An Abuja based lawyer, Bar Osi Ehikioya, has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to see the alleged NDDC corruption to a logical conclusion, adding that there should be no sacred cow in applying punitive measures that commensurate with offences committed.
Bar Ehikioya, in a statement made available to LEADERSHIP, said that the flood of revelations pouring out about the corruption in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) is mind-boggling, and advised the president to set up a high-powered panel made up of well-known and respected clergymen/women and members of the civil society, to undertake a thorough probe of the commission.
The document read: “There is no doubt that NDDC is a microcosm of the larger Nigeria. Just like Nigeria was founded for the good and welfare of Nigerians (so we were made to believe), but has been so mismanaged by those who have held the reins of office from inception; the NDDC, which was founded by the then Obasanjo administration for the development of the entire Niger Delta, has also been mismanaged by those who have hitherto taken one role or another in the actualisation of the purpose for which it was formed, from inception till date.
“The astounding reality here is that most of the culprits are from the Niger Delta. I do not blame the non-Niger Deltans who have been part of the plundering and looting. It is often said that sometimes ‘it is the thieves in the house that go out to inform other thieves outside that there is a plundering to be done in the house’. Even if the thieves outside were weaned in impunity, they, sometimes, do not have the audacity to barge in without collaboration from within the house.”
“The Niger Delta (Akwa Ibom, Abia, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Edo, Imo, Ondo and Rivers) bears Nigeria’s rich oil and gas resources which account for over 95% of the nation’s revenue. The report of the audit by the independent auditors must not be influenced by these politicians cum contractors because it would substantially form the basis of the probe.
Tracing back to history, Ehikioya said the high incidence of oil exploration and exploitation activities in the region and the attendant effect on the environment in the region, which resulted in an upsurge of agitations by the people of the Niger Delta for essential development of the region, elicited the government’s interest in initiating certain interventionist measures to bring about development in the region, starting from the creation of the Oil Mineral Producing Development Commission-OMPADEC in 1992, with the same mandate as the Niger Delta Development Board-NDDB of 1960.
He said unfortunately, the commission never fulfilled its mandate as it was afflicted with corruption and lack of proper supervision by the government.
“In the year 2000, upon the return to democracy in 1999, the Olusegun Obasanjo administration caused to be established, the NDDC, by virtue of the NDDC (Establishment) Act 2000, with a core mandate to develop the oil-rich region.
“Notwithstanding the creation of the NDDC, issues of underdevelopment have remained unabated, until the federal government of Nigeria, under the leadership of the late President Shehu Musa Yar’adua, created the Ministry of the Niger Delta in 2008 to oversee the region’s development.”
“One would have expected that a region with such intervention should be an Eldorado of some sort in terms of development. But what do we have? As a Niger Deltan, I am in a perfect position to assess the development of the region. Moreso, apart from the fact that I am from the Niger Delta, I have been to all the states of the Niger Delta. I have also lived in some of the states and have had the rare opportunity to have visited a lot of communities including riverine communities. The so-called development on ground is by no stretch of imagination commensurate with the humongous monies or allocations we hear about. Except for the revolutionary steps being recently taken by a few state governors in the region to bring about development, there is nothing on ground to justify the monies being allocated to NDDC and the role of the commission in the region,” Ehikioya stressed.
He emphasised that the justice of whatever investigation or audit being done on the NDDC is for looted funds to be recovered and genuinely deployed to develop the Niger Delta; therefore, all contracts must be properly investigated and monies recovered, and all contractors who abandoned their projects across the Niger Delta be arrested and prosecuted with their collaborators, adding that anything short of this would be a charade.