By Udora Orizu
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, on Wednesday said despite its critical importance and vast sums that have been appropriated by the federal government to the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) since inception, the commission has not kept its promise to the region.
Gbajabiamila stated this at the public investigative hearing on alleged financial malfeasance in the NDDC held by the Committee on Niger Delta Development Commission at the National Assembly Complex in Abuja.
He said it is particularly disturbing and embarrassing that every other news report about the NDDC seems to centre around escalating allegations of corruption and malfeasance.
The Speaker lamented that the Niger Delta continues to score exceptionally low on many of the major human development indices.
He expressed concern that these statistics reflect the reality of disease and deprivation, lack of opportunity and broken dreams that is the plight of many of the citizens in the region.
He assured Nigerians that the House will neither fear nor favour anyone following the allegations of corruption and malfeasance that have dogged the commission.
Gbajabiamila also urged all stakeholders to consider the investigative hearing as a last-ditch effort to save the NDDC and engage with the committee in a patriotic partnership to break the jinx of underdevelopment in the Niger Delta region.
He said: ”The Federal Government of Nigeria created the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) as an interventionist agency to bridge critical development gaps in a region where years of underinvestment in infrastructure and the damage from fossil fuel exploration has had a severely deleterious effect on the lives, livelihoods and wellbeing of the people. It was intended that the commission will begin the long-overdue process of making good on our nation’s obligations to the people of the Niger Delta, from whose lands and waters we have for decades drawn our nation’s sustenance.
”Our purpose today, and over the cause of this investigative hearing, is to ask why this failure persists and to do so with a determination to understand the causes of that failure so that we can act to redeem the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and remove those factors that imperil the commission’s noble mission.
”The success of this present assignment will depend in no small extent on the willingness of the various stakeholders in the commission, within government and in the local communities to cooperate with the committee, by providing material evidence in the form of documents or witness testimony. We are confident in the assurance that we have both a constitutional duty and moral obligation to ensure that the enormous sums of money appropriated to the NDDC over the years are appropriately accounted for by those whose responsibility it has been to manage this important and all too essential public trust.”