We are deeply concerned about recent revelations on the scale of corruption and mismanagement in the Niger Delta Development Commission. We recall that the NDDC was established in 2000 as one of the first tasks of the new democratic government in Nigeria, and conceived as a response to the agitations of the people of the region for greater benefits from the hydrocarbons, as well as the dearth of development in the region. It was established with the mission of facilitating the rapid, even and sustainable development of the Niger Delta into a region that is economically prosperous, socially stable, ecologically regenerative and politically peaceful.
Other responsibilities of the Commission include;
- Implementation of projects and programs for sustainable development of the Niger Delta area in the field of transportation including roads, jetties and waterways, health, employment, industrialization, agriculture and fisheries, housing and urban development, water supply, electricity and telecommunications.
- Implementation of all the measures approved for the development of the Niger Delta region by the Federal Government and the states of the Commission.
Identify factors inhibiting the development of the Niger Delta region and assisting the member states in the formulation and implementation of policies to ensure sound and efficient management of the resources of the Niger Delta region.
Tackling ecological and environmental problems that arise from the exploration of oil mineral in the Niger Delta region and advising the Federal Government and the member states on the prevention and control of oil spillages, gas flaring and environmental pollution.
Liaising with the various oil mineral and gas prospecting and producing companies on all matters of pollution, prevention and control.
20 years after its establishment, the Commission has consistently failed to live up to this mandate.
While as civil society organizations we are perplexed and outraged by the gory tales of corruption in the Commission especially as it has been revealed by the National Assembly Probe Committee, we have long been aware of these happenings and have severally called the attention of the federal government and the people of the region to the failures of the Commission. Civil Society organizations in the Niger Delta have embarked on project monitoring activities and written countless reports detailing the malfeasance in the Commission. The government has consistently refused to take action. All efforts to instill accountability and transparency in the NDDC has thus far lacked the support of successive governments.
We are saddened by the fact that rather than develop the region, the huge allocations to the NDDC has rather bequeathed a legacy of abandonment, neglect and underdevelopment. Despite the huge yearly allocations to the Commission in the last 20 years, poor management and corruption has made it impossible for the agency to exert any reasonable measure of positive impact on the region.
In the sea of allegations, it is important not to lose sight of what the real issues are;
- We need to determine what factors lead to the level of reckless looting that has been associated with the Commission since its inception.
- We need to also develop strategies that will disincentivize stealing and mismanagement at the NDDC and ensure that the Commission lives up to its mandate
It is important to note that the corruption in the NDDC thrives essentially because of political influence and patronage. Successive governments in Nigeria have treated the Commission as a conduit for settlement and compensation. We are aware that the decision as to who leads the NDDC at different points in time has never been considered on the basis of track record or any form of merit, but rather out of consideration for settlement. In this regard, the Presidency shares equally in the blame over what the Commission has become. It is pertinent to note that the current Presidency has appointed at least 5 heads of the NDDC in a short period of 5 years, essentially contributing to the instability in the Commission.
While we welcome the probe of the National Assembly, we recall that this is not the first time the NDDC has been in the spotlight in this regard. There have been investigative processes previously that revealed alarming levels of corruption in the Commission. Unfortunately, those processes did not amount to any significant changes in the Commission, or even the prosecution of culprits. We are disturbed and genuinely concerned that the current hearing of the National Assembly Committee could end in the same manner, especially given the abrupt end of the public hearings.
It is important to state that as civil society organizations and the people of the region, we have documented all the allegations of corruption and abuse of due process in the Commission. We will be closely monitoring the corresponding actions of all duty bearers in line with ensuring investigations and prosecution are carried out. This will not end in the manner other efforts ended.
To address the decay in NDDC and reposition the Commission to live to its expectation, we demand the following immediate actions;
a. All emerging revelations of malfeasance in the NDDC must be thoroughly investigated and culprits duly prosecuted.
b. While we are not certain if the Forensic Audit of the Commission has actually begun due to conflicting information from the Commission, we demand that that process be started immediately. The Audit process must be conducted by globally recognized audit firms with experience in similar audit exercises, and must be selected through an open, free and competitive bidding process.
c. We demand that credible civil society organizations should be allowed to closely monitor the audit process to ensure fairness, accuracy and compliance with the highest standards.
d. We demand that the current board of the NDDC be dissolved immediately.
e. While the probe of the NDDC was ongoing at the National Assembly, another illegal bulk withdrawal was said to have been made from the Commission’s account. This indicates that the fiscal recklessness persists in the Commission. We demand that the account of the Commission be frozen to withdrawals until the audit process is completed.
f. For the sake of transparency, we demand that the details of all contractors to the NDDC be published against the contracts they executed on-behalf of the Commission.