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Study blames failure in NDDC through looting on poor supervision by presidency, ministry, N/Assembly

Study blames failure in NDDC through looting on poor supervision by presidency, ministry, N/Assembly

Studies conducted by experts and non-state actors in the Niger Delta have pinned the failure of the intervention agency to develop the oil region on poor supervision by the Presidency and of late the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs.

The Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) was for years under the supervision of the Presidency until few years back when it was moved to the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs which in turn reports to the Presidency.

The same study revealed how 12,000 out of 13,377 projects were abandoned after paying trillions of naira for them. The study also indicated that in one particular budget year under scrutiny, more projects were unseen than abandoned.

Thus, experts reviewing a study and review of the forensic report on the activities of the NDDC spanning the past 20 years of the commission’s existence found that personnel of the Commission get compromised and corner the larger chunk of payments made to contractors who abandon the jobs.

The study was commissioned by the Social Action, in collaboration with MacArthur Foundation.

Review of the study at an event in Port Harcourt last week, a researcher and author, Osasu Isibor Ekpen (PhD), had described the NDDC as a metaphor of sleaze.

He said attempt to read the forensic audit report will bring complete outrage. He also hinted that the north is going to be a gas region soon because of massive gas pipelines being laid, saying northern governors met for six hours in a sensitive office in Abuja in 2019 deliberating on this.

He said the region has lost over N15 trillion or $40 Bn wasted in 13,377 contracts awarded and 12,000 abandoned and poured lamentations over the celebrated case of one senator getting 300 contracts with 120 paid for but no work done. “Many senators must be involved.

“The forensic audit (FA) was intended to mock the Niger Delta over waste of funds. The NDDC is a failed house. Northerners have their stooges in the oil region helping them to get what they wanted. Our people are the ones that help them.

“NDDC’s mathematical miracle was In 2019 when they allegedly awarded contracts worth many folds over their budget.”

Poor oversight

A report compiled by a team after the launch of the survey known as “Beyond The Forensic Audit”, at a regional conference in PH, groups including development experts, anti-graft agencies, duty bearers, academia and community teams all identified poor oversight and supervision by the Presidency, the Ministry of the Niger Delta and the National Assembly as main enablers of corruption and are primarily responsible for the failure of the NDDC to live up to its mandates.

This view is contained in the Communiqué issued at the end of the conference and released to the media by Social Action in Port Harcourt and made available to BusinessDay.

The conference which aimed at ensuring how effective collaboration between duty bearers, anti-graft agencies, civil society and other critical stakeholders can contribute to repositioning the NDDC to the path of prudence and accountability, urged the citizens to take up the responsibility of fighting corruption in NDDC by working closely with relevant anti-graft agencies and public institutions like the Bureau of Public Procurement.

While presenting the welcome address, Vivian Bellonwu, Social Action’s Director of Advocacy noted that the NDDC has lost its purpose of creation and has failed to keep up with its social contract.

She therefore called for all hands to be on deck to bring about a complete overhauling of the NDDC system.

In same vein, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Public Relation Officer, Dele Oyewole, representing the Zonal Commandant, noted that there is no way the region can achieve effective-service delivery in NDDC without the participation of everybody in the Niger Delta.

He emphasized the need for public ownership of the fight against corruption, citing the fact that abandoned projects are sited in environments where people live and so should collaborate with relevant authorities to end the menace posed by corruption.

Corroborating the statement of the EFCC representative, Ekere Usieri, the Zonal Director of the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) affirmed that the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission is willing to work with the citizens and NDDC to put an end to the deep rooted level corruption in the Commission.

While presenting a paper on Strengthening Service Delivery through Effective Procurement Process in Public Institution, the representative of the Director General of the Bureau of Public Procurement, Adebowale Adedokun, referred to the CSOs as credible drivers in the process of strengthening service delivery in NDDC.

He called for a change of approach and the need for citizens to acquire prerequisite skills in carrying out projects monitoring and to stop unscrupulous contractors from stealing public resources.

The occasion of the regional conference was used to launch a report by Social Action. The Report contains the analysis of the NDDC 2019 approved capital budget and reports of coordinated field monitoring of NDDC projects across five states of the Niger Delta.

The findings of the budget monitoring exercise were contained in a 61-page publication titled “Pond of Crocodiles: Citizens Report on Budgets and Projects of the Niger Delta Development Commission”.

The report revealed several issues inhibiting the effectiveness of the NDDC to include questionable funds allocations, project abandonment, delay in annual budget passage and over-ambitious and unrealistic projects pursuits, oversight and supervision complacency among others.

While summarizing the findings of the report, the project Coordinator, Isaac Botti, revealed that some 172 projects were monitored across five states of the Niger Delta, out of which 47 percent was not existing, 38 per cent abandoned, 22 per cent completed and four per cent still ongoing.

He further stated that frivolous expenditures in the regional allocation in the 2019 budget of the NDDC amounted to N31 billion.

The Director of Advocacy for Social Action, Vivian Bello, while unveiling the report, charged attendees to take advantage of the veritable information contained in the publication to engage the government and the Commission on inclusive and effective service delivery.

She stressed that the report is a detailed, well researched documents with pains-taken field observations that should not just grace the table or shelves in our offices and home but should be used as advocacy tools.

Key recommendations from the report include the overhauling of the NDDC by constituting the substantive board, ensuring open budget and transparency of operations, strict adherence to procurement procedures laws and standards and active monitoring of financial and procurement activities of the NDDC by anti-graft agencies.

Others are an improved legislative and administrative oversight of the Commission, strengthened community engagement and participation in budget and project implementation and multi-stakeholder partnership to constantly monitor the activities of the NDDC.

The Conference advised the President to take decisive action on the forensic audit and prosecute those found culpable for malfeasance and collusion leading to the abandonment of over 12,000 projects and diversion of trillions meant for the execution of development projects in the Niger Delta.

This is not the first time hair-raising revelations have come out of investigations and studies of NDDC activities. What seems to lack is ability to implement the recommendations because those indicted are also those expected to carry out the clean up. Thus, it seems to be business as usual, participants said at the conference.

Many activists said until they see arrests and prosecution leading to recovery of looted funds, they would stop paying heed to knowing more wastes losses at the NDDC.