By Emmanuel Addeh
A Niger Delta advocacy group, the Citizens Quest for Truth Initiative(CQTI) has dismissed the National Assembly’s probe of the activities of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) as a mere ruse.
The group argued that the lawmakers cannot midwife the desired transformation in the commission, insisting that the outcome of the probe had been premediated.
In a statement signed in Abuja by its President and Publicity Secretary, Chief Obiaruko Ndukwe and Mr Francis Ndimkoha, respectively, the advocacy group added that no meaningful probe can be carried out by same persons who have been directly or remotely involved in the alleged plundering of the interventionist agency.
The group which participated and made presentations at the public hearing at the both chambers, expressed dissatisfaction at the exercise, arguing that blaming the five-month old Interim Management Committee (IMC) for the over two-decade financial malfeasance in the commission was merely chasing the shadows.
“The cabal that has held down the NDDC for two decades is now the same set of people posturing with a holier than thou disposition and suffocating the media space with tales of how the five months old IMC of the NDDC suddenly became the reason the commission failed to achieve its core mandate, in the past 20 years” it maintained
While stating that ordinarily, the probe should get due applause from the Niger Delta people and Nigerians at large, the group noted that the move has been greeted with mixed feelings due to the allegations of culpability in the sleaze, also levelled against the lawmakers by the present management of the NDDC and its supervising minister.
It maintained that all allegations flying around can only seek to serve the intent of those who want to discredit and scuttle the process of the forensic audit authorised by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The group explained that since the budget of the NDDC is usually passed by a joint committee of the National Assembly, that the probe of the budget expenditure should rightly be done by the same joint committee that approved budget.
“ But by holding different public hearings on the same matter, the senate and house of representatives mainly aimed at media trial, to set the people against the management of the commission and by extension, the minister of the Niger Delta Affairs,” it said.
Also raising questions over the manner the assembly hearings were conducted, the group said that anyone who gave the slightest sign of speaking in favour of the IMC was dealt a good deal of brow-beating.
“Such persons will be made to speak to their documents or practically ordered to ‘off your mic’. By so doing, the presentations are never allowed a free flow, but severally punctuated with interjections that suggest an attempt to create anxiety disorder in the mind of the presenter, who in most cases, would be forced to retreat, out of frustration”
It alleged that what transpired in both chambers seemed like a rehearsed pattern of attempts at hushing and muffling of voices that were not in agreement with the position of the national assembly.
“And even at that, members of the NDDC committee who were mentioned in relation to the contract scam, both in the senate and house of representatives should not have been part of the committee, in the first place.
“As an accountability advocacy group, the Citizens Quest for Truth Initiative insists that the public hearing was never in the best interest of the people of Niger Delta and as such amounted not just to a waste of precious time and resources but an attempt to derail or scuttle the forensic audit.”