Ex-agitators disrupt NDDC investigative hearing in Port Harcourt
Some ex-agitators in the Niger Delta on Tuesday disrupted a hearing organised by the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) to investigate allegations of corruption and racketeering in the commission.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that trouble started when the ex-agitators in their numbers were asked to present their invitation letters for subsequent accreditation to which they refused.
The ex-agitators expressed displeasure over claims that they were not invited for the hearing, alleging that the meeting was convened for the purpose of sharing contracts and money.
They made several threats and almost beat up top officials of the commission and other stakeholders if not for quick intervention by some of their members who were against the protest. The ex-agitators had promised mayhem, if organisers of the event still went ahead with the meeting without recourse to their formal invitation.
Several efforts made to appease the ex-agitators by offering them the chance to participate in the hearing were in futility. Speaking on the incident, one of the Coalition of Niger Delta Activist leaders, Dr Sam Ebiye, faulted the invitation of the contractor to the investigative hearing.
He alleged that some few people were selected to be part of the event while many contractors who had something to present to the panel were sidelined. Mr David Ugolo, Coordinator for African Network for Environment and Economic Justice, said that NDDC should not have positioned itself as judge over its own case.
Ugolo said that the commission should have invited the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in the investigation to showcase prudence. NAN learnt the meeting was organised for contractors, civil society and the media.
Reacting to the protest, Mr Chijioke Amu-Nnadi, NDDC’s Head Corporate Affairs, who confirmed the issue, explained that a six-man committee was set up to investigate allegations of corruption and racketeering in the commission.
He said that invitations were sent to about 100 contractors and some other stakeholders who had done business with the commission.
“Mr Nsima Ekere, NDDC Managing Director, setup a six-man committee to investigate allegations of corruption and racketeering in the commission with intent to tackle them, if any exists.
“The committee was tasked with the responsibility to ask questions and get answers from those who have stories to tell and others who have evidence to show that these allegations were true or not.
“The committee started its work by reaching out to many contractors who had been heard to have purported or claimed that there was corruption in the system. “Thereafter, letters were sent to every one of them and also expanded to others in the nine states of the region with hope to get to the root of the allegations.
“It’s rather unfortunate that people would disrupt a meeting without even having slight idea of what the meeting intended to achieve – which was for the good of everyone. “Sadly, what happened today was typical and beginning to seem of what goes on in the Niger Delta; where even the best intentions are often misunderstood,” he said.
Amu-Nnadi said the ex-agitators were neither contractors; civil society nor the media to which the investigative hearing was designed. He said the allegations of corruption were accusations that were made before the new NDDC governing board and management took office.
The spokesman said that NDDC board had met the ex-agitators recently and would continue to do so at different levels with focus to find resolution to some of their agitations.
“We must move away from disruptive engagement to constructive engagement because development would not take place in a state of strife and suspicion.
“The current NDDC board has the best of intentions to develop the region and achieve the mandate to which the commission was established,” he assured. Amu-Nnadi said that NDDC board would meet and decide on the likely action to take on the investigative hearing.