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NASS NDDC probe a tragedy, not a comedy

Stop laughing. It is a tragedy, and not a comedy. Bizarre revelations from the ongoing probe of the Interim Management of the Niger Delta Development…

Stop laughing. It is a tragedy, and not a comedy.

Bizarre revelations from the ongoing probe of the Interim Management of the Niger Delta Development Commission ought to elicit weeping for the nation, nay, the African continent.

For even as the proceedings are followed with jeering and laughter from the floor of the House of Representatives, and the massive TV following, unfolding is a gruesome tragedy for Nigeria that should make us weep and gnash teeth.

Here is a grand opportunity supported by President Buhari’s political commitment to enabling the Niger Delta Region redeem itself from the ravages of oil exploration, the mainstay of Nigeria’s economy, being wasted owing to the greed and unfettered corruption of the communities’ elite.

Niger Delta Affairs Minister Senator Godswill Akpabio has shamelessly affirmed first, that the mismanagement being probed in any case had accounted for the stability of the hitherto volatile oil region and also that 60% of the contracts given went to the National Assembly members questioning him as if they were holy and blameless.

The painful irony becomes clear that most of those overfed and chubby loud mouths in the National Assembly probe are beneficiaries of the sleaze – a tragic spectacle when seen against the backdrop of the decadence and squalor of the Niger Delta region and its suffering poor ordinary citizens dying daily in want in order to make ends meet.

Matters took a new turn when embattled former Acting Managing Director Joy Nunieh pitched herself against Minister of the Niger Delta Affairs Senator Godswill Akpabio and turned tables on the minister caught flatfooted because he had basically not done the needful via a management board for the commission.

His failure to constitute a board in compliance with the NDDC statutes left him answerable if not party to the mismanagement under his watch as minister.

The nation was yet to recover from accusation and counter-accusation between Nunieh and Akpabio when Interim Managing Director Kemebradikumo Pondeh and his management pitched against Committee Chairman Rep. Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo walked out on day one accusing the chairman of being party to the sleaze he was posing to probe.

Pondeh was to return at the next sitting  and facing same chairman appeared to have fainted and was taken out of the probe.

Then Representative Tunji-Ojo suddenly recused himself opting instead to face the nation’s anti-corruption agencies over the allegations that he indeed was at the centre of the corruption involving N40bn and was uncomfortable presiding over the probe.

By the end of the sitting, Minister Akpabio widened the dragnet as he cited the members as being partakers in the sharing under probe.

It was a shameful and tragic spectacle yet many jeered and laughed.

Said Akpabio, members of the National Assembly are the beneficiaries of most of the contracts  from the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).

In a classic hunter becoming the hunted, a crime involving N40bn has been committed in a supposed forensic audit of how in spite of huge financial inflows, the NDDC is indebted to the tune of over N2trn with an embarrassing 12,000 uncompleted and abandoned projects.

What is to come out of this unfolding drama of the absurd at the National Assembly?

Nigerians have no confidence that much can come out at all, even as the central actors squeal on one another.

The Presidency is languidly watching over this and is not intervening to suspend the minister, Senator Godswill Akpabio, the interim management, and also set up an independent body to oversee NDDC while the probe continues, as is being canvassed popularly.

The accused witnesses, left to manage on, will tamper with evidence and in the end, go scot-free.

Tragically also, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission is itself bogged down in an upheaval of abuse of office and hence lacks the spine to lead the presidential intervention were any to be imagined.

As much as we are loud in angst about the mismanagement at the NDDC, this probe could just go the way of all past probes.

The Ndudi Elumelu House Panel on Power Contracts in 2009 was just as loud and revealing, yet the entire report of 88 recommendations was ditched and all the indicted in the report walk free today, with $16bn gone forcing President Buhari to ask Obasanjo that famous question – “you  spent $16bn on power, where is the power”?

What became of the house probe triggered by Femi Otedola when he accused members of demanding cash for reprieve in the probe?

Even as there appears a national uproar over the revelations at the National Assembly probe of the NDDC, it is frustrating to think and even to know that not only would this end up a fruitless waste of time, the NDDC is not alone in this type of mess.

This minute, a councillor, a local government chairman, a state legislator, a state governor, a peoples representative, a senator, or even a governor and all the way up to the presidency will fail the trust and integrity test if subjected.

Were you to rake up the dirt in any of our Ministries Departments and Agencies of government, no dog would eat what you would turn up.

The culture of corruption runs deep in our veins.

What percentage of our people is corrupt? Probably 99%.

How many will come out clean from under a forensic probe of financial management? May be none.

Between parents and their children watching this probe, one can find a general numbness to corruption.

No sense of anger or even regret.

All seems normal and acceptable.

It should disturb us.

The natural instinct of public officers appears to be to pillage public funds to self. In Nigeria, the corrupt top is not punished.

Only the petty thieves at the bottom go to jail, unlike Singapore which succeeded in dealing with corruption, by jailing the people at the top.

Nigerians find comedy in the tragedy revealed in the ongoing probe only because impunity has truly made the public numb to theft of such humongous sums of money from the treasury.

The pillage goes on.

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