President Muhammadu Buhari Thursday in Abuja directed all statutory contributors to NDDC to ‘’remit all outstanding funds to the Commission, and to ensure this is done transparently and according to laid down procedure and process”.
The international oil companies, the major contributors to the NDDC funds, owe the Commission about $5.6 billion and N649 billion. The oil companies have not met their statutory obligations to the Commission in many years, according to Senator Godswill Akpabio, Minister of the Niger Delta, whose ministry supervises the interventionist agency. He spoke in a press conference earlier in the year.
Such a huge debt profile has certainly hampered the performance of the Commission, and this explains why the President is issuing the pay-up order.
The Nigerian leader has also directed the Commission to go an extra mile to revive and complete all abandoned projects that directly impact the livelihood of the people of the Niger Delta Region. Speaking at the commissioning of the a 1,050-capacity hostel built and donated by the Commission to the University of Uyo, President Buhari noted that the just-concluded forensic audit of the Commission was being reviewed, ‘’with a view to recovering every kobo that is recoverable, while those found culpable will face the law’’.
In addition to IOC’s outstanding payments to NDDC, the Commission had in the past been buffeted by corruption, poor governance and waste of resources. The President alluded to these in his speech, noting that it was regrettable that the special development fund of the entire region was squandered by a few for more than 20 years, leaving many in penury.
He announced that the report of the forensic audit is being reviewed and those that have been indicted would make refunds to the government.
“The Niger Delta Development Commission needs to demonstrate that it can achieve the objectives it was conceived for and make its impact felt all over the Niger Delta Region. The lives of the people of the Niger Delta could be so much better, if the funding received by this commission since its inception, in billions of naira over the last 20 years, have been judiciously deployed in service of the people”, said the President.
The hostel complex is a big, modern and well-appointed facility. The contract was first awarded in 2004, but was abandoned due to many issues. The completion and inauguration of the hostel project are due to the earlier directives from the President for the Commission to focus on important projects. This is the third of such high-impact projects built by the NDDC that the President has inaugurated in 2021. It’s an unprecedented achievement in the 22-year history of the agency. “The serial abuse, lack of delivery and what had become an entrenched institutional decay, was the reason why I called for the forensic audit’’, the President said, speaking through satellite hook-up from the State House in Abuja.
The inauguration event was a big celebration for the university community. Both the Student Union President, speaking on behalf of the over 40,000 students of the 38-year-old institution and the Vice Chancellor, Professor Nyaudoh Ndaeyo were effusive in their praises for the Commission and the President. They both presented plaques to the President to symbolize their appreciation of the new hostel block.
NDDC’s chief executive, Dr. Efiong Akwa, in his welcome remarks expressed his ‘’appreciation to all the staff of the Commission, service providers, stakeholders, particularly the governors who opened their arms and embraced the new spirit we are determined to enthrone in the Commission’’. Senator Akpabio described the hostel as ‘’a beauty to behold’’, and pledged to work with the Commission to complete other projects as a legacy of the President. Many other dignitaries spoke at the event. They include the VC, Senator Peter Nwaobishi (Chairman Senate Committee on NDDC) and Rt. Hon Olubunmi Tuni-Ojo. They all commended the NDDC for delivering high-impact projects in the last one year.