show of shame at the National Assembly were not nominated by the Niger-Delta people. Before you go and ask people to work in a place you should have investigated them first. If they had done that the show of shame we are witnessing today could not have happened.
People of Niger-Delta are embarrassed by this show of shame between the Minister, and members of the House of Representatives. It is sad that some greedy politicians, and powerful individuals have hijacked the NDDC ,and turn it into a cash cow to perpetrate all manner of fraud, and that’s why year in, year out, you have billions being budgeted for the development of the Niger-Delta but yet there is nothing on the ground to show for it because funds budgeted for developmental purpose are going into private pockets.
If we have resource control or are practicing true federalism, all the show of shame happening in Niger-Delta today would not have happened. If we are in a situation where people take responsibilities for what is happening in their place, the nation would have been spared this show of shame but in a situation where you appoint strange people into offices ,then members of the community would not be in a position to know who is to be held responsible when the expected development is not taking place. Most of those people appointed into the NDDC we don’t know them. These people are just there to serve the selfish interests of those who appointed them. They are not bothered about the development of the place, and that’s why the people of the Niger-delta have continued to become poorer. It is unfortunate that the NDDC has not made any meaningful impact on the lives of the Niger-Delta people in spite of the fact that we keep on hearing of billions being budgeted for the development of the region.
Some Nigerians have even suggested that the Minister for Niger-Delta Affairs should step aside while investigation into the NDDC activities is on-going, it is a good idea but in Nigeria here, that will never happen unless you are talking about other climes .The Minister has not been helping people of the Niger-Delta but you know that in the usual Nigerian refrain, he would say his hands are tied but we are not ready to take that excuse. Then if we are talking of where integrity matters, the Minister should have resigned but I know he will not do so. President Buhari should ask Godswill Akpabio, the Minster for Niger-Delta Affairs to resign .For him to continue staying in office while investigations continue mean we are not serious about what we are doing.
How do you think the crisis can be resolved, and what’s your advice to President Buhari over the issue?
For us, we are insisting that forensic auditing of the Commission should be done, and our position on that has not changed. To do this, they must look for a reputable company whose workers can’t be influenced. The Minister should not turn round and make attempt to make himself the MD of the NDDC or teleguide whoever that is in charge , the board should be allowed to operate freely.
As it is going on now, we doubt whether the House of Representatives will be able to come out with a report that is acceptable to Nigerians. If independent auditors have been allowed to carry out a forensic auditing of the NDDC we would have been spared the spectacle of that show of shame that transpired at the National Assembly between the Minister, members of the House of the representatives, and others who were part of that comedy .It is the report of the auditors that will enable Nigerians to know how NDDC has been raped over the years. They should not bring auditors that can be influenced, otherwise the objective for carrying out the forensic auditing would have been defeated.
Do you agree with some Nigerians who are now saying that Niger-Delta people should stop blaming other Nigerians for the under-development of the region following the revelations of alleged corrupt practices involving Niger-Delta indigenes involved in the running of the day to day activities of the NDDC?
Whoever is saying that is being unfair to the people of Niger-Delta because what is happening in Niger-Delta is a Nigerian malaise, and that’s why we are insisting that they should publish the list of contractors that have been awarded contracts by the NDDC. The other time I saw a list of those who have been taking billions of naira contracts from the NDCC without executing any project, and the list of the names is not limited to only people of Niger-Delta origin.
Although we agree that there are people from the Niger-Delta who are conniving with the outsiders to loot the region’s resources, but then looting is not only limited to the Niger-Delta. Look at what is happening in Abuja, I mean the drama over Magu’s suspension. We are hearing about how they are re-looting recovered loot. Would we now say that Nigeria can’t be a country again with the sordid revelations coming from the Magu’s saga? Like I said earlier, people that are being appointed to run the NDDC are unknown to our people, they are unknown to us, and if we don’t know them ,then they can’t be answerable to us ,and this is why NDDC has not been working over the years.
To achieve their own selfish objectives, government brings strangers here to work in leadership positions in NDDC, and this is why results are not being achieved, and our people continue getting poorer. The poor fishermen continue to bear the brunt as oil exploration continues to devastate the land. Niger-Delta has been at the receiving end of injustice, and this is very unfair. Nigerians can’t hope to have justice if they have been unjust to others. But we want those behind the woes of Niger-Delta exposed. Those behind the NDDC loot should be exposed.
Before the on-going probe into the NDDC’s activities, PANDEF was talking about Federal Government’s failure to take concrete steps to implement the 16 point agenda for the development of the Niger-Delta…..
Cuts in …Nothing is happening , and it seems the federal government has abandoned the 16 point agenda for the development of the Niger-Delta. Since over four years ago when the plan was announced with fanfare, the federal government has done only half out of the 16 point agenda leaving 15 plus still undone. To us, it appear as if Niger-Delta doesn’t matter to the federal government but whether they want to accept it or not we believe that Niger-Delta indeed matters.
The injustice is too much against our people. Just last week the Federal Government announced that they were laying gas pipeline from Ajaokuta to Kaduna, Kano, but in their attempt to deceive Nigerians they didn’t say they were getting the gas for the project from Bayelsa state. They made it look as if they are getting the gas from Ajaokuta. So from what they are doing now, domestic gas will be cheaper in those northern states than in Bayelsa state which produces the gas .Is this what you call justice? From the way federal government is talking, they are going to expedite action on the project, and complete it within months while several projects have been abandoned for years in Niger-Delta , the region which produces the oil, and the gas. They are piping gas from Bayelsa to Kaduna, and Kano states, and the project will cost 2.8 billion dollars, and they are also sourcing money for the project from the oil of Niger-Delta, and yet Niger-Delta remains abandoned by the same federal government.
Do you see some of these developments having boomerang effect in the Niger-Delta region or on Nigeria as a nation?
It depends on what we want as a nation. If we want Nigeria to remain as a nation ,then we have to restructure or revert to true practice of federalism as agreed by the nation’s founding fathers .But if we don’t want it to be a nation, but to continue to remain a country as we have it today, then we can continue to work on the basis of religion and ethnicity as we are doing now but if we do that ,then Nigeria will continue not to work. I don’t know whether all these injustices will boomerang or not but surely one thing I know is that what is acceptable to me today may not be acceptable to my own children so the sooner we restructure in a controlled manner the better otherwise the country will restructure itself naturally. What our leaders should realize is that you can’t continue to hold down human beings forever, and continue saying some people are second class citizens, and we can continue to do whatever we like with them. You can conquer the good for a while but good must certainly conquer its conqueror. But one thing I surely know is this ,there will be consequences for all these injustice against the people of Niger-Delta.