Politics

NDDC scandal has exposed APC’s govt – Akinwonmi

 

 

Elder Yemi Akinwonmi is the Deputy National Chairman (South) of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). In this interview with BIYI ADEGOROYE, he examines the probe of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and the outcome of the party’s primaries in Edo and Ondo states

 

What is your view of the current probe of the NDDC which revealed that funds spent so far have not produced a corresponding level of infrastructural development in the Niger Delta region?

 

The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) should bury itself in shame. You remember that a couple of years ago, Transparency International said Nigeria, under President Muhammadu Buhari, is the most corrupt country in the world, and they criticized it. Can you imagine the Interim Management Committee of the NDDC saying they paid themselves over a billion of naira as palliatives at a period the whole country is almost collapsed?

 

Personally, right from the onset, I have not had any confidence in the NDDC. Apart from the massive corruption there, since its creation from the days of Oil Mineral Producing Area Development Commission (OMPADEC) in the days of military government to date, the chairman has always been from the Nigeria Delta.

 

The Managing Director has always been from that region, except for Chief Oyeama Ugochukwu. There has been no time the managing director came from the North or the West. The implication is that neither the people of Niger Delta nor the Federal Government is serious about the development of the region.

 

Why did you say they are not serious?

 

The objectives of creating commission as clearly stated in the NDDC Act, 2002 was for the development of the region. Among other things it says NDDC should formulation of policies and guidelines for the development of the Niger Delta area, conception, planning and implementation, in accordance with set rules and regulations, of projects and programs for sustainable development of the Niger Delta area in the field of transportation including roads, jetties and waterways, health, employment, industrialization, agriculture and fisheries, housing and urban development, water supply, electricity and telecommunications.

 

The also include surveying the Niger Delta in order to ascertain measures necessary to promote its physical and socio-economic development, preparing master plans and schemes designed to promote the physical development of the Niger Delta region and the estimation of the member states of the Commission, implementation of all the measures approved for the development of the Niger Delta region by the Federal Government and the states of the Commission.

 

Others are identify factors inhibiting the development of the Niger Delta region and assisting the member states in the formulation and implementation of policies to ensure  sound and efficient management of the resources of the Niger Delta region, assessing and reporting on any project being funded or carried out in the region by oil and gas companies and any other company, including non-governmental organizations, as well as ensuring that funds released for such projects are properly utilized.

 

Tell me, how many of such functions have been carried out since its existence despite the allocation of trillions of naira to the commission?

 

Is this not shameful that Niger Delta people have become their own enemies? It would have been a different thing if a Hausa or Fulani man has been made the chairman or managing director. Even if the Federal Government was corrupt, given the fact that this commission is targeted at the development of their communities, should they not have managed the funds well, specially looking at the infrastructural backwardness of the regions?

 

No road, no water to drink, life is stagnant, yet billions of naira is sunk into the place annually. Why have they failed to ensure that a couple of hundreds of projects are executed there?

 

So both APC government and the Niger Delta people that are managing the place should bury themselves in shame.

 

Given the fact that the people of Niger Delta have been very popular for protests, does it not baffle you that the region is currently quiet as these reckless financial spending are being reeled out?

 

They are quiet because they now know that the enemy of Niger Delta is Niger Delta itself. It is not the government of Nigeria per say now, because the allocations are released to them as and when due and the managers of the money are the Niger Delta people. But the beauty of the thing now is that the people are more enlightened now than before and that has made them to pass a vote of no con-fidence in the government of President Muhammadu Buhari. A government that is serious about corruption should have taken serious action against these people, who are glaring enemies of progress and are sinking the party into greater shame.

 

How do you see the Senate Committee report, which revealed that the Chairmen of the Senate and House of Representatives Committees received about 1,000 Niger Delta contracts through one Agbamuche?

 

It boils down to the same corruption by Niger Delta people because the chairmen of both committees in both chambers are Niger Delta people. A man’s enemy, it is said, shall be members of his household and that is very worse than when it comes from the outside. The contracts that have been given to the lawmakers even through their proxies should be investigated because this is at variance to their oversight functions.

 

Anyone who dips his hands into the cookie jar should go for it. If I were the President, I will overhaul the whole place and ensure that anyone who soiled him fingers and worsen the retrogression of the region faced the full weight of the law. I will sack even the civil servants there because corruption is already in their blood and they see the place as a gold mine.

 

The NDDC itself was said to have spent funds that were not appropriated for and that during the last seven months they spent about N80.1 billion, including N1.3 billion as palliatives to themselves. How do you see that?

 

You see, that is high-tech corruption and it is illegal. How can you spend such money when it was not appropriated for in the budget, especially when it is at variance with the core reason for the NDDC’s existence? I saw more of consumables, health, COVI-19 items, scholarship and foreign travels when roads in the region are in terrible conditions. Look, these people are lawless.

 

To me, the Federal Government should probe the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Federal Inland Revenue Service FIRS and Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and you will see the level of rot these places. You are aware that about N100 billion is currently said to be missing from the funds of the North-East Development Commission.

 

Do your forensic audit in all these agencies and you will see that heads will roll. You will also see the nakedness of the APC government. It is the same thing everywhere in most of these agencies and it is a shame. They are only pretending to the whole world that they are fighting corruption, because right now, under their watch, corruption is killing the whole nation.

 

Can you imagine the massive development that would have  occurred in the region since 2015 if the trillions of naira received by the NDDC have been ploughed into infrastructural development of the area?

 

Bayelsa State government has commenced a verification of all NDDC projects in the state; don’t you think it is high time the respective governors of the member states of the NDDC did the same thing?

 

The current NDDC crises is like a wild fire that has originated from a place and it will continue to spread, and I believe all the governors will do that, more so that the Niger Delta states are being taken over by PDP government now. I want each state to immediately begin an NDDC project verification exercise and appoint a technical assistant to the governor preferably an engineer to oversee it.

 

Such special adviser, who should lead a committee should contact the NDDC to provide details of the commission’s projects in the respective states, the numbers, their location, value, contractors handling them, level of work done, how much has been paid and possible dates of completion.

 

Every state government should start its own project verification and you will see the rot in the system. There must be high degree of transparency in the handling of NDDC projects and no one should deceive anyone. We have just started, so we cannot see the end now. Niger Delta must be snatched from those who are holding it by the jugular.

 

How do you see the outcome of the Ondo and Edo states’ governorship primaries of the PDP?

 

It was fantastic, highly fantastic. The pessimists thought that there would be an implosion after the primaries; they did not believe that we have the mechanism for bringing our house together very fast.

 

Also, Nigerians should realize that PDP is committed to the sustenance of democracy in this country. I want to tell you that we know how to conduct primaries because primaries are very critical to a political party’s success or failure.

 

You know the crises of APC in Edo State now were borne out of its primaries, and they are paying dearly for it now, because of their inability to institutionalize internal democracy. There is no primary election that our National Working Committee has conducted since we came on board that was rancorous.

 

No, because we made it transparently clear to everybody. For instance, look at Ondo State, all of them have congratulated the winner and even the candidate has said ‘no victor, no vanquished’; that the victory is for all of them.

 

So they will work together by the grace of God and Ondo State is going to fall into the hands of PDP. INEC and the security agencies should just ensure that the votes count and provide levelplaying ground for all the candidates. If you recall, Ondo State voted massively for Atiku Abubakar and the PDP in the 2019 presidential election and we defeated the APC there, taking two senatorial seats.

 

We also defeated APC in the presidential election in Edo and won two senatorial seats. So, both states are going to be a walkover for us this time by the special grace of God.

 

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