OPINION: Effiong Akwa And NDDC’s Imaginary Turnaround.
Civil Society Organisation, Niger Delta Elders’ Forum (NDEF) has described as imaginary the touted “turnaround” of NDDC under the illegal sole administrator contraption currently administering the Commission in breach of the NDDC Act.
In its reaction to an article titled “Effiong Akwa and NDDC’s Turnaround” by one Ogbu Nweke, published in The Guardian of March 6, 2022, Chief Tonye Ogbogbula, National President of NDEF stated that “at a time when the illegal Sole Administrator contraption administering NDDC is enmeshed in unending scandals of immense proportions authentic stakeholders in the Niger Delta region are alarmed by the outlandish claims” which he described as “a weak attempt to turn truth and logic on its head, and thereby try to divert attention from the legitimate demands of Niger Deltans for the inauguration of NDDC’s board in accordance with the law, the NDDC Act.”
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At a time when the illegal Sole Administrator contraption administering NDDC is enmeshed in unending scandals of immense proportions, we, like other authentic stakeholders in the Niger Delta region are alarmed by the outlandish claims in an article titled “Effiong Akwa and NDDC’s Turnaround” by one Ogbu Nweke, published in The Guardian of March 6, 2022. In the largely puerile piece, a weak attempt to turn truth and logic on its head, and thereby try to divert attention from the legitimate demands of Niger Deltans for the inauguration of NDDC’s board in accordance with the law, the NDDC Act, the writer struggled to paint a picture of what clearly does not currently exist in an NDDC that is presently managed in breach of the law, the NDDC Act.Presently the media is awash with the doubly-restated scandal involving the illegal sole administrator contraption in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC). According to Daily Independent, other national newspapers, and many online platforms, in a story entitled “NDDC: IYC Alleges Illegal N20bn Payment To Ghost Contractors Over Phantom Job,” published on February 18, 2022, the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) alleged that illegal N20bn payment was made to ghost contractors over phantom jobs.
In the reports, IYC alleged that the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, “in connivance with some persons, paid the sum of N20 billion to ghost contractors for phony distilling contracts purportedly awarded by the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).”The council further alleged that “information at its disposal showed that the signatures of a former acting Managing Director of the NDDC, Professor Nelson Brambaifa, and the commission’s former executive director (projects), Samuel Ajogbe, were allegedly forged to carry out the sleazy process.”
A spokesman for the IYC, Ebilade Ekerefe, who spoke in Yenagoa alleged that the “phantom NDDC contractors were paid in tranches of between N300 million and N400 million in the last three months, amounting to N20 billion.”He urged the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to launch an investigation into the alleged huge payment to the ghost contractors.
He said, “They should investigate the financial transaction of the commission in the months under review. We have also discovered that out of the N20billion paid out illegally by the NDDC, 60 per cent is going to Abuja through the Bureau de Change while he (Akpabio) has failed to pay the genuine contractors that have finished the projects awarded by the commission.”
But nothing more poignantly illustrates the sleaze ongoing in NDDC under the illegal sole administrator contraption than the scathing editorial of ThisDay Newspaper, “NDDC AND THE ANTI-GRAFT HOAX” published on Wednesday, February 23, 2022. The newspaper categorically stated that the “disrepute into which the commission (NDDC) has fallen in the last seven years is a sad commentary on the avowed commitment of President Muhammadu Buhari to fight corruption as a cardinal undertaking. Despite the agitations of critical stakeholders, the commission also remains without a substantive board. The minister of Niger Delta, Godswill Akpabio prefers to treat affairs of the NDDC more like a private estate by saddling the commission with cronies.” Other allegations of scandal against the current illegal sole administrator contraption at NDDC include the allegation in December 2021 by The Association of Contractors of the Niger Delta Development Commission (ACNDDC) who picketed the NDDC Head Office in Port Harcourt.
In a report in ThisDay on December 8, 2021, entitled “NDDC Contractors Decry Mismanagement, Demand Board Inauguration,” the Chairman of ACNDDC, Joe Adia stated that “we hear money comes in, the next thing we hear the money is finished. Who are you paying? Give us a record of the people you are paying. How can you pay N800 million each and above for desilting yet contractors’ ticket of N5 million you can’t even pay? We cannot die for the jobs we have done for the region. We are saying, you pay us now.”
Also as reported by The Nation newspaper on February 1, 2022 under the headline “Niger Delta women threaten to name, shame persons diverting NDDC funds,” the Wailing Women of the Niger Delta (WWND) decried the alleged “ongoing embezzlement of funds allocated to the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) under the illegal sole administrator under the current Minister for Niger Delta Affairs. This is with a view to demand accountability.”
According to the Coordinator of WWND Odighonin Adienbo, “What have the funds coming to the NDDC been used for since the illegal appointment of a sole administrator in sheer defiance of the NDDC Act without a proper board? More so as contractors are not being paid and no projects are embarked upon under the guise of forensic audit report.
The current situation in the region can only be likened to a crime against humanity and we will not accept it.” But over and above the non-existent “turnaround” in NDDC credited to the sole administrator contraption administering the Commission and the ongoing alleged sleaze pervading NDDC, is the unwavering and legitimate demands of authentic stakeholders of the region that President Muhammadu Buhari should comply with the law, NDDC Act – end the ongoing illegality of administering NDDC with a sole administrator contraption that is unknown to the NDDC Act, and inaugurate a substantive board for the Commission – which thereby guarantees equitable representation of the nine constituent states, and also fulfil his own promise of June 24, 2021 to inaugurate the NDDC Board upon receipt of the forensic audit report, which report he received seven months ago on September 2, 2021. We maintain that the continued administration of the NDDC by Interim sole administrator is illegal because the NDDC Act has no provision for this illegality as the NDDC Act only provides that the Board and Management of the NDDC at any point in time should follow the provisions of the law which states that the Board and management is to be appointed by the President, subject to confirmation by the Senate. Nobody is supposed to begin to administer the NDDC and utilise the huge funds accruing to it on a monthly basis without passing through this legal requirement as stipulated in the NDDC Act.
To the detriment of the nine states of the Niger Delta region, illegal interim contraptions/sole administrator have been used to fleece the NDDC of its funds in the last two years.
President Buhari should be concerned about the disdain of the Niger Delta people over the manner he has handled the NDDC, most especially administering the Commission with illegal interim management/sole administrator contraptions for four and a half years in his nearly seven years in office, and therefore needs to end the ongoing illegality in NDDC if he is to be remembered for good in the Niger Delta.
We also observe, like other authentic stakeholders that whereas the North East Development Commission (NEDC) has been allowed to function with its duly constituted Board in place in line with its NEDC Act thereby ensuring proper corporate governance, accountability, checks and balances and fair representation of its constituent states, the NDDC on the other hand has been run arbitrarily in the last two years by Interim committees/sole administrator in breach of the NDDC Act.
We therefore align with other authentic Niger Delta stakeholders and demand an end to the ongoing illegal sole administratorship at the NDDC, inauguration of the NDDC Governing Board in line with the NDDC Act to represent the nine constituent states, and thereby ensure proper corporate governance, accountability, transparency, and probity in managing the Commission.
Chief Tonye Ogbogbula, National President, Niger Delta Elders’ Forum.