Women protest against corruption in NDDC
•Groups caution against scrapping agency
•Suggest ways to reposition commission
•’Looters must return stolen money’
Scores of women yesterday barricaded the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) headquarters in Port Harcourt, Rivers State to demand transparency and accountability in the affairs of the agency.
The protesters, comprising activists from various civil society organizations and farmers, called on stakeholders in the Niger Delta to take practical action to address what they described as irresponsible spending and management of the NDDC funds.
Leader of the protesters, Emem Bridget, said it was morally offensive that only politically-exposed persons, their friends and families benefit from the programmes of the NDDC.
Bridget, who was flanked by representatives from Okwuzi Women Forum, Kebetkache Women Development and Resource Centre, Mba Okase Women of Eleme, Abua Women Association, Ego Women Human Rights and Environmental Justice Initiative, and League of Queens of International Empowerment, among others, said while communities in the Niger Delta remained poor with no health facilities, no access to clean water, no public schools with quality facilities, high unemployment rate and insecurity, the NDDC had been engaged in wanton wastage of funds meant for development.
“None of the reported expenditure between January and May 2020 reflects a conscious plan to address the interest of people in hard-to-reach communities, particularly women. Is the probe at the National Assembly conducted to change things and benefit the Niger Delta people? NO! National Assembly members are part of the problem, the marginalization, the discrimination, the neglect of communities and the underprivileged. We say no to corruption,” she said.
The Urhobo Leadership Forum, Abuja (ULFA) flayed what it described as silence of the governors of the Niger Delta states on the corruption crisis rocking the NDDC.
At a press conference in Abuja, president of the forum, Jonathan Esin, wondered why the governors would keep mum in spite of the fact that they have statutory roles to play under the law in developing the region.
ULPA said that on no account should the NDDC be scrapped
“Such an action will create it’s own problem. Therefore, this matter should be handled with the seriousness, equity and justice the situation demands so that there is no relapse or degeneration into the destructive militancy that predated the establishment of the NDDC.”
The group lamented the current state of the interventionist agency created to speed up the development of the oil-rich region.
“The intendment of the NDDC Act is subverted and jettisoned in favour of directives from those who exercise the federal might. This has been with the connivance of some Niger-Delta elements, all of whom are unperturbed by the dire future of the people of the area when oil and gas exploration and production would have become a thing of the past.
“The quality of persons appointed to the board and the chief executive of NDDC leaves much to be desired. A situation where both the board chairman and chief executive of the commission have been mainly politicians is inimical to the growth and development of the Niger Delta. Apart from only two, all other past managing directors have been politicians. The consequence is that they have continued to be lackeys and stooges of their mentors.”
According to the Urhobo group, the leadership of the NDDC has remained unstable.
“In its 20 years of existence, it has had 16 chief executives, an average of one managing director every one year and three months. This development appears to ensure the turn-by-turn looting of the NDDC.”
Also yesterday, a coalition of Ijaw groups called for the immediate sack of the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, and dissolution of the Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the NDDC.
In a 10-point demand, the coalition also urged President Muhammadu Buhari to properly constitute the governing board of the commission and order the trial of all those involved in financial recklessness at the agency.
They advised the president to dismiss the call for the scrapping of the commission, saying it would amount to punishing the masses of the Niger Delta people who are not responsible for the rot and looting of the agency.
The coalition’s position was contained in a statement jointly signed by the Secretary, Ijaw Elders Forum (IEF), Lagos, Pastor Efiye Bribena; Moderator, Ijaw Nation Forum (INF), Ben Okoro; former Executive Secretary, Nigerian Content Development and Management Board (NCDMB), Embasara Foundation, Chief Amagbe D Kentebe; President, Ijaw Professionals Association (IPA), Mr. Elaye Otronfanowei; and Executive Director, Niger Delta Women International Resources, Environment and Development Centre, Ms Ibiba Don-Pedro.
The Niger Delta Renaissance Coalition demanded that all those involved in the looting and mismanagement of the NDDC resources should return the money and be prosecuted.
The group frowned at the allegation by Akpabio and the Acting Executive Director Projects of the IMC, Ojougboh, against six lawmakers being NDDC contractors, stating that it was a ploy to distract Nigerians from the reports of the National Assembly committees that investigated and indicted some people for large scale looting, fraud and mismanagement of resources.
The group, in a statement signed by its Director of Research and Strategy, Damian Nwikinaka, said Akpabio and the IMC were crowding the media space with these allegations rather than address their own roles.
The group said Akpabio, Ojougboh and the IMC could not be allowed to run around throwing allegations without following up with petitions and reporting the concerned lawmakers to the police, Economic Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) for investigation and prosecution.
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