The Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) Audit Report is already raising dust across the Southsouth even before the full recommendations of the committee are made public.
Stakeholders are particularly displeased with the suggestion by the committee that membership of the NDDC board should be trimmed and made part time.
The report was received from Niger Delta Affairs Godswill Akpabio on Thursday by Justice Minister and Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, on behalf of President Muhammadu Buhari.
The Ijaw Youths Council (IYC) Worldwide asked Buhari to immediately sack Akpabio, who it claimed, manipulated the audit process by deploying delay tactics, selfish politics and maneuvering to maintain his stranglehold on NDDC against the collective interest of the region.
The President of IYC, Peter Igbifa, said sacking Akpabio would pave the way for the inauguration of the NDDC board now that the forensic audit report has been submitted to the government.
Igbifa alleged that Akpabio was not ready to relinquish his hold on the NDDC.
He appealed to the Presidency to approach with caution some of the recommendations contained in the forensic audit report.
He said: “We were told that Akpabio ensured that selfish recommendations were smuggled into the report. If these recommendations are implemented, they will deny states adequate representation on the board and give Akpabio more time to continue running the NDDC with a sole administrator.
“For instance, we learnt that there are recommendations for a part-time board and reduction in the number of the board members. These suggestions are not feasible because they are designed to extend the sole administrative regime in NDDC. They require amendments of the Act establishing the NDDC and this will take at least six months to achieve.
“Besides, how can you think of reducing the board members?. Which states are you going to exclude from the board? Or do you think IOCs should not be part of the board? These are obviously selfish recommendations and we are calling on the Presidency to be careful to avoid promoting one man’s selfish tendencies ahead of the collective interest and development of the Niger Delta.
“We are calling on the President to sack Akpabio for all the embarrassment he has caused for the Presidency in his insatiable appetite to maintain his stranglehold on the NDDC. Since he has submitted the report, it is time for him to go home and allow the NDDC to have a fresh breath. His continuous stay in office is an obstacle to President Buhari’s desire to inaugurate the board of the commission”.
The IYC boss commended Buhari for his determination to prosecute persons and contractors behind litany of abandoned projects despite collecting monies meant for them.
He said: “We, however, appeal to the President to first publish the names of persons and companies behind this collective rape and destruction of our commonwealth.
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“We want their names to be made public. We are challenging the Presidency not to allow this to slide and end up as one of the empty threats consumed by lack of political will.”
PANDEF: Audit committee failed to address key issues
The recommended managerial and structural changes in NDDC are also not appealing to the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF).
Spokesman of the forum, Hon Ken Robinson, told The Nation yesterday that while staff downsizing might be necessary, reducing membership of the board would be out of place.
He said: “Downsizing of the staff may be necessary to maximize efficiency but it is not the load of the staff that determines the efficiency and capability of the people.
“Downsizing the membership of the Board may not be necessary because the Act says the NDDC is nine states to be represented by one person and to give it a national outlook, somebody represents the other zones of the country.
“The point is that the inefficiency and inability of the NDDC to fulfill its mandate is not even about size of the commission or the size of the board.
“It is about the integrity and mentality of the people that are being made to head that commission. That commission has been a platform to reward political loyalty and to reward political allegiance.
“It has been a cash cow to fund political aspiration of the parties in power in the Southsouth and the South East. That is the challenge the government of President Muhammadu Buhari, if it is sincere ,has to address.”
On the size of the board, Robinson said: “That place has been used as a cash cow to fund elections over the years and to reward political loyalists. If you are a friend of somebody in Aso Rock or a friend to a friend of somebody in Aso Rock they will give you managing director or chairmanship of the board to go there and satisfy their interest and not that of the people. That has been the problem and that is the problem that this audit should address.”
Most of the contracts the report said were compromised ,according to the PANDEF spokesman, were just inserted to enrich some friends and loyalists.
His words: “They are only projects on paper. PANDEF has been saying this over time that that is the problem in the NDDC. A good number of the projects, if not more than 50 percent of the projects, don’t exist. They are just generated to make people have money for their political purposes or their insatiable desires. That is what we expect this government to address and not to be playing around the issues.”
He claimed that the implication of going ahead with downsizing the board is that it could be a ploy to elongate the illegality that is going on- the sole administratorship or interim management of the NDDC.
“If you want to downsize the board, then the Act establishing the commission has to be amended. If you don’t amend the Act and you go ahead to downsize the board, that is an illegality. It could just be a ploy by some persons to elongate the unacceptable situation that has been in the NDDC for about two years now.”
Southsouth development can’t be given to part time handlers, says NDRA
Also reacting, the Niger Delta Rights Activists (NDRA) vowed that the agenda of a sole administrator for the NDDC being pushed in some quarters would not work.
The NDRA spokesperson, Darlington Nwauju, said: “We reject the idea of a part-time board for the NDDC as the development of this sensitive region cannot be left in the hands of part-time handlers.
“We also completely reject the idea of downsizing of the Management Board as this will require the force of law, meaning that the NDDC Act must first be amended before this suggestion can be acted upon by the Presidency.
“Again, which of the oil producing/mandate states would be left out or shortchanged in the proposed structural change? Maybe the Northern representatives on the Board, but, this cannot be decreed as the Act would require amendments to get this through.
“The reign of dictatorship, impunity and non-inclusion occasioned by the appointment of the Interim Management Committees and Sole Administrator running from October 2019 till date should be brought to an end as it signposts the same era of unaccountability and lack of transparency.”
MOSIEND: We’ll not allow any one pocket Niger Delta
The Movement for the Survival of Ijaw Ethnic Nationality in the Niger Delta (MOSIEND) said any attempt by anyone to pocket the Niger Delta would fail.
National President of the group, Kennedy Tonjo-West, said there seemed to be a plan by Akpabio and Malami to seize control of the NDDC from the people of the region.
But he said any such plan would be aborted.
“They cannot put the Niger Delta in their pocket,” he said.
He added: “ It is not in the place of forensic auditors to make recommendations for the Niger Delta people or for Mr. President. He is a forensic auditor, that is who he is. NDDC is an Act, it is not in his place to recommend.
Group seeks quick action on report
Founder of the Citizens Quest for Truth Initiative, Oby Ndukwe, expressed worry that the federal government’s action on the audit report may take long in coming.
“The report as embarrassing as it is, would still have to go under scrutiny in order to enable the Ministry of Justice and the Attorney General to prosecute erring contractors, where there are obvious and deliberate infractions. But the question is for how long would this be?” Ndukwe wondered.
Speaking during the submission of the report on Thursday, the lead forensic auditor, Kabir Ahmed, said that the team recommended managerial as well as structural changes, top of which is the downsizing of the NDDC board.
Ahmed said to reduce cost, the team recommended that members of the team should henceforth be appointed on part time basis.
Some of the other recommendations of the committee are:“The Establishment Act of the Commission should be amended to accommodate the deduction of 50% Ecological Funds due to member states of the Niger Delta Region at source by the Federal Government and such should be remitted immediately to the Commission.
“Modifications should be made to Section 14 (2b) of the NDDC Establishment Act to accommodate specifics as to the item of the Budget for oil Companies which the 3% should be applied to (Revenue or Expenditure) and place remittances by Oil Companies on preceding year basis to enable the Commission have sufficient information to serve as basis of comparison when Funds are finally received.
“A Budget to accommodate all other Revenue and Expenditure not statutorily stated in the Establishment Act or not accommodated in the National Budget should be prepared as an Intemaily Generated Revenue (IGR) Budget and presented to the Monitoring Committees of the National Assembly for approval.
“The provisions of the Public Procurement Act (PPA) should be strictly adhered to and all violations to the Act such as Contract Splitting and other due process violations must be avoided.”
It also said: “The Internal Control System of the Commission should be strengthened to ensure that all projects and activities of the Commission is done in line with its core mandates.
“The salary and allowances of the Commission should be restructured to reflect that of similar Agencies and Commissions in terms of salaries and other benefits.
“The operations of the Commission should be totally computerized. Judging by the lack of proper reconciliations of the Commission’s various accounts, it has become necessary to correct this aspect of the anomaly to reconcile all the over Three Hundred and SixtyTwo (362) Bank accounts of NDDC and to establish the presence or absence of over charges by the various banks involved.
“The NDDC Master Plan should be reviewed to reflect current realities and thinking and should subsequently be reviewed every Five (5) Years. Going forward all future projects of the Commission should be based on the Master Plan.
“Staff, active or retired who are involved in issues of Contract Splitting, Conflict of Interest, Contract Execution, Overpayment of Contracts, authorization of payments without achieved milestones and award of contracts without due process should be made to account for their actions”.
“Payment of an amount not less than 5% of the amount due to the Commission for every additional day remittance of revenue is defaulted. Where a Company fails to remit Revenue to the Commission for 12 consecutive Months, such Company shall be liable to pay a sum not less than 30% of the amount due to the Commission including all outstanding penalties.
“Where an Oil Company fails to remit revenue to the Commission for three (3) consecutive years, all Operating Licenses of such company shall be recalled.”
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