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Nigeria: How not to fight corruption

Time is now for those stealing public funds to pay for it

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The probe into the financial malfeasance in the operations of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) showed little or no seriousness in the fight against corruption in Nigeria. It was a clear manifestation of how not to fight corruption.

A country does not fight corruption on TV which is why the so called probe could be likened to a comic interlude. It was indeed an embarrassment to a country which prides itself as the giant of Africa.

Although the efforts of President Muhammadu Buhari to order a probe of the NDDC now after about 19 years of the commission’s failure to deliver on its mandate to bring development to the Niger Delta region is commendable, we are of the view that it is not enough to just set up a panel given the weight of the allegations against the NDDC officials and the fact that cases like this are becoming the norm.

The Niger Delta region, which  is the path to Nigeria’s financial prosperity since oil was discovered in the region in 1956, has been suffering since then from oil spills, pollution and many other health hazards. While Nigeria recorded an increase of over 500 percent in earnings from crude oil exports as oil sold for over $100 per barrel in 1979, the region remains grossly underdeveloped.

The Oil Mineral Producing Area Development Commission (OMPADEC), established under President Ibrahim Babangida to address the Niger Delta challenges, failed after Eric Opia failed to account for N7 billion which accounted for half of the commission’s budget.

The NDDC on the other hand has received, at least, N15 trillion since it was established by President Oludegun Obasanjo in 2000. Still, the region is in a poor state. This suggests that these commissions, over the years, have mainly been used as a vehicle for corruption and misplaced spending.

Beyond the Niger Delta region development being an opportunity cost to the satisfaction of the greedy and inordinate desires of individuals at the helm of affairs in these commissions, Nigeria has wasted funds that could have been deployed into more economically viable projects for the benefit of all.

Now, N40 billion has been misappropriated during Pondei’s short tenure that started after he replaced Joi Nunieh. This, for us, is a terrible piece of news that Nigeria is still battling cases of embezzlements in time of a pandemic when funds are needed to ameliorate the sufferings of people. Bringing cases like this to the media and making jokes of them have become the trend in Nigeria’s recent history.

By all standards and stretch of the imagination, it is not right that billions are being spent but there is nothing to show for it. Also, it is not okay that taking bribes is the order of the day among Nigeria lawmakers. We believe that it is high time those found guilty of stealing public funds pay dearly for their actions. It is also time President Buhari lived up to his promises of fighting corruption.

Like other Nigerians, we have not forgotten that, as the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2015, Buhari said, “if you work hard to stop corruption at the polling units by voting for the APC, I can say that you are not doing me good but you will be doing yourself good. Nigerians must rise up to fight and kill corruption before it kills us.” But five years down the line, we are seeing corruption killing Nigeria daily on TV.

We demand more from President Buhari in the fight against corruption, more especially in the probe of the NDDC. We believe more can come out of a president than just setting up a panel.

Failure to deliver on the promises made to the Niger Delta region is an invitation to further insecurity, unrest and health hazards. The NDDC must be held accountable. Transparency must be demanded and oversight functions must be in place.

Setting audits and committees without removing those in charge at the NDDC, who clearly do not have the interest of Niger Delta people at heart but use the commission as money making venture, the fight against corruption in that space will ever remain a huge joke.

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