With the offensive stench coming out of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), one wonders what has become of patriotism, accountability and the love for one another in Nigeria.
The agency, which was designed to play an interventionist role between the almighty federal government and the impoverished people of the region, by bridging the ever-yawning gap orchestrated by years of neglect and a bleeding parasitic relationship between the two, has become a cash cow for both the government and the very people it was designed to help. This is paradoxically nauseating and a painful antithesis against the backdrop of the sprawling poverty, pervading the Niger Delta region.
Before we blame the maggots, let us also not forget to blame the government who repealed the laudable and people-oriented provisions of the OMPADEC decree to create an agency attached to the apron strings of the Presidency who appoints the CEO of the agency, (without an input from the Niger Delta people) thereby making it a political appointment. Such political appointee becomes a willing and a loyal tool of the government of the day.
It is against this backdrop that some people felt that the agency was designed to fail from the onset, reason being that the very commission designed to help a people is systematically taken away from the control of the same people. Therefore, the weaponisation of sentiments falling out from the “roforofo” fight between Senator Godswill Akpabio and Dr Joi Nunieh on one hand and the dramatisation of the probe of Prof Keme Pondei on the other, to make the federal government look like saint in this saga is annoying.
While one may not excuse the financial atrocities committed by those who helped themselves with our common patrimony, it is equally imperative to look at the systemic corruption and enablers that paved the way for today’s dramatis personae to feed fat from the collective wealth they were called to manage and the palpable fact that the NDDC is equally a patronage agency of the federal government.
It should be recalled that the 1998 OMPADEC Decree, promulgated by Gen Abdulsalami Abubakar, charged the agency with the primary responsibility of developing the oil producing communities, according to the priorities set by the communities. But the NDDC act repealed this populist and grassroots oriented objective and charged the commission with the responsibility of developing the communities according to the priorities set by the federal and state governments. This negatively catalytic provision, emphasised that in carrying out its functions, the commission shall be subject to the control, direction and supervision of the president.
This is how the commission became an adorable bride to power the corridors of power. So beyond the hullabaloo of probes, forensic inquisition, investigations, name-shaming and other cosmetic shenanigans that we’re witnessing now, let us call, too, for a community-oriented and people-controlled commission as enunciated in the repealed OMPADEC Decree of yore.
There’s no denying the fact that the NDDC house is infested by human maggots and needs to be cleansed. Let the guilty be duly punished according to the laws of the land. But above all, may God let all these drama culminate in bequeathing to the Niger Delta people a better, laudable and people-oriented commission.
Austen Akhagbeme, Abuja