Posted by News Express | 8 November 2022 | 314 times
On 20th October 2022, President Muhammadu Buhari removed the Interim Administrator of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Effiong Akwa, and appointed Emmanuel Audu-Ohwavborua as the acting managing director of the intervention agency. It was the third time he would be doing that since 2017. But operating outside the law to impose interim management boards with elastic mandates cannot be a way to instill accountability in the commission. It is a recipe for unwholesome practices as available reports now indicate. And the president should take the blame for what is happening at the commission.
Established in 2000 by the then President Olusegun Obasanjo administration, the NDDC was charged with facilitating the rapid, even and sustainable development of the Niger Delta into a region “that is economically prosperous, socially stable, ecologically regenerative and politically peaceful.” But since 2017, the commission has been administered by ad-hoc management committees without a properly constituted governing board that would enforce the good corporate governance that is required for efficient delivery of its mandates. That this governance structure has failed is evidenced by the high turnover of these interim contraptions that had been shoved out of office over allegations of multiple corruption.
It is unfortunate that an administration that came in with the mandate to fight graft has been taking tentative actions bordering on inability to rein in disparate interests of gullible and often greedy politicians. And with that the money that was meant to develop Niger Delta is being cynically looted with official complicity. With revelations of how hundreds of billions of Naira end up in private hands at the NDDC, it is unfortunate that the federal government has allowed the problem to fester.
In the circumstances, therefore, the ongoing agitations by not only citizens of the intended beneficial communities and states but also by the vast majority of stake-holding groups for the composition of the governing board and management of the agency in accordance with its establishment act is hugely justified and should be hearkened to without further rigmarole. This is particularly so because the presidency that has the responsibility for instituting the board has since run out of excuses for its wilful disobedience to the law. Its principal complaint was that the agency had been a cesspool of corruption that had hindered its capacity to fulfil its core mandates. It consequently commissioned a forensic audit in 2019 to investigate the operations of the agency between 2001 and 2019, promising to appoint the governing board thereafter. It has repeatedly refused to do so.
Without a doubt, the interim managements have not shown any better restraints and could be argued to have performed badly if not worse largely because of the lack of a transparent supervisory structure. In any case, the much-touted forensic audit report has since been submitted with the presidency doing no more than threatening to implement its recommendations that are not within the public purview. It is therefore little surprise that the president’s latest directive that the board of the NDDC be constituted according to the established law is taken with a pinch of salt by the public because of the litany of breaches of similar orders in the past.
As this newspaper has repeatedly stated, it is imperative that the presidency not only publishes the report of the forensic audit and take concrete steps to implement its recommendations but also institute the governing board of the intervention agency without further delay so that it could serve the purpose for which it was established. After all, the Senate way back in November 2019 made the president’s job easier by confirming his nominees. What was left was their inauguration, which should not be delayed any further.
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