By Emmanuel Addeh
Oil-bearing communities yesterday demanded the return of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) to the presidency for proper supervision, rather than leaving it under the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, pointing out that they had earlier raised the alarm in November 2019 that allowing the Minister of Niger Delta, Mr. Godswill Akpabio, to superintend over the NDDC would be to the detriment of the region.
The communities, under the auspices of the Host Communities of Nigeria, Producing Oil and Gas (HOSCON), also called for the immediate inauguration of a substantive NDDC board to oversee the commission’s administration and clean up the current mess in the agency.
A statement by the National Director, Media and Publicity of the organisation, Mr. Monday Whiskey, said the decision was arrived at after a meeting of the national leadership, including state chairmen, youth and women wing and selected leaders from the 10 oil-producing states.
The states are: Delta, Edo, Ondo, Lagos, Bayelsa, Rivers, Cross River, Akwa Ibom, Abia and Imo.
The group resolved that everyone who has been fingered in the sleaze in the interventionist agency must be prosecuted.
It said: “We hereby resolve as follows: That we demand without further delay, the return of the NDDC to the presidency for proper administration and supervision.
“That we demand without further delay the immediate sacking and prosecution of all the actors who perpetrated these heinous crimes against the people of the oil-producing communities.”
HOSCON noted that it was becoming uncomfortable with the mind-boggling amounts being allegedly stolen in the agency and called for a presidential intervention.
According to the group: “We are no longer comfortable with the multi-billion-naira fraud allegations that have bedeviled the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) under the kangaroo three-member Interim Management Committee (IMC) leading to wastage of over N80 billion.
“We demand without further delay that the already screened and confirmed board by the National Assembly under the chairmanship of Dr. Pius Odubu be urgently inaugurated to put a stop to this wanton wastage and outright stealing that is ongoing currently at the commission.
“HOSCON, as the most formidable grassroots pressure group in the Niger Delta that has laboured so much to ensure sustainable peace in the region rich in oil and gas, will not sit aloof and allow some self-aggrandising political appointees that are selfishly motivated to set the region on fire.”
The NDDC has been in the news for alleged mismanagement of huge resources allocated to it over the years, particularly in the last eight months that it had been under interim management.
Following a protest by the Niger Delta states governors that there was an embarrassing disparity between the hefty funds that flowed into the intervention agencies and the development projects on the ground, President Muhammadu Buhari directed that a forensic audit be carried out on the financial transactions of the commission, instituting a three-man interim headed Ms. Joi Nunieh to oversee the exercise.
But Nunieh soon ran into trouble with Akpabio and was removed in February and was replaced by Prof. Keme Pondei.
The new interim committee has in the last few months been having running battles with supervisory committees of the National Assembly over alleged fraud, leading accusations and counter-accusations.