The Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) has been in existence for more than 20 years without any tangible thing to show for it.
It is even on record that about N20 trillion has been sunk into the interventionist agency, set up to develop the oil-rich region, but has nothing tangible to show for it. Instead the Commission has been turned into a cash cow where people go to milk and make their fortunes and go away.
Some are even calling for the scrapping of the Commission following its failure to impact positively on the people for which it was set up.
A royal father, who domain is located in the heart of the Niger Delta region, His Royal Majesty King Bubaraye Dakolo, Agada VI, the Ibenanaowei of Ekpetiama Kingdom is so fed up with the failure of the Commission to fulfil its mandate that he was scathing in his assessment.
“The NDDC is not meeting up with their functions. It has expended well over N20 trillion, yet what have they achieved? Ghost projects and failed projects, it has been a colossal fraud. “If the Federal Government wants NDDC to work it would work. If I put you in charge of the NDDC and I want it to work, I give N1 trillion per year. After one quarter, I should be able to ask you how far you have gone.
“Now how many NDDC people are in jail that you know? If there is nobody in jail from NDDC in 20 years and N20 trillion has been spent and it did not meet their mandate, then you can imagine that there is an inside job.
“It means that the authorities don’t want it to work. For the fact that nobody who has served or is serving a long jail term means that the government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is complicit, the oil companies are complicit.
“The way forward is to bring all of these for everyone to know that the reason why it is not working is not because the design is not good. “It is not the design of the NDDC programme that is the problem but it is the designer. If you are found wanting you should go to jail.
“The Niger Delta people have no blame here. There is no managing director from the Niger Delta that can be blamed,” he argued. Benjamin Style, the National Chairman of Host Communities of Nigeria Producing Oil and Gas, told Sunday Telegraph: “Honestly the purpose of establishing NDDC has been defeated. For over 20 years that the Commission has been put in place let us ask what they have done with the funds given to them.
“Yes uncompleted projects have been sited at various communities. Almost all the communities have one NDDC project or the other but the question is; are those projects functional? “This was the reason I said custodians of communities should monitor the projects. That is the host communities. We made it clear that we should be part and parcel of the monitoring of the projects.
“They (the government) should allow us to monitor the projects before money is paid, so that we can tell you the truth because you only see pictures and videos of so-called ‘completed projects’. Engineer Charles Ambaowei, one time Chairman Verification Committee on NDDC projects, said: “The logic that justifies that the Federal Government should intervene in the development issue of the Niger Delta is still gaining my support because the Federal Government as we have today is not a true federalism.
“The agencies are set up by law. So let’s run and operate these agencies or institutions according to law. “Look at the Federal Government, they appointed a Sole Administrator for the NDDC; but by the act establishing the Commission, is a Sole Administrator allowed?
“The answer is ‘no’ but the Federal Government went ahead to appoint one. “Is there any provision for the Interim Management Committee to be set up to run NDDC? Again the answer is ‘no’, but the government went ahead to appoint one. “It is only Niger Delta people that can make that NDDC work, because they are not going to appoint a Hausa, Fulani or Yoruba or Igbo person as the MD.
“If you as a Niger Delta person get appointed into the board you know the problem of your people. Work for your people but when you get there, you want to use the small money that comes to the NDDC to build your political empire and in the process contracts are awarded to outsiders to the detriment of the locals. Ironically, these same people will end up not even doing the work. And since money has changed hands you can’t run after those contractors.
“You have to have clean hands before you are able to fight people who are corrupt. But when you are soiled how can you enforce anything? “It is the Niger Delta people that are the cause of underdevelopment in the region. It is not any foreigners. People of integrity, people who are not corrupt should be appointed into these offices. We have technocrats and professionals who when they get to a place don’t play politics with their assignment or mission.”
Also reacting to the sorry state of the region in spite of the presence of the NDDC, Dr Konrad Ekiyor Welson, a public analyst, placed the blame squarely on the shoulders of former President Olusegun Obasanjo. “The scheme was badly conceived by Obasanjo.
This scheme was not established to develop the Niger Delta region. “It was established as a fund to help politicians. How do you establish a commission that does not integrate activities of the states in which they are operating in?
“As it is right now, it is a slush fund used by both APC and PDP to fund their political activities and funny enough it is also a fund that is being used to settle some personalities in the Niger Delta. I will tell you almost every militant in the Niger Delta is on the payroll of the NDDC. “Almost every major traditional ruler is on the payroll of the NDDC.
The IYC and INC are benefiting so much from the Commission. The only people that are not benefiting from the activities of NDDC are the community people who don’t see anything. “Who is supposed to tackle major erosions and major problems in the Niger Delta? So for me the scheme should be scraped. NDDC has existed for close to 20 years.
It has not achieved its core mandate. “I think we need to carry out a kind of holistic study and research on how best to develop the Niger Delta. “There must be synergy and research on how best to address the developmental needs of the Niger Delta vis-a-vis what they need and how do you get it to them. “Until there is a bold and courageous president in charge of Nigeria that will look at the NDDC as it is and take the right action.
“NDDC has not done anything and it will not do anything until we sit down and ask ourselves how do we develop our people and it is something that should be based on research, consultation and study,” he said.
On her part, Ibiba Donpedro, a journalist and a daughter from the Niger Delta region, said: “The Niger Delta Development Commission offered a lot of hope for the people of Niger Delta. During this COVID 19, there was no standard hospital, a world class health care centre where people could be taken to in the Niger Delta. That was a failure on the part of a development agency in the Niger Delta.
“However, in spite of its obvious shortcomings, I would not support the scrapping of NDDC. But they should stop this idea of appointing a Sole Administrator. “We will soon get into another rainy season with resultant flooding and yet nothing is yet being done by the NDDC to mitigate whatever havoc it might cause.
“Those who are educated and who should come to come together in their local governments and across the region to take a stand but unfortunately most of the youth bodies have been politicized. “People have to continue to speak up. The media has to continue to write. Traditional rulers, women have to speak up.
“For those of them who can go to their gates, please go to their gates. Carry placards. I’m not advocating violence but let them make their voices heard and if people have numbers of these people, bombard them with phone calls and text messages and make sure they don’t rest until something tangible is done.”
Sordid tales of financial malfeasance at the Commission were revealed some back during a public hearing conducted by the National Assembly, but till now no one has been brought to book.