The Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC has gotten the support of some notable stakeholders in the Niger Delta region in its quest to conduct forensic auditing of the commission.
The stakeholdersdeclared support especially to the ongoing forensic audit undertaken by thecommission while on a solidarity visit to the NDDC management at thecommission’s new permanent headquarters in Port Harcourt.
The cream of advocates from the oil-rich region led by Chief Timi Kaiser Ogoriba, which included Ms. Ankio Briggs and Alhaji Asari Dokubo, lauded the IMC for taking some notable strides while urging it to do more because the development of the Niger Delta region was still a far cry from what was envisaged by those whose agitations led to the establishment of the NDDC.
Ogoriba said: “The on-going forensic audit is very necessary because the funds that have passed through the NDDC from inception to date, do not match the development on the ground. Given this fact, anyone that is against the forensic audit has a problem, and such a person is an enemy of the Niger Delta people.”
He observed that a lotof the funds that had come into the NDDC were not properly managed, stating:“We want a situation where things are done differently for better results.”
Ogoriba applauded theNDDC for completing its permanent headquarters building, urging the commissionto also monitor the proper execution of its projects.
“You need an independent project monitoring committee that will stick to rulesand ensure compliance with set standards,” he said.
Responding, the NDDCActing Managing Director, Prof Kemebradikumo Pondei, said that the IMC waspoised to reposition and refocus the commission as directed by PresidentMuhamadu Buhari.
He said: “The NDDC hasexisted for 20 years, doing things the same way and it has not been able todeliver on its core mandate of fast-tracking development in the Niger Deltaregion.
“We have tried to makesome changes but we met a lot of challenges. We believe that with all hands ondeck and leaving the past behind, we are going to surge forward and bring theneeded development to our people.”
Pondei expressed sadnessthat the NDDC, which was set up as an interventionist agency, ended upperforming the functions of local and state governments, thus limiting itscapacity to intervene where necessary.
He declared: “We want toreturn the NDDC to its proper role as an interventionist agency.
“That is why we are revisiting the region’s roadmap, the Niger Delta RegionalDevelopment Master Plan. The development compass needs review and we will needinputs from all stakeholders to once again underline what the NDDC is supposedto be doing.”
In the area of project monitoring, Pondei said that the commission had since changed its approach.
He explained: “In the recent inspection of just 15 projects by the Executive Director Projects and his team, the commission saved N1.6billion from overstated milestones. They could not match what was on the ground with what was presented in Interim Payment Certificates (IPCs). We could have done more of these project inspections but for the distractions coming from our detractors. Nevertheless, we are set to resume inspection visits.”
The NDDC boss said thatthe commission had been engaging the governors of the nine Niger Delta states.
According to him, “our plan is to hold regular meetings but this has not beenrealized because of the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic. However, we havebeen able to hold virtual meetings through Zoom.”
Pondei lamented thatvarious agricultural programmes have failed in the Niger Delta region onaccount of poor funding. Notwithstanding, he said, the commission had started apilot rice planting project which would be spread across the region subsequently.
He said further: “Thisproject will help in getting our youths to be meaningfully engaged in farming.The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), is ready to provide loans for it.
“We also have plans to train our youths to benefit from the Nigeria Liquefied NaturalGas (NLNG) Train 7 project. Barring funding challenges, we want to train theyouths in under-water welding.”
Also speaking, the NDDC Executive Director Projects, Dr. Cairo Ojougboh, assured that the IMC would do the right things for the benefit of the people of the Niger Delta.
He said that the demonstration of support from leaders of the region was reassuring, noting that the solidarity visit to NDDC meant that the IMC was on the right path.
In her own remarks, an environmental and human rights activist, Annkio Briggs, bemoaned a situation where the NDDC and the Niger Delta region were now a laughing stock in Nigeria because everybody who wanted to make excuses for the injustice in the region cites the poor performance of the NDDC.
The truth, she said, wasthat the commission had to deal with a system where its budget must be taken tothe National Assembly where the lawmakers were at liberty to pick and choosewhat they want before approving the budget.