Stakeholders across political divides and the academia in Akwa Ibom State have in one voice aired their thoughts against calls in some quarters that the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) be scrapped following revelations from the probe by the National Assembly. Instead, they have clamoured for the proper reorganization of the commission with professionals taking up appointments in their areas of specialization.
The Niger Delta Development Commission is a federal government agency established by Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo in the year 2000 with the sole mandate of developing the oil-rich Niger Delta region of Nigeria. In September 2008, President Umaru Yar’Adua announced the formation of a Niger Delta Ministry, with the Niger Delta Development Commission to become a parastatal under the ministry.One of the core mandates of the Commission is to train and educate the youths of the oil rich Niger Delta regions to curb hostilities and militancy, while developing key infrastructure to promote diversification and productivity.
As an interventionist agency meant to change the Niger Delta region for the better, the stakeholders have argue that appointment of management and board members should not be based entirely on political consideration or compensation, but on professionalism. They have therefore called for the immediate dissolution of the Interim Management Committee (IMC), noting such arrangement was illegal to known laws of the country and the Act setting up the commission.
They express dismay over the situation playing out at the commission which has slowed down its day-to-day running, and are of the opinion that those found culpable should be made to face the music, by ensuring that they refund monies they collected or have their properties seized. Others are entirely against going to court to prosecute any culprit, as such a process, from experience, takes years before justice could be delivered.
Prof. Robert Dole of the Department of Political Science, University of Uyo, said the drama is a distraction and waste of time, noting that while officials of NDDC are busy running the place aground, the North East Development Commission is busy delivering on its mandate for the zone.
“The Niger Delta Development Commission was set up as an interventionist agency to see to the development of a region known as the Niger Delta. The expectations of Niger Deltans are that NDDC would have supported the state governments to bring some level of development to their states. As I’m talking to you now, a street along Afaha Oku that was to be constructed 10 years ago, just to construct two new gutters and the street, is now worse than what it was before they came and removed the top soil”
He lamented that the expectation of the commission which was for development is no longer so.
“The stories, for some of us, are nothing but distractions. Everything about NDDC has been suspended for over eight months, which is not supposed to be so. The North East Development Commission is working and here we are hearing stories of this and that. Some of us are Niger Delta citizens and we are not interested in these distractions. NDDC should not be scrapped. What you need is to overhaul the commission and the way to do this is to bring professionals into its operations. It is an interventionist agency; it is not a place for political compensation. The critical areas must be manned by professionals and must not be compromised.
Dole has advised the IMC should be scrapped immediately because it is illegal and board be sworn in. He added that the problem of NDDC is not NDDC; it is how the commission has been mismanaged. He recommended credible technocrats, specialists and bring them in without political considerations.
On his part, a political stalwart of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state, Mr. Etim Etim, said what is happening in NDDC was fuelled by some politicians, past management staff of the commission because of the proposed forensic audit by the President.
The controversy he said has been raging for the past 10 months and it started immediately when the president announced the establishment of a forensic audit, which he said had offended some, especially former and current management staff of the commission, contractors of the commission, politicians in the region and National Assembly members, who are also contractors or involved in some deals with the commission.
He associated the messy situation to this sect especially that the forensic audit should not take place, that the minister should be removed and the IMC disbanded.
According to Professor Emmanuel Onwioduokit of Department of Economics, University of Uyo, also a former commissioner for economic development in the state, “NDDC should not be scrapped. Instead, everybody connected to the messy situation should be removed and a new set of persons brought in. Those that have failed should be removed and prosecuted and new people brought in with a clear mandate.”
Recall that some aggrieved Nigerians at the heat of the NDDC scandal had advised President Muhammadu Buhari-led government to scrap the Niger Delta Development Commission and the North East Development Commission for allegedly taking advantage of the masses.
Others have expressed their concerns over the issue in like manner.
Has the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) brought real development, or is capable of bringing real development, to the oil producing states of Nigeria? In your opinion should it be scrapped out? What’s your stand on this? Drop your comments.