The Interim management committee is illegal and should be disbanded, writes Ebi Arogbofa

In an open letter to the Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives on the National Assembly’s probe of the Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) elder statesman Chief E.K. Clark sought, rather outlandishly, to give life to the allegations made against the lawmakers in the wake of their investigation into the stealing going on at the NDDC, without addressing the corruption that has been perpetrated by the same IMC in the last few months. Chief E.K. Clark’s position must not be allowed to stand and he should steer clear of the IMC probe by the National Assembly.

We are surprised that Chief Clark has not found it worthy to speak on the weighty allegations and petitions of corruption against the IMC, which were sent to the lawmakers and in the media over the last three months on which basis the National Assembly was compelled by its constitutional duty to set up committees to investigate them.

The positions stated in that open letter are fallacious.

For Chief Clark to call the imposition of the illegal interim management committee, which has been condemned by the overwhelming majority of the Niger Delta people and indeed Nigerians, because it is illegal, as courageous is unfortunate. To further qualify the illegal IMC as necessary to supervise the forensic audit betrays a deep lack of knowledge of the operations of organisations. If anything, the forensic audit has become the meal ticket of the illegal IMC.

By virtue of the NDDC Act of 2000, as amended, the legal management provided for the NDDC is the Governing Board. Also, nowhere in this country has a management board been put on hold or set aside for an interim management because of an external audit by whatever name it is called. These are salient issues that we have pointed out which convince us that there is more to the imposition of the IMC on the NDDC.

Anyone who has been in the vanguard of the struggle in the Niger Delta should not be a sounding board for corrupt politicians who are using the IMC and the lies of the so-called audit to further their personal agendas. Chief Clark should refrain from regurgitating the lies and statements of the members of the IMC whose hands have been caught in the cookie jar.

The facts of the matter are that allegations have been made by whistleblowers against the IMC that it breached due process in the award of contracts running into billions of naira and these are being investigated by committees of the Senate and House of Representatives in line with their constitutional duty guaranteed by Section 88 of the Nigerian Constitution to oversight ministries, departments and agencies, a right that is inalienable. There are fundamental issues that cannot be changed by the IMC and Akpabio propaganda, one of which is that the IMC is illegal and has no place in the NDDC Act. The second is that it serves no functional purpose in the administration of the NDDC, especially the trumped-up mission to supervise the forensic audit.

The NDDC’s IMC cannot be allowed to use the forensic audit and its own unproven allegations against some lawmakers to blackmail the National Assembly to stop the probe. The IMC, as every Nigerian citizen, organization or group, knows that it has a duty to report any corrupt act such as demand for bribes to the anti-corruption agencies. The question to ask is why the IMC, which has been imposed on the NDDC for seven months now, did not report these allegations against the lawmakers if it has any evidence. Why is it just making these allegations now that its stewardship is being probed?

It is not true to say that the probe of the IMC will affect the forensic audit because the IMC has no role in the audit, except if the agenda is to teleguide the auditors to work to the answer. Our position is that a credible independent international audit firm be engaged for the forensic audit, just like it was done in the case of the NNPC a few years ago when Price Waterhouse was engaged to audit the Corporation. During that audit, the NNPC board and management were not set aside for an ‘interim management committee’.

The authentic voices of the Niger Delta are very clear in our demands, which are: one, the IMC is illegal and is not provided for in the NDDC Act. The IMC must be disbanded immediately because, as an illegal contraption, it serves no functional purpose in the administration of the NDDC.

Two, since IMC has been there for the past seven months, the National Assembly must investigate its operations, the allegations made against it and Akpabio, and recover all funds spent without proper appropriation and in negation of extant rules of financial propriety.

Three, the forensic audit has to be done by a reputable independent auditor, creditably and independently, just as the NNPC audit was done by Price Waterhouse a few years back while the legitimate board and management was still in place. The board and management of the NNPC were not set aside for an IMC in order to do the audit. The audit was done independently.

Four, the NDDC Governing Board, which is provided for in line with the law, should be put in place immediately to run the affairs of the Commission.

In conclusion, we urge the Senate and House of Representatives to remain steadfast in their probe of the IMC in the discharge of their constitutional mandate of oversight (in line with Section 88 of the Constitution). We want to emphasize that the Niger Delta people are fully behind all legitimate efforts to strengthen the NDDC. However, we will resist all attempts to produce a stage-managed forensic audit report, which is what Akpabio and the IMC want to do. The Governing Board of the NDDC should be put in place immediately in line with the NDDC Act. The NDDC has to be run in line with the law.

Comrade Arogbofa is Director of Research, Strategy and Information, Niger Delta Renaissance Coalition