The House of Representatives has stated that it would uncover corruption and mismanagement of funds in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and take necessary corrective action, saying it would do so without political consideration or preference for any predetermined outcomes.
The House Speaker, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, gave the assurance at the opening of a one-day investigative hearing by the House Committee on NDDC, when the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, the Minister of State, Tayo Alasoadura, and other members of ministry appeared before the committee.
He said since the establishment of NDDC in 2000 to facilitate the sustainable development of the Niger Delta; support the regeneration of ecologically damaged areas and achieve economic prosperity for the region, enormous amounts of money had been allocated to the Commission, but lamented that available evidence suggests that the significant allocations have not achieved the objectives for which they were intended.
The Speaker said ecological damage is still a clear and present danger to the people of the region, depriving them of opportunities for economic sustenance and sustainable living.
He pointed out that the available transportation, healthcare and education infrastructure are still insufficient to meet the present needs of the people, stressing that after these years, the people of the region are beginning to wonder if the establishment of the NDDC has served any real purpose or made any positive impact on the lives of the people.
Gbajabiamila stressed further that it was for these reasons that the House resolved to investigate the operations of the NDDC to identify the issues that have mitigated against the full achievement of the Commission’s goals.
According to him, “Every-thing is on the table. Where corruption or mismanagement is the issue, we will uncover them and take necessary corrective action, and we will do so without political consideration or preference for any predetermined outcomes.
“Where funding or the lack thereof has been an issue, we will also take action to remedy the situation. Our objective is to ensure that the Commission is properly positioned to carry out its mandate effectively and meet the obligations it owes to the Niger Delta and to the country.”
The Speaker stressed that the investigative hearing was an opportunity for stakeholders to have their views heard, provide information and context and assist the Committee in delivering a substantive report for the House to consider and act upon.
Earlier, the Chairman of the Committee, Hon. Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, recalled that the House on November 13, 2019, deliberated on a motion on the need to stop the illegality in the NDDC and consequently referred same to the Committee to investigate.
He noted that the Committee was committed to dealing with the issues dispassionately, while also urging all the stakeholders to give the Committee maximum cooperation.
Tunji-Ojo warned that media attacks on the legislature should stop henceforth, adding that the National Assembly is one, and an attack on the Senate is an attack on the House, which would be considered as a declaration of war on the institution.
He stated that the lawmakers would not allow anybody or agency to bring the institution to disrepute.
Speaking with journalists after the closed-door investigative hearing, Akpabio said although the result of the hearing was not known yet, the investigation went well.
The minister also revealed that the forensic audit was on course, adding that the intention was that if anybody has committed misappropriation or otherwise, it is an opportunity for them to go back to site for monies they collected and complete the projects, or if the forensic audit unearth those things, those implicated have the right to refund or face the law.
Akpabio added: “We have started on abandoned projects already. For instance, the head office of the NDDC which was started and not completed, we are on it and promised that working closely with the committee, we will deliver the head office by April 2020. The gigantic cardiovascular hospital abandoned for years which is 80 per cent complete, we are also working to ensure that it’s completed. About 91 containers of electrical equipment, including 5,000 transformers, are at One port are on the verge of being cleared. We believe when we do all these, we will power to a lot of communities in the region.”
Akpabio also lamented about the quality of NDDC road projects and why it cannot last for five years.