Nineteen years after its creation, the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) has been beset by sundry ills that ravaged its precursor-Oil Mineral Producing Areas Development Commission (OMPADEC)- prompting an impending inquest into its activities, writes Ndubuisi Francis
A dispassionate appraisal of the activities of NDDC, as an interventionist agency, in its almost two decades-long existence, will return a verdict that is everything, but complimentary.
Its signature tone has been largely a trajectory of badly-executed or uncompleted projects, sad tales of disappointment, under-performance, dashed hopes, shoddy project execution and sleaze.
Judged by the quantum of resources at its disposal, not a few observer in the private and public space believe that the agency has been dismal in discharging its mandate.
While fame and fortune have smiled on successive managers of the agency, millions of people in the region–the original beneficiaries for which its creation was deemed necessary, have been languishing in utter privation.
The NDDC Mandate
The NDDC was established in the year 2000 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.
It is saddled with the task of formulating policies and guidelines for the development of the Niger Delta area.
It was designed, among others, to survey the Niger Delta in order to ascertain measures necessary to promote its physical and socio-economic development as well as prepare master plans and schemes designed to promote the physical development of the region and the estimation of the member-states of the commission.
It also has the mandate to implement all the measures approved for the development of the Niger Delta region by the federal government and the states of the commission
However, after 19 years of existence, the overwhelming assessment of its scorecard has been everything, but superlative. To many, what is fair is now foul in the interventionist agency, igniting a call for an inquiry into how the successive managers of organisation had deployed the huge funds at its disposal over the years.
Buhari’s Directive on Forensic Audit
President Muhammadu Buhari had recently ordered a forensic audit of the operations of the commission from 2001 to 2019. The decision followed persistent criticisms of the operations of the NDDC.
Buhari gave the directive after receiving governors of the states that make up the NCDC, led by Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State.
The president said what was presently on ground in the South-south region did not justify the huge resources that had been made available to the agency.
Buhari had also recently nominated a 16-member board of the commission, a move reported to have piqued the governors of the nine oil-producing states that constitute the NDDC catchment area, for lack of ‘consultation.’
While the controversy over whether or not consultation was carried out with the govenors before Buhari nominated the board members was yet to gather steam, the minister of Niger Delta Affairs constituted a three-member interim management team of the commission.
Few days later, the Senate confirmed the board members nominated by the president, with a charge by the Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, that it should take over the affairs of the agency immediately.
Lawan, who stated this after the upper chamber confirmed the appointment of the nominees forwarded to the upper chamber, said the law setting up the NDDC does not recognise any interim arrangement once a board is in place.
Akpabio had set up an interim management team to be in place for six months to oversee a forensic audit of the agency.
But Lawan said the new board, members should take over immediately according to the law setting up the NDDC.
He added that inaugurating the new board members would not affect the works of the forensic auditors, and asked the senate committee on the NDDC to be alive to its responsibility by carrying out its oversight functions.
The Way Forward
The impending audit is expected to provide the launchpad for a more purposeful NDDC. A holistic audit has the potential to unearth the pitfalls of the almost two decades-long agency.
With the realisation that the NDDC has under-performed, and that the Niger Delta region is desperately in need of development, what is required now is a speedy move to cover lost grounds.
It is not a time for controversies, muscle-flexing and bickering, but a time to change the sorry narrative in the Niger Delta.