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NDDC probe will yield no fruitful results, says UPU

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• Union calls on Buhari to swear in Okumagba as MD
• Ojaide accuses South-South governors of conspiracy of silence

President-Generral Urhobo Progress Union (UPU), Dr. Moses Taiga, has said nothing concrete would come out of the ongoing probe of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) by the senate. While addressing the media in Lagos yesterday, Taiga rather urged President Muhammadu Buhari to swear in Chief Bernard Okumagba from Delta State as the Managing Director of NDDC.

According to him, “For us in UPU, it is not just the NDDC probe that matters, but we want the president to swear in Okumagba, who the senate has cleared as managing director of NDDC. I don’t expect to see anything good at the end of NDDC’s probe.

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“It is just drama and we have seen a lot of such displays in the past. It is a shame that the NDDC that we all fought for to improve the wellbeing of the people that produce the wealth of the entire country is being abused. I doubt if anything concrete will come out of the forensic audit of NDDC.”

Taiga, however, called on the government to make public names of all Nigerians that have collected contracts from NDDC since the commission was established, saying, “It is not just enough to say that Niger Delta is the major source of its own problems.”

Although the UPU president-general agreed that the political leadership that the region has produced since the return of Nigeria to democratic rule has really not done enough to develop the zone, adding, “The federal fovernment also has its own share of the challenges confronting the area.”

Taiga therefore urged President Buhari and governor of Delta State, Mr. Ifeanyi Okowa, to urgently set motions in place to provide adequate infrastructure that will enhance the development of Urhobo nation. He decried the unfair treatment of the Urhobo and other ethnic nations in area of infrastructure development.

“It has become necessary for UPU to cry out that Urhobo nation needs federal roads, particularly the East-West Road, which has remained uncompleted for over 20 years,” he said.

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Taiga also called the attention of the federal and Delta governments to the deplorable state of the Ughelli-Asaba Road, Benin-Sapele-Warri Road among others, saying, “The roads are in a state of deterioration, which has led to needless loss of lives of Nigerians and especially Urhobo sons and daughters. For Urhobo people and other Nigerians, plying the road, especially from the Ugbendu, Oghara, Adeje, Elume to PTI Junction axis of the Benin-Ughelli Expressway has been a harrowing experience.”

Taiga also raised the alarm that the Sapele Port facility, which according to him, has been given to the Nigeria Navy since 1983, should be returned. According to him, “Our Sapele Port that has been ceded to the Navy, which is currently underutilized, should be restored back to a full operating port. So too is the Warri Port.”

The UPU president-general also tasked the government to legalize community policing in Urhobo nation to enhance security of their people and as a means to solving the challenges of armed herdsmen’s crisis in the area. The union also called on the government to return Uvwie and Okpe lands that were acquired for military purposes in the past, but which have not been utilized.

According to Taiga, “These lands are being sold subsequently by the military to private individuals. We as a nation have presented this matter to President Buhari.”

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Also wondering what the Niger Delta poeple are doing about the looting of their resources, a professor of Africana Studies, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Tanure Ojaide, has accused the South-South governors of conspiracy of silence over the development.

According to him, “There seems to be also a conspiracy of silence by the region’s governors and other political office-holders, who seem to be caught in a blood-and-soil loyalty trap.”

He also demanded that the Federal Government should set up a committee of experts, technocrats, and representatives of the Niger Delta people and not the bureaucratic ‘forensic audit’ panel and to give it a maximum of three months to establish the contracts given and supposed to have been executed and check whether or not they were really carried out.

“That investigative committee should establish what each culprit has stolen or stashed away and publish the report for Niger Deltans and Nigerians to see,” he said.

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He also suggested that all monies stolen should be returned within a short time or the persons remanded in jail for the rest of their lives, just as he added that the commission should be reorganised with checks and balances to operate in a more transparent way. Ojaide tasked the National Assembly to know that though the problem adversely affects the Niger Delta, it is a Nigerian problem. As such the National Assembly and pertinent institutions in the criminal justice community should strengthen and broaden the laws that deal with what is essentially economic treason.

“The auditing system in Nigeria should be reorganized to catch these big rogues,” Ojaide stated. “Tax records and bank statements, among others, should be deployed to monitor large and suspicious movements of money. I support Comrade Joseph Evah’s call for the NDDC to be moved from the Ministry of Niger Delta to the presidency.”

Meanwhile, a major construction company, Webster Global Ventures Limited has described its inclusion in the list of companies allegedly coerced to be paid by the National Assembly as a deliberate effort to destroy its reputation. The company described the statement credited to the Acting Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Prof. Kemebradikumo Daniel Pondei as false, inaccurate, and misleading.

In a statement, its Director of Operations, Mr. Opeolu Adarae, said the National Assembly never influenced any payment made to the company by NDDC, adding: “We are a company of international repute. No one should dent our image.”

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