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How vested interests might scuttle NDDC probe

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[FILES] Governors Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia (left); Emeka Ihedioha (Imo); Seriake Dickson (Bayelsa); Nyesom Wike (Rivers); President Muhammadu Buhari; Delta State Governor Ifeanyi Okowa; Deputy Governor Philip Shuaibu of Edo State; and his Akwa Ibom counterpart, Moses Ekpo, during a meeting on the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) board at the State House in Abuja …yesterday. PHOTO: PHILIP OJISUA<br />

Vested political interests and elites from the South-South might scuttle the forensic auditing of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) as directed by President Muhammadu Buhari.

To forestall this, a coalition of Niger Delta civil society is set to collect signatures from people across the nine oil-producing states, demanding that the Presidency supervise the audit and not any supervising ministry.

An NDDC director, who pleaded anonymity, told The Guardian that because the forensic audit would open a can of worms, political elites from the region, particularly members of the National Assembly, would move to frustrate any investigation.

He said: “The fact is that most of these jobs, failed contracts are owned by members of the National Assembly or have some connection with them. So, it will be a waste of time. What they do is that, after the budget is prepared here, they go and claim that their constituencies were not included. So, they alter the entire structure and include their own projects, which are eventually awarded to them, or they ensure they get a contact for those projects.

“At the end, even though NDDC has its own budget limitations and what it thinks should be achieved within the period, it is altered and essentially out of its control…”

The source blamed NDDC’s past board and the immediate past management committee for awarding some outrageous contracts that escalated the commission’s debt profile.

According to him, in less than a year, the immediate past management committee awarded contracts worth over N140bn, among which is the contentious water hyacinth contract that was eventually hijacked by politicians.

He cited some of these contracts to include desilting of blocked sections of Mkpanak-Itak Idim Ekpe-Okpo creek in Ibeno, Akwa Ibom at N896, 891,625.00; desilting of blocked sections of Mkpanak-Itak Idim Ekpe-Okposo Creek at N895, 261,500.00; repair of failed sections/solar powered street light internal roads that traverse Igwuruta, Rivers State at N873, 295,434.38; construction of 11/33kv injection substation and distribution of electricity pristine of Lake Estates in IKwerre at N998, 148.855.90. Another construction of 11/33kv injection substation and distribution of electricity pristine of Lake Estates in IKwerre at N999, 769,569.75.

Other projects are repairs of a failed section of 2 kilometre central school junction in Isiala Mbano, Imo State at N509, 824,113.75, as well as repair of a failed section of internal roads within Ighehana-Ebelle-Ogwa-Isi Ighehana communities in Edo State at N896, 927,935.94.

He said the commission is plagued by internal sabotage, resulting in the disappearance of contract files and other vital documents.

Meanwhile, the chairman, Niger Delta Civil Society Coalition, Anyakwee Nsirimovu, has said they were gathering signatures to pressurise President Buhari not to abandon the planned forensic audit to political exigencies.
 
He alleged that some top political actors from the Niger Delta in the federal executive council (FEC) might want to kill the idea of probing the commission, which has become a cash cow for all the ruling parties. “But we won’t allow that,” he said.

Nsirimovu said political actors from the region were mounting pressure on the interim NDDC management to pay for water hyacinth and the commission’s permanent corporate headquarters contracts, whereas there are more pressing issues affecting the people of the region, such as a flood that has displaced thousands of persons in the coastal parts.

The executive director, We the People, Ken Henshaw, said he doubted if the President could muster the will and tenacity to investigate NDDC.

He said: “NDDC has been used as a source of campaign fund; rewarding friends and of ‘settlement.’ And that is why since its creation in 2000, no job given to NDDC has ever been probed…”

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