Dumbo Hinks writes that the Pondei-led Interim Management Committee should be allowed to clean up and restore the dignity of NDDC
In the heat of the controversy at the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), I have chosen to put things in the right perspective partly because I know the capacity and character of Prof. Daniel Kemebradikumo Pondei, and then, he represents just who the government could rely on to restore the NDDC.
Pondei is a just and competent man; I know this because I have worked closely with him. In his commitment to results, he has never in my experience opted for dishonest routes.
Without a doubt, the last few weeks have really been unpleasant for the NDDC, and news reports have further helped to create an unbalanced narration of events therein, which is why I feel the need to do this.
It was Pondei who categorically told the government at his inauguration that: “By my training, I am a problem-solver and I pray that members of the IMC will work together to solve problems. The NDDC has existed for about 20 years… a 20-year-old child that still needs to take breast milk is in trouble. By extension, the NDDC is in trouble.”
Pondei also indicated that with the IMC he is leading, he will adopt new approaches to clean and reposition the NDDC. Only the brave and competent tells a potential employer that a subsidiary it has invested a lot in is dying off and needs a strategy turnaround.
He stated clearly that previously used approaches have failed to deliver the right outcomes in the NDDC, but that he will adopt an approach that will deliver enviable outcomes. His planned strategy would when executed deliver the government’s desires and make the people of Niger Delta happy with the NDDC.
But without allowing for the methods he envisaged and set out to implement to gain foothold, the National Assembly probe came in and for want of words, made to discredit, disrupt and disorganise the Pondei-led IMC.
As it has shown, the aftershock of the public hearing clearly seems to have vindicated Pondei and his conviction that the NDDC is in trouble; revelations that legislators are major beneficiaries of contract cheats and abuse of office in the commission are one of the many troubles Pondei spoke about that needed to stop.
An as interventionist agency, NDDC was created precisely to structurally fix the socio-economic challenges of the Niger Delta; a region that Nigeria has greatly leveraged its hydrocarbon resources to stay together for years now, but it has lately been raided and captured by interests different from its core mandate.
There have been instances of financial fraud, contracts abuses, evasion of due process and ultimately, misallocation of social and economic interventions. But these did not happen with Prof. Daniel Kemebradikumo Pondei who was appointed on Thursday, February 20, 2020 to head the agency.
It was on the basis of the repeated instances of misuse of resources at the NDDC that Pondei, a professor of medicine from the Niger Delta University (NDU) in Bayelsa State was appointed as managing director of the agency; to clean up and set it back on the right path.
In its judgment of the situation at the NDDC, the presidency replaced Joi Nunieh, an Ogoni-born lawyer and activist, with Pondei to now heads the Interim Management Committee (IMC) which was to amongst other requests, conduct a forensic audit of the activities of NDDC.
Pondei’s appointment made him the fifth managing director of NDDC in one year; a management turnover which does not speak well of, or rather tells that the commission is poorly run. From Akwa Ibom-born Nsima Ekere who took over from Ibim Semenitari and susequently resigned to contest for the governor in his state, to Nelson Brambaifa, a professor of pharmacology who was fired in September 2019 over alleged abuse of office, and then Akwagaga Enyia, a director in the commission who got the nod to head it but later got replaced with Nunieh.
Nunieh began contract verification in the agency but was replaced by Pondei whose competence, calmness and disposition to honest practices is well-known. And, I do not think the events that played out at the National Assembly reflects in any way the nature of Pondei which I know.
Pondei is not a pushover and has over time and circumstances proven himself to be a man of consistent character. He has earned respect and healthy compliments from across board.
As a medical graduate of the University of Lagos, PhD holder in microbiology from the School of Molecular Medical Sciences, University of Nottingham, and then a professor of medical microbiology with specialty in virology, Pondei has proved his competence in academic rigours.
He has equally proved that his academic competencies are adaptable in practical management scenes through the administrative responsibilities he has held including that as the Provost of the College of Health Sciences, Niger Delta University before he was appointed into NDDC.
He was Acting Head of the Department of Medical Microbiology and Parasitology, as well as Acting Dean of the Faculty of Basic Medical Sciences, College of Health Sciences, Niger Delta University. Pondei once led the Bayelsa division of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA).
Such a man who has been widely described by many as skilled and meticulous could not suddenly descend into the character and narrative that are put out there. He started well on his mandate at the NDDC and should be allowed to continue the work of cleaning up and restoring the dignity of NDDC.
Now that we know who benefits from the NDDC, I urge President Muhammadu Buhari, and the people of the Niger Delta to stand with Pondei; he is competent, result-oriented and will deliver the right outcomes for the government, NDDC and the region.
Hinks, a businessman and former chairman of Ekeremor local government, wrote from Bayelsa