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Akpabio inaugurates field forensic auditors to vet NDDC projects, as Commission holds retreat

The Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) has inaugurated field forensic auditors who are expected to begin work on identifying, verifying and reporting on the over 12,000 projects of the commission.

The auditors are to visit all the nine states covered by the commission to assess the projects that are completed, uncompleted, ongoing, abandoned or non-existent.

The inauguration of the field forensic auditors was performed by Godswill Akpabio, minister of Niger Delta Affairs during a three-day strategic capacity building-retreat in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital, provided opportunity for the key players in the commission to re-brand it as an institution that is determined to shed the relics of its inglorious past.

Speaking, Akpabio identified weak governance, corruption and institutional weakness as major challenges the commission has had to deal with, adding that lack of synergy between the relevant agencies and stakeholders was also a major drawback.

In a keynote address, Akpabio noted that transparency and inclusiveness in the commission’s budgeting system, evaluation and strict monitoring of projects and programmes were necessary for the commission to impact meaningfully in the region.

“It is clear that fiscal transparency in budgeting has been compromised not only by executive overrides, but by weak internal mechanisms which give little or no resistance to overbearing external influences,” he said.

According to him, corruption is one of the greatest problems of the Nigerian society and it also finds its ugly and devastating effects in all sectors of the polity including the NDDC.’

He suggested the need to strengthen the commission as an institution through its budgeting systems as well as through its procurement, monitoring, evaluation and compliance processes, adding that weak political and institutional governance should be addressed to equip the commission to achieve its mandate.

“The consequence has been the lingering restiveness, the breakdown of trust, abuse and misuse of power between officials and the communities and embezzlement and attendant violence.

“Yet, every concerned party is guilty, private investors in the oil and gas sector, factions of different community, restive groups, traditional rulers, the regulatory and supervisory agencies and government officials have been fingered as contributory to the challenge in establishing good governance,’’ he said.

In his welcome address, Efiong Akwa, the interim administrator and Chief Executive Officer of the commission, said the retreat was part of the ongoing consultations with internal and stakeholders of the commission to “distil commonalities,’’ explaining that ‘we are here today to work towards the creation of commonalities among stakeholders for speedy development of our beloved Niger Delta region.’’

Describing the commission as a “born again” institution, Akwa said that contrary to its “unsavoury past, the core of our new personae is continual consultations and collaboration with stakeholders to co-create commonalities for effective development of the Niger Delta.’’

He called on all the people to “come together and let us reason together; let us work together to create a common way forward for the benefit of the people.’’

Also speaking, Peter Nwaoboshi, chairman, Senate committee on Niger Delta, called for collaboration and cooperation among the interest groups and stakeholders to ensure that the commission is repositioned to serve the region.

He pledged the readiness of his committee to work in harmony with the commission to bring about rapid development of the region, saying that as a lawmaker, his responsibility is to make laws for the good governance of the country including the Niger Delta region.

Established in 2001 under the NDDC Act of 2000, NDDC was set up to perform many responsibilities including the formulation of policies and guidelines for the development of the Niger Delta area.

It was also to liaise with the various oil mineral and gas prospecting and producing companies on all matters of pollution, prevention and control as well as preparing master plans and schemes designed to promote the physical development of the region and the estimates of the member states of the commission, among others.

Drawing participants from the commission’s member states and key stakeholders, the retreat was seen as a bold move by the commission towards achieving its vision of “offering a lasting solution to the socio-economic difficulties of the Niger Delta region.’’

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