Sanitising NDDC – The Nation

  • It is not enough to recover the loot, the thieves must be prosecuted

President Muhammadu Buhari had occasion, last week, to once again highlight the sleaze pit that regional intervention agency, the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), is. He said more than N3.7billion in cash, besides assets worth some billions more had been recovered from contractors and former directors of the agency by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and other law enforcement agencies.

Speaking while inaugurating the NDDC Advisory Committee comprising governors of the nine states making up the Niger Delta region namely Abia, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Edo, Imo, Ondo and Rivers, the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs and his Federal Ministry of Environment counterpart at the State House, he added that government agencies have as well placed lien on some assets worth a more than N6billion that are being investigated.

The President spoke against the backdrop of ongoing forensic audit of the commission, which he said he approved to unearth and staunch abuses that characterised its financial operations. According to him, these abuses of the past have shown up a need for strict and diligent oversight on the agency going forward – one major reason that the advisory council was being put in place.

He lamented that a “New Vision for the Niger Delta (NEVIND)” that his administration headed up in 2016 was aimed at bringing sustainable peace, security, infrastructure and human capital development to the region. But the institutions expected to facilitate these objectives are the NDDC, the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP) and the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, and they were unable to deliver on their mandates owing to historical mismanagement.

Niger Delta is Nigeria’s golden goose because of its abundant oil resource from which the country derives nearly all of its economic mainstay. Sadly, however, this natural endowment has foisted severe economic deprivations, huge infrastructure deficits and extensive environmental degradation directly arising from exploration of the region’s rich resource on its people. It is to ameliorate these adversities that the NDDC came to birth in 2000 as government’s intervention agency under the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo.

Precursors of the NDDC as special purpose vehicles intended to bring about rapid development of the oil-producing region include the Niger Delta Development Board of 1961 and the defunct Oil Mineral Producing Areas Development Commission (OMPADEC) established by former military president, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, in 1992.

Many years on, not much relief has come the way of the Niger Delta people due to deep sleaze perpetrated by successive leaderships of the intervention agencies, which customarily have been comprised by natives of the beleaguered region. We consider it sad that the so-called leaders and the contractors they engage see these special purpose vehicles as cash cows by which to illicitly enrich themselves, rather than avenues for applying resources provided for redress of the historical disadvantage of their region and alleviation of its people’s distress. It is just so sad.

Part of the problem could be that rather than be productive minded, these so-called leaders are so blinded by rent seeking mentality that they can’t even spare a thought for the stake of deprived masses of their own stock at the grassroots – all in the rapacious drive to enrich themselves.

It is a good thing that the Buhari administration is going after these greedy-guts and recovering the common wealth that has been so insensitively commandeered. To the very limit that it can, the government should spare no effort at recovering all cash and assets that are proceeds of this economic cannibalism by mindless opportunists. But assets recovery isn’t where the dealing of justice to perpetrators should stop. Government needs to bring suspects before the courts for diligent prosecution, to dissuade others who may contemplate following their example. We did not hear President Buhari give any indication on this option, did we?

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