* Also demand for 10% in PIB for host communities
A call has gone out to place an embargo on the accounts of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) until a board comes into place. This is in the face of promises to complete some abandoned projects such as the 522-bed hostels in some universities in the Niger Delta states and some roads.
The governors of the South-South states who met in Port Harcourt, Rivers State capital, on Monday, March 8, 2021, however allowed for payment of salaries in the interim.
The Commission has been running on interim management committee (IMC) system with frequent change of the CEO since Msika Ekere left in 2019 to contest the Akwa Ibom State governorship seat which he lost to Emmanuel Udom. He has been replaced by the likes of Akwagaga, Nunieh, Pondei, as IMC bosses and now Effiong Akwa as Sole administrator.
A board was nominated and approved long ago but was not inaugurated. It is believed that another nomination is on the way and the new board may be inaugurated in April 2021. The IMCs and Sole Administrator have been saddled with supervising the much-talked about forensic audit of the Commission which seeks to trace where the annual average revenue of about N350Bn went to through contracts.
Most of the projects have been found wanting as many of them stand abandoned. The contractors are said to be top political leaders and members of the National Assembly that incidentally hold oversight duties over the Commission, in what analysts call dog eating the bone its asked to protect.
Now, the governors, most of who are political leaders, former parliamentarians and ministers who seemed to know everything about fleecing the NDDC, may have smelt a rat and have placed a definite demand for the NDDC accounts to be placed on escrow (embargo) until a proper board emerges.
Gov Okowa described as worrisome the running of the NDDC in over a year by an Interim Caretaker Committee, and now, an interim administrator. According to him, this situation does not augur well for the people of the Niger Delta as opportunity for all states to be represented as they ought to be represented in the board of the NDDC does not exist
“So, it means that the NDDC is actually run in such a matter that it is actually not truly beneficial to our people, because there is no stakeholders’ input in the running of the affairs of the NDDC. We do know that there is a forensic audit taking place and if that reason the board has not been constituted, our advice is that monies being sent to the NDDC should be put in an escrow account until a board is constituted and then proper processes are followed in the expenditure of the money in a such a way it will be visibly accountable in the best interest of the peoples of the Niger Delta.”
The governors demanded that whenever the board of the NDDC is constituted, the advisory council must be called upon to place its role to ensure there is check and balance in such a matter that the States will truly have value for money expended by the NDDC.
“A situation where we begin to have emergency projects that possibly will not last three to six months is not right, we don’t feel happy about it and we are urging Mr President to ensure that if the board is not going to be immediately constituted, then funds for the NDDC beyond the payment of salaries should be put on hold until he constitutes the board and the board can now run the finances of the NDDC as per the law creating the NDDC.
“We feel already short changed as a people in the Niger Delta and we believe that we do not wish to see this kind of situation continue going forward into the future ,because our people feel the pains, we do not want a situation where there is an abuse of processes, neither should we have a situation where we have abuse of funds.
“We believe that it is best for both the country, for the states of the Niger Delta and for the people of the Niger Delta when the due process is followed by the reconstitution of the board and also in reconstituting the board, that the reconstituted funds should come in and have funds to spend as per the law.”
He stressed that the demands of the governors have been made based on the interest of Nigeria, the States and more importantly in the interest of various communities of the Niger Delta.