In a world where action often speaks louder than words, the ongoing macabre drama associated with the appointment of a substantive board for the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), is assuming the status of a filibuster. It is increasingly becoming a case of the more you look, the less you see. This is even as all the conditions precedent to it happening, have been fulfilled. In one vein, if it is easily recalled that at the last count, the appointment of a substantive board for the NDDC was promised to be by last July – which was two months ago, such is already belated. In the other vein, considering that it was also predicated on the conclusion of the forensic audit exercise on the commission, that too had been concluded and the report delivered to the President by the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs Godswill Akpabio. What then is the cause of the new delay one could ask the government – especially Godswill Akpabio who as the arrowhead of the NDDC brouhaha, owes Nigerians and the world, the answer to this riddle.
This situation becomes more acute by the day when it is considered that several stakeholders – especially the voices that have all along championed restraint in the restiveness by aggrieved interests in the region, have been calling on the government to do the needful in order to deliver on its promise and guarantee peace in the region for the country. These voices include the Ijaw National Congress (INC) whose dampening effect on restiveness in the region cannot be over-emphaisied. The situation spawns the impression rightly or otherwise, that the government may have shelved the appointment of a substantive NDDC board deeper into voicemail; a euphemism for placing the hyper-sensitive matter inside the cooler, and at a most inappropriate time. For, considered in context it constitutes unjustified presumptuousness for the government to contemplate a volte face on the matter, at this time, given the portends of likely flare-up of fresh agitations in the zone. For already, several meanings are being read into the delay, with suspicion of manipulation of the process to further interests outside the general welfare of the zone, trending.
However, just in case the government may be filibustering on the issue, it should not expect any comfort in such a dispensation, as it may only be accentuating the suspicion of being disposed to engage in underhand deals against the overriding best interest the region. Against the backdrop of the antecedents of the NDDC board, the matter should not be featuring still as a mere expectation by now, as the country should have moved to a different conversation. Perhaps for the purpose of providing a helpful recall, there is a waiting complement of Nigerians who had been screened in accordance with extant laws by the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and whose commencement of tenure was kept in abeyance pending when several processes including the forensic audit would have been completed. In the circumstances therefore, except there are compelling reasons adduced by the Senate, nothing should stand in the way of the legislative institution to facilitate the formal appointment of these already screened nominees forthwith. Stretching this argument actually places the blame of delay in the emergence of the new NDDC board, more on the Senate, than the President; that is if extant statutes are taken into consideration.
It is against this backdrop that considerations on the leadership of the NDDC should also be routed to include the National Assembly, which owes a constitutional duty to do the needful for the Niger Delta zone and the country at large now. In this respect lies the imperative for the National Assembly to develop more than a passing interest in the forensic audit report on the NDDC. As the country’s central legislature, it is already disappointing that several weeks after the submission of the NDDC audit report to the government, not even a whimper on the matter has been recorded from the institution. The fact that the report unearthed humongous infractions including the loss of trillions of naira of taxpayers money and the abandonment of as many as 13,500 projects in respect of which designated contractors had collected various sums of money and absconded, should ordinarily elicit revulsion at least among the Senators and Representatives from the zone. For in the final analysis, the missing 13,000 or more projects are actually the expected dividends of democracy comprising roads, bridges, houses and other infrastructure that should have changed the Niger Delta narrative, and for which the legislators are in business in the first place. It therefore remains justified to hold the Niger Delta legislators in the National Assembly liable for whatever happens or otherwise to the NDDC forensic audit report. For if a legislator from the Niger Delta zone does not bother over what comes out of the NDDC report, is it one from outside the zone that should bellyache more?
Besides there are even more grounds to call on the Niger Delta legislators to interrogate the report especially with the situation whereby the mess at the NDDC is presently seen by many as solely attributable to the leading politicians from the zone. Available evidence however points strongly to the fact that right from its inception in 2001, the NDDC had been serving as the paymaster in the creeks to launder funds for the powers that be at Abuja. In the same context should be seen to have fallen, the present avoidable delay in appointing the new NDDC board and whatever intrigues are associated with the exercise.
As things stand now, it does not need the attribute of clairvoyance for the Niger Delta leadership and opinion leaders, to appreciate that if effective affirmative action in their numbers and corresponding vehemence is not taken by them to ensure that a board of acceptable utility is provided the Commission, the post-forensic audit NDDC, may not offer more succor than previous times.