The Niger Delta Development Commission [NDDC] was established about Twenty Years ago, as an Interventionist Organisation to bring succor and smile to the faces of all those from the Region that is regarded as the “Goose that lays the Golden Eggs”. Prior to the creation; being a replacement for the Oil Mineral Producing Area Development Commission [OMPADEC], the Niger Delta people, though producing nothing less than 95% of the Nigerian wealth, lived in the most diminished, deprived, disgraced, dehumanised rejected and unequalled abject squalor, amongst human races of the earth.
Yet, the people that lived on that geographical piece of land, which produced the wealth that made General Yakubu Gowon; then Military Head of State and Commander in Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces, to pronounce publicly that “Nigeria has no problem with money but how to spend the money”, were reduced to substandard human being by the same Nation-State that took their wealth away from them.
In return, the people got opprobrium, shame, disgrace, brutalization; packaged in unrivalled abject poverty, from the Nigerian State – a State of strange bedfellows, nebulously and fraudulently brought together by the selfish interests of some “interlopers from across the Sea”.
Twenty Years after introducing the NDDC to the region, the lifestyle of the people of the Niger Delta have not improved an inch; but instead, they are “closest to the bottom sunk of Hell”, with its blazing furnace of torment; a journey not only made possible, but actively assisted, by the conspiracy of Federal Institutions’ leadership.
This is however not the kernel of this discussion, so we need to quickly return to the challenging issue at hand. And that is how the NDDC has metamorphosed into one of the greatest Homes of corruption ever discussed in Nigeria. I mentioned “one of the greatest Homes” deliberately because if many other national institutions in Nigeria; like the NNPC, are considered for corruption evaluation, NDDC may be returned as a child-play.
Decoding the journey of NDDC within the past few years shall suffice in looking for the ingredients that “epitomize corruption at its best” in Nigerian history. Let us take the journey therefore from June of last year – 2019, after President Muhammadu Buhari had been sworn-in for a second tenure, and he started making appointments of men and women that will help him to run a corruption-free government.
Please, we should not forget that we are limiting the analyses around NDDC only, as there are other days for other organisations.
President Buhari nominated Senator Godswill Akpabio, asked the Nigerian Senate to confirm him, as he did with all others, and thereafter appointed him as the Honourable Minister of Niger Delta Ministry, just as he did with others into different Ministries.
The first assignment the “uncommon reformer” [that’s Akpabio pet name], or the man with the slogan of “what money cannot do, more money will do it” did, without making noise about it, was to write a letter to the Chief of Staff to the President [then, late Abba Kyari – himself an omnipotent personality], asking the latter to help him transfer the NDDC from the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation to his ministry – Ministry of Niger Delta. Akpabio’s good friend in the person of the Chief of Staff prosecuted the request in a jiffy. Within weeks the office of the SGF lost supervision of the NDDC to the Ministry of Niger Delta – courtesy of the Chief of Staff.
Senator Akpabio smiled victoriously as a major spoil had been slashed and kept in his “economic kitty”. Time for him to move to the second level of the battle came. And this coincided with when the President – the same Muhammadu Buhari, nominated members, 16 together, for the confirmation of the Nigerian Senate for appointment into the Board of the NDDC. On the day of confirmation at the Senate, 15 out of the 16 nominated appeared for screening and the Senate did not waste time in confirming the 15 that came.
Amongst them were a former Deputy Governor of Edo State, Dr Pius Odubu, who was confirmed as the Chairman of the Board, and Chief Bernard Okumagba, confirmed as Managing Director. The Senate happily wrote to inform the President of having confirmed all his nominees but one, and that was the one that did not show up for the exercise. The name of the missing nominee is Joy Nunieh; a very top member [like all others anyway] from Ogoni Land in Rivers State. Her personality’s absence at the confirmation became the first major twist in the tale of absurdity, which was fully arranged beforehand by Akpabio and his co-travelers; those powerful men of uncommon means, in the Presidential Villa. This is how the drama unfolded.
While the Senate was complying with the presidential requests of confirmation in the Red Chamber, Senator Godswill Akpabio, the Minister of the Niger Delta Ministry, was pre-occupied in putting together an Interim Management Committee [IMC] to run the NDDC in place of a Board of Directors. Akpabio was too fast to wait for any Board of Directors, which he never participated in picking its members, to come and do his bidding.
He had earlier thrown some noisy stones into the market place of the Presidential Villa, shouting about the highest level of corruption at the NDDC and the need for the “place to be sanitized through a presidential order”. The President had bought into this scheme and had instructed of “total forensic audit of the NDDC” before those confirmed for the Board left the Senate. It could be that the President saw the bigger picture of Akpabio’s scheme or maybe, he did not see it.
But whichever and however, the President backed Akpabio in dumping the confirmed Board Members [he never inaugurated the Board but instead “dissolved a Board that was never inaugurated”] in favour of the IMC. In Nigeria, wonders, albeit of absurdity, shall never come to an end.
The Nigerian Senate shouted to the top of their roof in Abuja, while stakeholders in the Niger Delta region danced almost naked into the market square place of sensibility. Both Groups tried in vain and the vanity of their functions downed on them when Akpabio told a bewildered world that President Buhari has approved the appointment of a three-man Interim Management Committee; made up of Joy Nuinieh [Acting Managing Director], Cairo Ojougboh [Acting Executive Director – Projects] and Ibanga Bassey [Acting Executive Director – Finance and Administration.
Take note, please that the Acting Managing Director was the only nominated Board Member that refused to show up for Senate confirmation – evidence that she knew where she belong ab initio.
Permit me to re-emphasize that all efforts by the Senate to insist upon the inauguration of the confirmed Board Members were resisted. The Senate argued that the law does not recognise the interim arrangement as a duly confirmed Board was already in place. The Senate President further stated that the Senate would only entertain budget presentations from the Board they had confirmed.
However, in a new twist of events, the President wrote a letter to the Senate on December 29, 2019, informing them that the newly confirmed Board has been disbanded and confirmed that the Interim Management Committee has been put in place to oversee the forensic audit of the former Board’s activities. The letter stated that once the audit is completed, the presidency would compose a new Board of the Commission for confirmation by the Senate.
Meanwhile, the Minister and his three-man IMC unleashed reign of terror; edifice decorated in diadems of absolute corruption on the NDDC, until things fell apart between the Acting Managing Director [Joy Nuinieh] and her Minister – Senator Godswill Akpabio.
No one really knows how and why the pair fell out. Neither of them treated us to the high drama we are currently witnessing when the going was good. We were not told that they were meeting in hotels and slapping themselves. Nor were we informed that illegal contracts were being approved and that a looting spree had commenced in the Commission.
But on Wednesday 19th of February, 2020, Femi Adeshina; the President’s spokesman, announced that the President has expanded the IMC and appointed Kemebradikumo Pondei to replace Joy Nuinuih as the Commission’s new Acting Managing Director. Two more people; Caroline Nagbo and Cecilia Akintomide, had been appointed to join the IMC, according to Femi Adeshina.
In midst of all these confusions, the President had just added another instruction, echoed in a very powerful and authoritative voice – to wit: “a coordinated acceleration of the probes so that the final probe report can be submitted to me”. Well said, or so it looks, and that is until we interrogate some salient elements that would surely challenge the smooth route of fulfilling the latest instruction.
Who shall now coordinate the probes? Is it going to be the National Assembly? Shall it be remaining within the purview of the Honourable Minister of the Niger Delta Ministry, the same “uncommon reformer” former governor of Akwa Ibom, who doubles with the acronym of “what money cannot do, more money will do it”, and who saw the need of annexing the Niger Delta Development Commission from the Presidency in the first instance with ease of conspiracy?
Or shall the President be leaving acceleration of the assignment for the Interim Management Committee – a nebulously and unconstitutionally package which he [the President] approved ab initio? Who shall bell the cats; the many contending cats in this continuously boiling rough waters of corruption.
I only hope we are able to follow the narration of this submission and be able, at least for now, to sift the eatables from the poisons of this overcooked delicacy in this palace of dis-honourability?
Godwin Etakibuebu; a veteran Journalist, wrote from Lagos.
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