- Paying arrears of scholarships of Niger Deltans abroad is good, but those indicted in NDDC probes should be swiftly prosecuted.
Students from the Niger Delta states have cause to laugh, with President Muhammadu Buhari’s order that they be immediately paid their scholarship allowances in full. Following days of rage along the streets of leading countries’ capitals, the president showed compassion by ordering that their allowances pending for about three years be cleared without waiting for the outcome of the ongoing legislative probes and forensic audit into the account of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
This is a welcome development as it would provide a soothing balm to the young Nigerians who had been proudly dispatched to leading world universities as a way of compensating the long neglected people of the rich region who are among the poorest in the country. Some of the students ought to have concluded their studies, but were starved of needed fund for the research to facilitate the projects necessary for the purpose.
President Buhari deserves commendation for his unusual swift response. We hope he would continue in like manner in matters relating to the welfare and security of Nigerians. He had, in times past, been heavily criticised for either being too slow in responding to national matters such as the violence perpetrated by the killer herdsmen, or even sometimes adjudged to be supporting them by claiming before investigation that they were foreigners from Libya. In cases of flood and other natural disasters, the President is hardly known to have responded promptly.
But, we hope that the appropriate response in this case would not be a one-off. We expect that he would realise that one of the major duties of a President is to wipe the tears of the weak and dole out punishment where his instructions are not carried out in time. Nigerians would not forget easily how the former Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Ibrahim Idris, failed to obey the instruction to move immediately to Benue State at the height of the wanton destruction of lives and property in that state. Yet, the President took no action. Failure to act in time sometimes gives the impression that the President has taken sides. The wanton killings in Southern Kaduna where a Fulani militia group is believed to be the aggressor, has not drawn the interest of President Buhari. It has been left for the state governor, Nasir el-Rufai, whose control of security forces is limited.
We call on the President to move as swiftly in resolving the mess in the NDDC. It’s time the Interim Management Committee running the commission was disbanded to give way for the inauguration of the statutory board nominated by the President and approved by the National Assembly, last year. He should also look into the legality of putting the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs in charge of the commission as against the practice of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation.
As many as may be found culpable from the probes and audit should be swiftly arraigned before the court of law. The people of Niger Delta have suffered long enough. Their cries should be heard in Aso Villa, and duly attended to. The government should not stop at ensuring that scholarship funds are promptly disbursed. Contractors, bureaucrats, politicians and legislators whose hands are found in the till should be made to pay the price, and the legion of abandoned projects whose budgeted funds have been shared by looters should come alive again. President Buhari was elected principally because he was considered a man of integrity, he should immediately swing into action in this regard.