NDDC must put its acts together
Sir: Sometimes last year, a country bored of its many problems and reeling from the multi-faceted challenges of COVID-19, was treated to an elaborate spectacle by the management of the Niger Delta Development Commission.
With huge amounts of money rumoured to have mysteriously disappeared from the coffers of the commission, the National Assembly quickly convened a probe during which Nigerians were treated to the spectacular comics of the leadership of the commission. The show included mind-boggling revelations of graft, incoherent answers, startling allegations and fainting spells.
More than a year later, nothing concrete has come out of the probe and as with most other things in the country, Nigerians can assume that business has continued as usual in the commission.
Whenever oil runs into any conversation in Nigeria, or around the world, it gives the good people of the Niger Delta cause to pause and wonder whether the oil deposited in their lands by nature has been a blessing or a curse. The feeling has been unmistakably bittersweet. As the region that has produced most of the riches that ordinarily should have set Nigeria on the path of development, the Niger Delta region has been critically underserved and undervalued. It has known the horrors of the environmental devastation that comes with oil exploration. However, the most shocking of all has been the lack of accountability about the vast sums that have accrued to the country from oil drawn from the Niger Delta. As usual, corruption is the culprit.
Under military as well as civilian administrations, the country`s oil wealth has known true plunder. Of course, the country is yet to receive all that the late dictator, Mr. Sani Abacha stole during his nauseatingly interminable five years in office. A return to democracy in 1999 has seen a swell in graft cases lying before the courts. The long and short of it is that a lot has been pilfered from the public purse to line greedy private pockets.
Because of the environmental devastation arising from oil exploration, the Niger Delta has proven a peculiar challenge: water bodies are polluted, farmlands are polluted, even the air is polluted, just to mention a few. The damage prompted the Federal Government to launch an ambitious project to clean up the region. As with many things Nigerian, it has become stuck in a rut.
The NDDC was launched to help with recovery efforts in the Niger Delta and to ensure that the development in the region is commensurate with the resources drawn from the region to maintain the white elephant project that Nigeria has become. Instead, the NDDC has faltered badly.
No matter who heads it, it takes disturbingly little time for its management to sit at the head of the table in the lavish banquet of corruption that Nigeria has become. There have been allegations of contract padding and unexecuted contracts. So much of the money allocated to the NDDC over the years has been lost in the endless wilderness that corruption in Nigeria is.
It is sobering because as it stands, it is the long-suffering people of the Niger Delta that have been left to contend with neglect, negligence and outright nonchalance. If the NDDC has outlived its usefulness, becoming instead a net of corruption, it must be scrapped and replaced with a more efficient and accountable body that will make life better for the long-suffering people of the Niger Delta.
Kene Obiezu, email@example.com