No fewer than 10 civil society groups have dismissed allegations of multi-billion Naira corruption scandal against the North-East Development Commission (NEDC) and its Managing Director, Alhaji Mohammed Goni Alkali.
The CSOs, in a joint press statement co-signed by Comrade Lawrence Audu and Comrade Bassey Ukpong for the Good Governance and Advocacy Network (GGAN) on behalf of other groups, on Tuesday, said the North-East Vanguard and its cohorts aim to distract Alkali by peddling falsehood.
According to the CSOs, the allegations of embezzlement of funds by the NEDC’s MD was based on assumption, without a single strand of confirmable evidence.
The statement noted that the North-East Vanguard has decided to ignore some of the achievements of the NEDC, including hundreds of projects under education, health, agriculture, water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and other social infrastructures.
The groups also recalled how the commission partnered the Borno State Government and others in the region under the Rapid Response Intervention (RRI) programme to address the challenge of damaged infrastructure and other facilities.
The statement further rubbished alleged nepotism in employment levelled against the MD, noting the NEDC Governing Board has all the six geo-political zones represented.
The CSOs, however, advised NEV and their cohorts to do more research on NEDC’s activities under Alkali and if possible visit the North-East to see for themselves.
Read the full statement below:
Patriotic Nigerians from across the country and beyond have unceasingly drawn the attention of the leadership of the Good Governance Advocacy Network (GGAN) over the sabotaging activities of some mercantile and self-acclaimed society watch groups. These sponsored veiled demonic forces are still politicking with the security of lives, and the ensuing peace in the Northeast region, where Boko Haram formerly occupied swathes of territories, especially in Borno state.
The same emergency mercantilist groups are back with venomous attacks on whoever is responsible for bringing immediate reprieve to the war-torn, displaced and impoverished people of the region like the Hon. Minister, Humanitarian Affairs and Social Development, Hajiya Sadiq Umar Farouk. It is also manifest in the sustained malicious propaganda on unsubstantiated and spurious allegations of embezzlement of public funds by the Managing Director, North East Development Commission (NEDC), Alhaji Mohammed Goni Alkali.
We are astonished at the level some Nigerians can stretch in the promotion of blatant chicanery and destructive campaigns targeted at certain public officials. It is wittingly crafted to distract these public servants from ensuring President Muhammadu Buhari does not take the obvious glory of defeating the insurgency in the region and rebuilding destroyed infrastructures. GGAN has realized that the NEDC boss is the latest victim of these hatchet civil groups.
In the inner fold of these ganged-conspirators against the FGN and its hardworking appointees in sensitive places, is another ambiguous NGO or some sort of advocates, by an innocuously fading identity of “North-East Vanguard (NEV).” By their watery outbursts in a recent public statement, NEV truly comprises vanguards, proponents and crusaders of falsehood against the NEDC boss, in the most disgraceful and de-estimating manner of their self-worth.
How could sane leaders of a pressure group accuse a boss of a federal commission, with unbridled allegations of his embezzlement or diversion of multi-billion-naira funds of the commission without a single strand of confirmable evidence, but dangling fluid statements or assumptions or seeking the assistance of others to unearth the truth? It is tantamount to putting the cart before the horse and betrayal of their malicious agenda.
NEV’s only evidence was that when President Buhari last visited Borno state shortly after June 12 Democracy Day, none of NEDC’s projects was commissioned. But let’s ask ourselves, how many capital projects was Mr. President able to commission on the last visit to Borno from the bulk of 576 projects presented by Gov. Babagana Zulum? Just about seven! Was President Buhari in Borno to commission NEDC projects or who has told these misinformed and misdirected NEV leaders that NEDC never contributed a dime or partnered with the state in the completed projects in Borno. Is NEDC meant for Borno state alone or the Northeast region? What sort of lowly priced nitwits is NEV? We shall soon add a syllabus to the acronym of “NEV” to read, NEV-ER, as nowhere the conduct of government business is aligned or espoused by their simplistic reliance on assumptions.
The allegations bandied by NEV started resonating in the media in 2020. It’s the same allegations, rejigged over and over. NEV has voiced nothing new on the tenure of the NEDC boss, Alh. Mohammed Goni Alkali. And contrary to the false claims by NEV, the inaugurated board of the North East Development Commission Education Endowment Fund (NEDC-EF) since August 7, 2020, has launched numerous interventionist programmes in the education sector beginning with the initial seed amount of N6billion same year and replenishable yearly in scholarships. It has targeted and is progressively reaching out to over 20,000 beneficiaries annually across the region, with an overall target of 150 beneficiaries on the template of access to academic and professional capacity development opportunities in diverse fields. This intervention has engaged over 5 000 bachelor’s degree, 336 masters and 54 doctorate degree candidates as well as training of teachers/civil servants.
The NEDC under Alhaji Alkali trains people of the region in skills and acquisition, provides starter packs to over 5 000 Information Communication Technology (ICT) trainees every year. It has empowered a whooping 5000 women and youths on entrepreneurship, and another 2000 others for vocational skills in each of the 1,028 wards in the Northeast. NEV will decline acknowledgement of these programmes because it is at variance with the deliberate agenda to diminish the gains of the NEDC in public space, by creating a deceptive impression of embezzlement.
Certainly, NEV officials who raised the unfounded alarm of alleged embezzlement of billions of naira budgeted for the NEDC have never set their foot anywhere in the Northeast for years. Or else, it is noticeable that some of the 576 projects displayed by Gov. Zulum during the Presidential visit in Borno, includes partnership with NEDC’s intervention initiatives on infrastructures under the Rapid Response Intervention (RRI) programme in addressing the challenge of damaged infrastructure and other facilities in 112 LGAs of the region. The NEDC aggressively executed 224 projects under education, health, agriculture, water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and other social infrastructures in two years.
The relaxed silence of international organizations and other indigenous NGOs over the threat of massive famine and starvation in the insurgency ravaged region is because of NEDC’s active intervention through the Integrated Agriculture Programme (IAP). Through it, agricultural machinery and equipment, varieties of seedlings, fertilizers, agrochemicals and extension service logistics vehicles to enhance the production capacity of smallholder farmers in the region are provided. Nigerians must know, solving the problem of mass hunger in the region is not achievable within two years as envisaged by NEV, but a gradual process and the impact is commendable so far.
Therefore, it defeats sound logic for a faceless group that values, even its veiled identity or image to make sweeping allegations that the NEDC boss collects millions of naira monthly or yearly as salary or office impress. Its same pettiness which compels NEV to assume support operational vehicles NEDC donated to the Military and other security agencies in the region to enhance their security duties and duly approved by the NEDC Governing Board were inflated.
And most laughably, NEV accused the NEDC management led by Alhaji Mohammed Goni Alkali of nepotism in employment or is it “sourcing” for staff of the commission from MDAs by handpicking. But the NEDC Governing Board has all the six geo-political zones represented, in addition to other federal MDAs. It is unrealistic to think that all of the members are blind to Alkali’s “glaring” nepotism without raising an eyebrow.
Lastly, NEV and their cohorts should do more research and investigations on NEDC activities under Alkali. If the pressure group feels the House of Reps abandoned its probe of NEDC, there must be a reason. It’s either they have found nothing worthwhile in the allegations or they are still investigating. But as usual, vilifiers like NEV would not like to speak about the glowing commendation of the Senate Committee on Special Duties, led by its chairman, Sen. Yusuf Abubakar on the Alkali-led NEDC management for its “outstanding performance” in humanitarian interventions in the region with these profound words, “…it is just one year, but it has performed tremendously well in the past year; especially in the area of humanitarian intervention.” The detractors can continue, but they won’t distract the focus of the NEDC boss from performance.