The newly inaugurated President of pan-Ijaw socio-cultural organisation, the Ijaw National Congress (INC), Prof Benjamin Okaba, has said the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) is a huge wastage and diversionary agency for the region’s development.
He said the Federal Government was paying lip service to the genuine concerns of the people of the region otherwise the government would have deployed interventions directly to the communities in the area through appropriate ministries.
Okaba stated these on Saturday during an interview on Viewpoint, a phone-in live programme on Rhythm FM 94.7 Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, which was monitored by our correspondent.
The Bayelsa State governor, Douye Diri, formally inaugurated the Okaba-led national executive of the apex Ijaw body on Friday, May 14, 2021, following their election on April 30, 2021 at the Ijaw House in Yenagoa, the state capital.
He pointed out that so much resources meant for development in the area had been frittered away in the running of the NDDC over the years with very little to show as physical achievements in the communities.
Okaba cited the humongous sums of money the management of NDDC spent to take care of themselves and workers as COVID-19 palliative, which were revealed in July 2020 during the public hearing conducted by the House of Representatives on alleged financial recklessness at the commission.
It would be recalled that the then former acting Managing Director of the NDDC, Prof Kemebradikumo Pondei, had told the House Committee on NDDC that the commission expended N1.32bn as “COVID-19 relief funds for staff” despite being paid salaries during the pandemic.
Pondei, who fainted in one of the probe sessions while answering questions, also stated that the commission spent a whopping N81.5bn between October 2019 and May 31, 2020.
However, Okaba, a Professor of Sociology at the Federal University, Otuoke, Bayelsa State, contended that such colossal amounts of money could have been used to build roads and provide social basic amenities in the communities.
He said: “The NDDC is a wastage and it is diversionary. As a scholar, I have written copiously that the NDDC was unnecessary wastage. If government was serious they should send the bulldozers and interventions straight to the appropriate ministries.
“Look at how much is used in the administration of the NDDC. You saw the palaver in the National Assembly when somebody has to faint while defending some huge sums of money going into COVID-19 supply of palliatives and all that.
“Those monies, if directed to the communities for roads, water and other specifics, would have made more sense.”