The Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) was established on June 5, 2000 by former President Olusegun Obasanjo. It was established principally for the development of the oil rich Niger Delta region of Nigeria. Obasanjo, then had good intention for the people of the region. If he had no good intention for the region, he wouldn’t have established the agency. Again, he did not set up the agency to feed a few people who are in power but for the entire people of the Niger Delta region. The region comprises nine states drawn from the core Niger Delta states and two from the South east and one from the South West.
From the twitter handle of BudgIT Nigeria @BudgITng published on June 25, 2019, the agency had gulped not less than $40billion, a total sum of N15trillion in Nigeria currency. But BudgIT is worried that since June 2000 till 2020, a total of 20 years, the Niger Delta region is still a shadow of itself. From Ogoniland in Rivers state through to Okproza in Warri South West in Delta, home of former warlord, Tompolo, there is heavy cry for development. The communities are in shambles but on yearly basis, the money keeps being budgeted for the NDDC.
On the twitter handle, BudgIT twitted: “Since inception in 2000, NDDC has received at least $40bn (N15 trillion) for projects in oil-rich Niger Delta yet failed to achieve the Niger Delta Regional Development Masterplan to lay the foundation for transforming the region into Nigeria’s Dubai. A follower of BudgIT replied to the tweet, “I’ve always believed the problem of the Niger-Delta is not entirely federal government’s but their unscrupulous and impenitently corrupt and callous leaders and elites. He listed the elites to include governors, commissioners, NDDC top elements, community kings and chiefs. And additionally, federal lawmakers, Senators and Reps.
It is believed that the problem of the region is not the federal government but managers of the agency and powerful figures in political offices and traditional institutions are the ones plundering the common wealth of the impoverished Niger Delta people. The colossal revenue allocation, NDDC’s outlandish annual budgets with other monies running into trillions received from the federal government, oil companies and foreign entities are enough to have developed the regional states and bring it at par with Dubai of the United Arabs Emirates (UAE).
A visit to all the communities in the region, one only sees dilapidated structures, old and abandoned buildings, abandoned or poorly constructed tiny roads loaded with army of potholes, unexecuted projects but fully paid for by the agency. The agency has become the farmhouse of many thieving politicians across the region and the National Assembly. Governors will always battle to ensure their cronies are appointed into the agency to ensure easy access to steal funds for projects in the region.
Senators, members of the House of Representatives, governors and other powerful politicians have turned the NDDC to their farmhouses where they share money meant for the development of the region with reckless abandon. Federal lawmakers imposed themselves on the agency, appropriating projects to themselves, collect funds and abandon projects at the detriments of the community people. They connive with directors in the agency, sign out funds, share the money among themselves, sign as if projects have been completed and off they go. The ignorant people in the region will only cry and their cry goes nowhere.
Every Nigerian is seeing the drama between Godswill Akpabio and Joy Nunieh over the management of the Interim Management Committee set up by President Muhammadu Buhari to midwife the forensic audit ordered by the president. We are all seeing the blame and counter-blame from both officers. No job is being done in the agency but diversion of money for personal aggrandizement. A report trending on the social media that managers of the commission shared N1.5billion as palliatives for themselves within the period of the coronavirus pandemic.
One may ask, if NDDC directors could share N1.5billion as palliatives for themselves, what did they send to their people in the communities who felt the heavy pangs of the lockdown across the nation? Were they hungry during the lockdown with all the billions they have acquired? If not, on what basis did they share the N1.5billion? This is the challenge in the region. The forensic audit directed by the president is being frustrated by powerful people from all quarters. They know that the audit if carried out successfully will hit them hard, hence they are putting blocks on the way to frustrate the exercise.
At times, I wonder what will these men do with billions they are acquiring daily? Will they be buried with the money? The ministry of Niger Delta was established by late president Umaru Musa Yar’Adua in 2008. What has the ministry achieved since its establishment? Practically nothing to show for the past 13 years. Apart from paying salaries of workers, which the federal government is saddled with, it has not done anything for the people of the Niger Delta.
If the money appropriated for the region were used as it was budgeted, Niger Delta would have become another Dubai but the reverse is the case. There is poverty, underdevelopment and hunger across the nine states of the region. There has been series of protests, petition writing, agitations and ultimatums given for certain projects to be executed but all have ended in the trash cans in either the ministry of Niger Delta or at the NDDC with nobody given the protest letters and petitions considerations.