Ex-agitators back NDDC probe, urge scrutiny of constituency projects
CSOs flay N’Assembly over oversight, urge tight budgeting, prompt prosecution
A coalition of Niger Delta ex-agitators has thrown its weight behind the decision of National Assembly to unearth alleged corrupt practices in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
The group described the ongoing probe as long overdue, urging the investigating committee to ignore “the drama being acted by those called to give an account of their stewardship.”
In a statement, its representative, Chief Kingsley Muturu, deplored the conflicting interests of personalities from the region, who could not find a common ground to drive development for the people to benefit.
He said: “In NDDC, there are no harmonised interests, rather varied interests of those who are only interested in lining their pockets to the detriment of the masses of Niger Delta.
“Every appointee in NDDC, unfortunately, represents a private interest. The only way forward is to remove those interests. Let whoever is appointed managing director or the Niger Delta minister be allowed a free hand to run the place so that the people would know whom to hold accountable when there is a problem.”
Muturu went on: “As the commission is currently constituted, it will be difficult to hold one individual responsible because whomever you see as the MD of the commission is under immense pressure. We know these things because we are from there, and we have our ears-to-the ground.”
He said another body should be set up on an ad hoc basis to investigate how lawmakers from the region use funds allocated to them for constituency projects.
Meanwhile, the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) and Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) have upbraided the National Assembly over alleged participation in the execution of contracts in the interventionist agency.
The rights groups noted that it behoves the lawmakers to wake up to their statutory responsibilities, which revolve around responsive and responsible oversight, effective representation and law-making, as well as prudent constituency accountability.
Their position followed the claim by the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, that 50 per cent of the commission’s contracts were executed by federal lawmakers while testifying before the Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo-led House of Representatives Committee on NDDC investigating the alleged N81.5 billion financial malfeasances in the agency.
HURIWA’s national coordinator, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, described the development as unfortunate, urging prosecution of all indicted persons.
CISLAC’s Executive Director, Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, stressed that the lawmakers must eschew acts that are tantamount to corruption.
CDD’s Director, Idayat Hassan, cautioned against sweeping the outcome of the ongoing inquiry under the carpet.
Also, an alliance, led by Stay Alert Human Rights Awareness Initiative (SAHRI) and Civil Society Parliamentary Support Network (CSPSN), has called for a thorough review of the budgeting system in the NDDC.
In a statement signed by SAHRI’s Executive Director, Hilary Onah, it regretted the current disclosures about humongous expenditures and allegations of graft against officials of the organisation, stressing that the situation calls for a transparent appropriation that encourages input from the public.
Besides, another grouping, comprising the Rivers State Civil Society Organisation (RIVSCO), The Extra-Step Initiative, Youths and Environmental Advocacy Centre (YEAC) and We The People, has warned that failure to urgently prosecute all those indicted in the current probe could lead to a resumption of hostilities in the oil-rich region.
Speaking yesterday in Port Harcourt through their spokesperson, Enefaa Georgewill, they threatened to occupy the commission’s office in Rivers should the panel refuse to return all the accused to answer for their queries.
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