The state of NDDC projects
It is true that in spite of the billions of naira which the Federal Government has appropriated for projects in the Niger Delta through the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), there is little on the ground to match the huge expenditure. In the opinion of the Acting President Yemi Osinbajo, most of the projects were designed to enrich certain persons. This is a sad commentary on how Nigerians as a people conduct their affairs. It is unfortunate that the good intentions of government have been thwarted by the selfish ambitions and greed of the political elite.
The NDDC, like Oil Minerals Producing Area Development Commission (OMPADEC) before it, was created as a special intervention agency by the Federal Government to address the development needs of the beleaguered zone. This was in response to the many years of official neglect which the region suffered. It was believed that the regular budgetary provisions from Abuja were insufficient to close the yawning gap between resource generation from the zone and its development needs. Huge funds were voted and released to the agency. Rather than deploy the funds to the development needs of the region, NDDC officials converted public monies for personal use. Inflated contracts, uncompleted or abandoned jobs became the order of the day. In one instance, an official of NDDC committed millions of naira to a fetish priest for his personal problems. One managing director ran into problems with the Olusegun Obasanjo administration when he got enmeshed in some shady withdrawals to grease the palms of highly placed people in government.
The story of the NDDC like some other agencies in the country is long. It is one of failure, of disappointments, and a callous disregard for the hopes and aspirations of the people. It is a story of contracts awarded for the construction of bridges, monies collected and no bridges built. Thus it came to be that highly placed persons of Niger Delta extraction who were given the opportunity to lift their people from poverty, turned round to short-change them.
It is, however, not enough for the Acting President to complain. Using the instrumentality of existing laws, proper sanctions should be placed on those responsible for this criminal behaviour. To achieve this, through the appropriate machinery, there should be a thorough audit of the NDDC from its inception till date. Until some officials are called to account for their years in office and go to jail if found guilty for their offences, more persons will continue to perpetrate criminality. It is an established fact that if the organisation had lived to its responsibilities the current tension in the region would have been minimised.
Here, therefore, is a call on the current NDDC officials to strive to make a difference in the lives of the people. The crude era when the NDDC was seen as a means of filling the pockets of some officials while they got ready for elections should end. Accountability should be their watchword. Indeed, the people are also called upon to hold all the appointees accountable. Town hall meetings in which the Commission officials would give accounts of their performance should be held from time to time. Time was when communities sanctioned their sons for failing to deliver the dividends of democracy or for engaging in abuse of privileges or offices. Persons who were sanctioned were so ostracized; some were prevented from getting titles or other forms of cultural recognitions. Let the projects of the Commission be beneficial to the people. Let the communities feel the presence of the organisation. Roads, water supply, schools’ infrastructure development and local clinics are in high demand in some riverine communities. That way, stakeholders would be encouraged to deploy more funds to cater to the needs of the Niger Delta.
Finally, the Acting President should direct the relevant agencies to conduct a forensic audit of the NDDC and bring to book all acts of infractions with a view to setting a proper agenda for the development of the region.