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Host communities seek sack, prosecution of corrupt NDDC officials, others

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CSOs doubt NASS, want presidential probe

Worried by the alleged corruption in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), a group, Host Communities of Nigeria (HOSCON), has called for immediate sack and prosecution of officials found to have plundered the money meant to tackle challenges facing the oil-rich region.

Already, calls are being made for removal of the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, and the Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the NDDC so they can face investigation and possible prosecution.

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HOSCON, in a statement issued after a meeting of the leaders from the 10 oil-producing states of Delta, Edo, Ondo, Lagos, Bayelsa, Rivers, Cross River, Akwa-Ibom, Abia and Imo yesterday, also demanded urgent inauguration of the screened NDDC board.

According to the statement signed by HOSCON’s National Director of Media and Publicity, Okakuro Monday Whiskey, the people of the region have had enough of the wastage and outright stealing that is ongoing in the NDDC.

The group recalled that when the NDDC was put under the control of the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs last year, it raised the alarm that the decision would be detrimental to the region.

“We are no longer comfortable with the multi-billion naira fraud that has bedevilled the NDDC under the three-member IMC, leading to wastage of over N80 billion.

“We demand that, without further delay, the already screened and confirmed board by the National Assembly under the chairmanship of Dr. Pius Odubu be inaugurated to put a stop to this.

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“We also demand the return of the NDDC to the Presidency for proper administration and supervision. We demand immediate sack and prosecution of all the actors who perpetrated these heinous crimes against the people of the oil-producing communities.”

In a related development, 10 civil society organisations (CSOs) are urging President Muhammadu Buhari to raise an independent panel to investigate the alleged financial impropriety in the NDDC.

In a statement issued in Abuja yesterday, the groups, under the aegis of Civil Society Joint Action Against Corruption, called for the stoppage of the ongoing National Assembly probe, saying the presidential investigation became necessary as it had become difficult to identify the real culprits.

Leaders of the organisations, who signed the statement, said they were more concerned about accusations linking the National Assembly and, particularly, the Chairman, House Committee on NDDC, Olubumi Tunji Ojo, to the corruption in the commission.

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The groups and their leaders include Musa Abdullahi, Advocacy for Good Governance; Tunde Olakunle Adebisi, Nigeria First Initiative, Hellen Ochie; Score Card Nigeria, Okechukwu Orji; Zero Tolerance and Anti- Corruption Network; and Samuel Dickson of Network Against Poverty in Africa Campaign.

They noted the loss of confidence expressed by the Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the NDDC and the people of the Niger Delta in the National Assembly ad-hoc committee to guarantee impartial probe and said the constant exchange of accusations and counter-accusations between the Senate and House of Representatives committees on Niger Delta and the IMC had made an independent probe crucial.

“We are of the opinion that the standing committees of the National Assembly, being interested parties in the case, and having been accused of corruption, will not do justice to the issues of financial improprieties and other related wrongdoings in the NDDC. The CSOs consequently demanded the committees discontinue and excuse themselves from the probe.”

Also, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) urged President Buhari to set up a presidential investigative panel to probe the alleged corruption in the NDDC.

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The group, in a letter to the president, said the probe should include allegations that the agency illegally spent N81.5 billion on travels, condolences, consultancy and public communication between January and July 2020.

SERAP further asked Buhari to “immediately suspend the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Mr. Godswill Akpabio, and all those implicated in the allegations pending the outcome of any such investigation. Witnesses and whistle-blowers must be protected and the findings of the investigation should be made public.

But a member of the House of Representatives ad-hoc committee probing the NDDC, who preferred to be anonymous, faulted the call for an investigative panel.

“Already, there is a forensic audit of the NDDC at the instance of President Buhari, another probe panel by him could be a duplication,” the lawmaker said.

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