The Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, has provided an insight into the mind-boggling corruption and wrong-doings unearthed in the forensic audit of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), ordered by the Federal Government in 2019. At the presentation of the forensic report to government last week, Senator Akpabio said the auditors discovered that about 13,700 projects awarded by the NDDC between 2001 and 2019 were abandoned.
According to Akpabio, “Most of the abandoned projects have become the abode of criminals. Projects were embarked on without consultations. There was no initial coordination…” Receiving the report on behalf of President Muhammadu Buhari, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, said government had set up the forensic audit to ensure accountability in the approximately N6 trillion approved as budgetary allocations to the Niger Delta since its establishment in 2000.
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Though the full scale of the corruption and plundering of NDDC has not been unveiled, the tragic irony of the organization is associated with the fact that an interventionist outfit to address the outcry of the people of the Niger Delta over abject poverty, environmental degradation, and socio-economic backwardness, has turned to a den of looters. It was set up with the mission of “facilitating the rapid, even and sustainable development of the Niger Delta into a region that is economically prosperous, socially stable, ecologically regenerative and politically peaceful,” according to NDDC mandate. However, these objectives have hardly been achieved in spite of the trillions of Naira the federal government has channeled into the NDDC.
The forensic audit ordered by this government was not the first probe into suspected frauds at NDDC. The financial transactions of the organization between January 2013 and June 2018 was probed by the Office of Auditor-General of the Federation, in what was called “special periodic checks on the activities and programmes of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).” One of the many discoveries by the Auditor-General’s office read thus: “It was observed that so many contractors were paid the mobilization fees to enable them to commence the execution of the projects awarded to them. Contrary to the contract terms and the agreements, some of the contractors bolted away after the collection of the mobilization fees.”
On project inspection, the AuGF report said: “…The Project Management Department, saddled with the responsibility of ensuring that all the contractors complied with all the scope of work… and as [certified] by the Project Engineer in the Valuation report and the payment certificates issued … only existed in name without any feasible quality assurance role carried out on any project… The inactiveness of [Project Management Department] has led to some contractors being paid for substandard jobs. Also, the engineers issued Valuation certificates and the payment certificates at will without any form of control. Status of work executed on the various projects and the competence of the contractors to carry out the jobs awarded to them were not reported on by this Department…”
Even the flagship Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP) has been probed by a presidential panel, headed by the National Security Adviser, General Babagana Monguno (rtd), which reportedly uncovered massive fraud involving even the coordinators of the programme.
This indeed is scandalous and a betrayal of the people by the elite in the region. It is unfortunate that efforts of government at making lives better for the people of the Niger Delta are being frustrated by the people from that same region. Government must see this matter to a logical conclusion. It should issue a White Paper on the outcome of the forensic investigation and prosecute all contractors and officials of the NDDC who have frustrated the achievements of the objectives of the agency. The vital recommendations of the audit report should be implemented, and government must closely monitor the projects of NDDC closely henceforth. In this matter, there should be no sacred cows. This must not go the way of previous investigative reports by the Executive and Legislative arms of government, which have died upon submission or made to gather dust in some secret filling cabinets in government offices.
One of the antidotes to corruption is publicity. We call on government to publicise the names of individuals and companies involved in the unconscionable rape of the people of Niger Delta and the monumental looting of the commonwealth of the Nigerian people. The Attorney-General must follow through on government’s decision to remedy the deficiencies highlighted in the audit report. It is time to put an end to plundering at the commission.