This comes amid renewed promises by the new management of the interventionist agency to complete abandoned projects, including roads and 522-bed hostels in some universities in the Niger Delta states. Nine states that are statutorily entitled to benefiting from the intervention of the NDDC include Abia, Akwa Ibom, Bayelasa, Cross River, Delta, Edo, Imo, Ondo, and Rivers.
But governors of the six states that make up the SouthSouth geopolitical zone – Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Edo, and Rivers, who met in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, on Monday, March 8, 2021, urged the Federal Government to hold on to the bulk of the NDDC’s funds and only release what is sufficient for payment of salaries of staff, in the interim.
The commission has been running on interim management committee (IMC) system with frequent change of the CEO since Nsima Ekere left in 2019 to contest the Akwa Ibom State governorship seat, which he lost to incumbent Governor Emmanuel Udom. He has been replaced by the likes of Akwagaga, Nunieh, Pondei, as IMC bosses and now Effiong Akwa as sole administrator.
A board was nominated and approved long ago but was not inaugurated. It is believed that another nomination is on the way and the new board may be inaugurated in April 2021. The IMCS and sole administrator have been saddled with supervising the much- talked about forensic audit of the commission which seeks to trace where the annual average revenue of about N350 billion went to through contracts.
Most of the projects have been found wanting as many of them to stand abandoned. The contractors are said to be top political leaders and members of the National
Assembly that incidentally hold oversight duties over the commission, in what analysts call dog eating the bone its asked to protect.
Now, the governors, most of who are political leaders, former parliamentarians and ministers, who seem to know everything about fleecing of the NDDC, may have smelt a rat and have placed a definite demand for the NDDC accounts to be placed on embargo until a proper board emerges.
Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State, who spoke on behalf other governors after their meeting, described as worrisome the running of the NDDC in over a year by an interim caretaker committee, and now, an interim administrator. According to him, this situation does not augur well for the people of the Niger Delta as opportunity for all states to be represented as they ought to be represented in the board of the NDDC does not exist
“So, it means that the NDDC is actually run in such a matter that it is actually not truly beneficial to our people, because there is no stakeholders’ input in the running of the affairs of the NDDC. We do know that there is a forensic audit taking place and if that reason the board has not been constituted, our advice is that monies being sent to the NDDC should be put in an escrow account until a board is constituted and then proper processes are followed in the expenditure of the money in such a way it will be visibly accountable in the best interest of the peoples of the Niger Delta.”
The governors demanded that whenever the board of the NDDC is constituted, the advisory council must be called upon to place its role to ensure there is check and balance in such a matter that the states will truly have value for money expended by the NDDC.
“We feel already shortchanged as a people in the Niger Delta and we believe that we do not wish to see this kind of situation continue going forward into the future, because our people feel the pains, we do not want a situation where there is an abuse of processes, neither should we have a situation where we have abuse of funds,” he said.