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Published On: Mon, Apr 3rd, 2017

Tension at NDDC over corruption scandal

 

EMEKA EJERE

These are not the best of times for the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) as it leadership struggles to redeem the mangled image of an agency widely considered a citadel of corruption.

Indeed, not many observers envy the new managers of the interventionist agency as findings show that the institution can barely explain what it has done with a whopping $40 billionover the last 10 years.

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo established the NDDC in 2000 as a response to agitations for improved redistribution of national wealth to the people of the Niger Delta from where the Federal Government earns most of its foreign exchange.

The agency was to embark on a mission of facilitating the rapid, even and sustainable development of the regional economy, turning it into an oasis of prosperity, socially stability, ecologicalregeneration and politically tranquility.

Under GodwinOmene, the first chief executiveof thecommission, the Niger Delta Regional Development Master Plan (NDRDMP) was initiated and developed by GTZ.

The sketch believed to have provided a very comprehensive plan of how the region could be developed across various sectors, estimated to cost some $50 billion over a 15-year period.

But after 17 years, the master plan is yet to commence. The plan’s implementation has been kneedeep in darkand treacherous controversies between the commission, member-states, oil companies and the Federal Government.

“Rather than use the plan to develop the region it was used as an excuse to agitate for more funds which were then diverted into private pockets,” Julia Hanson, a public affairs analyst observed.

“Slowly the NDDC budget was taken hostage by various political and local institutional interests,” he added.

A document obtained by Business Hallmark from a source that pleaded anonymity revealed: “As the budgets increased over the years, the value of the projects started to blow up. The use of variations to existing projects went out of control.

“For instance, a contract originally awarded at N3.39 billion to ROUDO NIG. LTD for Sandfilling and Shore protection of Ogu Town ended up costing N8.133 billion, a whopping 230% increment. Construction of Isielu-OkaigbeneIdungboko road awarded to JID CONSTRUCTION COMPANY LTD for N2.35 billion ended up at N3.73 billion, an increaseof 160%.

“Construction of (the same?) Isielu-OkaigbeneIdungboko road was also awarded to INTER-BAU CONSTRUCTION NIG. LTD for N585 million and ended up at N3.67 billion, an increase of 620%.

“Construction of IkotUkapNdiya internal roads in NsitUbium LGA awarded to OSMOSERVE GLOBAL LTD for N1.2 billion ended up at N2.86 billion, an increase of 235%.

“This is just the tip of the iceberg of hundreds of projects varied in this manner. One key factor connecting these projects is that they tend to be large infrastructure projects like roads, bridges, shoreline protection, canalization and dredging.”

A projects review conducted in 2015 showed that since inception NDDC had about N2.2 trillion budgeted of which about N1.4 trillion had been received. As at 2008 the Commission had awarded over 2,500 contracts.

But in what manysaw as unfounded, the immediate past Chairman of the Board, Senator BasseyEwa Henshaw, put the number of contracts awarded at 6,000 projects in 2013 and 8,000 in 2015.

According to him, the Commission needed about N1 trillion to complete outstanding projects.  The then Chairman explained that total projects outstanding was 8,000 with a contract worth of N1 trillion and about N800 billion was needed to clear outstanding liabilities.

No explanation was given for almost N350 billion received between 2011 and 2015.

However, arising from failures in the Commissions procurement processes and a number of dodgy contracts, the present Chairman of the Commission Victor Ndoma-Egbahascalledfor a critical review of the commission’s master plan, in order to strengthen the procurement processes of the commission.

Addressing newsmen recently in Port Harcourt, the former leader of the National Senate, the nation’s upper legislative house, said “We must strengthen our procurement processes to create a robust regional economy for our citizens through a long-term plan, because the 15-year master plan was abandoned immediately it was set up,” he stated.

Ndoma-Egba said the present management of NDDC was set to change the narrative of how the Commission is run, because the Commission was hitherto seen as more of a contract awarding institution than a development agency.

Meanwhile, the current Managing Director of the Commission, NsimaEkere, recently statedthat the Commission had received a total of $40 billion in the last 10 years, and described the earlier master plan as a drain pipe.

“The Niger Delta master plan originally required 15 years to implement at a cost of $50 billion. The region has received $40 billion over the past 10 years and sadly, there is little evidence of anything to show for the amount spent.”

Corruption naked dance

On March 2, 2017, the Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC) Prof. ItseSagay, took a swipe at the NDDC, accusing it of financial recklessness, accusing it gross mismanagement meant to develop the Niger Delta.

Sagay, while speaking at the opening of a two-day national dialogue on corruption organised by PACAC in collaboration with the Office of the Vice President alleged that the NDDC “bought over 70 cars that included eight super Lexus that cost N70m each and 10 Toyota Landcruiser jeeps at N65m each.”

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According to him, “The cars were bought with money from funds meant for infrastructure, water, housing, hospital, schools, without conscience and without a thought for the wretched people of the Niger Delta. These huge sums were plundered from their allocations and yet the Managing Director was ironically complaining as reported by the Nation newspaper of Feb. 6, 2017 that the NDDC lacks funds to execute projects.

“The Managing Director also said that NDDC was in debt up to the tune of N1.2 trillion. What an irony! The recklessness with which public officers spend public funds is insensitive to the point of insanity. The level of sensitivity has become pathological.’’

In a swift reaction to Sagay’s allegation, the spokesman of the agency, Chijioke Amu-Nnadi remarked: “The NDDC wishes to state, categorically, that no such purchases have been made since assumption of office on November 4, 2016, of the current Governing Board.

“Indeed, it is a known fact that the Chairman, the Distinguished Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba (SAN), the Managing Director/CEO, NsimaEkere, and the two Executive Directors are still using their private vehicles three months after assumption of duties.

“The NDDC is only now in the process of acquiring work vehicles and is adhering strictly to due process. These include five (5) Toyota Prado jeeps, 10 Toyota Hilux trucks, four (4) Toyota Landcruiser jeeps, one (1) Toyota Coaster bus and two (2) Toyota Hiace buses.

“The Commission has just received the Due Process Compliance Certificate from the Bureau of Public Procurement, BPP, and is preparing the mandatory memo for the approval of the Federal Executive Council.”

Sagay, in his allegation did not clearly state the period the said vehicles worth over a billion naira were procured, neither did he disclose the management that made the order for their purchase.

However, a representative of PACAC, Prof. OkonEminue, said in a statement: “The NDDC ought to confirm the claim by the Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, Professor ItseSagay by seeking clarification on the administration under which the said vehicles were purchased. Prof Sagay is quite right. The vehicles were bought by one of the past administrations of the NNDC.”

PACAC said when the details of the purchase were first published, the immediate past Managing Director of NDDC, Dan Abia, was still in office. Abia was appointed by former President Goodluck Jonathan, and left office in 2015.

Eminue added: “To be sure, President Muhammadu Buhari had assumed duties when the scam came to light. One would have thought that the EFCC and other anti-graft agencies would wade into the allegations at that time. Consequently, Prof. Sagay’s accusation or allegation does not say that the scam is perpetrated by the current leadership of the NDDC.

“For emphasis, Prof Sagay’s allegation does not, in any way, pertain to the present Board and Management of NDDC under the leadership of Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba, SAN (Board Chairman, NDDC) and ObongNsimaEkere (Managing Director, NDDC). The scam even came to limelight before MrsSeminitari was appointed Acting MD, NDDC.”

Michael Jegede, a media expert said, “Indeed, Sagay’s allegation of corruption against the NDDC cannot be said to be out of place. Corruption is generally believed to be the major factor that has hindered the performance of the agency since it was established by former President Olusegun Obasanjo in the year 2000.

“And this is responsible for the inability of the commission to attain its core mandate of ensuring a total, holistic and sustainable regional development.

“Those who had earlier been put in charge of the commission seemed to have helped themselves to funds meant for the advancement of the region, leaving the multiple problems confronting the region to remain unabated and the people in abject poverty.”

Another severe allegation came from the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI). The agency accused NDDC of misappropriating the sum N7.4 billion, as it is unable to account for it. The funds are said to have been allocated for grassroots development projects.

Giving a breakdown of the financial remittances to NDDC, NEITI through its Director for Communication, Orji OgbonnayaOrji said the agency received N594 billion from 2007 to 2011, while $559 million was paid to the commission in 2012. Similarly, the NDDC was said to have received $563 million in 2013 while $865 million was released to is in 2014.

From the fiscal allocation and statutory disbursement audit report which covered 2007 to 2011, the sum of N7.4 billion allocated to member states of the NDDC for grassroots development projects in the respective states could not be accounted for while 22 of such projects valued at N1.19 billion were duplicated, according to the agency.

In what appears as a confirmation of financial impropriety in the operations of the NDDC, the managing director and chief executive officer of the agency, Mr. NsimaEkere, noted that, even though the NDDC expended a whopping $40 billion on capital projects, the commission has failed to realise its 15-year master plan. The $40 billion represents 80 per cent of the $50 billion required to implement the vision for the oil-rich region.

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“The NDDC master plan originally required 15 years to implement at a cost of $50 billion. The region has received $40 billion over the past 10 years and sadly, there is little evidence to show for the sums spent. Poor governance of self and institutions are at the heart of public sector delivery challenges,” he stated, stressing that the result of such a posting was disheartening.

Similarly, a youth group, under the aegis of the Niger Delta Youth Movement, NDYM has alleged that there is massive corruption in the running of the NDDC.

In a communique issued at the end of a National Executive Council meeting of the body in Port Harcourt, recently and signed by the group’s National President, Joe Jackson, Secretary, Amakuro Isaac and twenty-three (23) others, NDYM blamed corruption for the underdevelopment in the region.

The group lamented that despite the huge investments in the Commission, not much is being done to better the lives of the people, but warned that it is presently investigating the information of massive looting going on in the Commission under the present leadership and will make its findings public soon.

The communiqué read in part, “Corruption is at the centre of the region’s underdevelopment and the youths have remained endangered species in their patriotic efforts to draw the attention of relevant agencies to the developmental challenges of the region.”

“Despite enormous resources committed to the development of the Niger Delta region by successive administrations, not much is being seen in terms of development of the region.

“The absence of transparency and accountability in institutions empowered to develop the region is a major obstacle to the development of the region.”

“The Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) needs to be purged of corruption, with a view to sanitising the system and bad eggs expunged.

No benefit from NDDC

On the heels of the raging corruption allegations against the interventionist agency, Business Hallmark took a trip to Rivers State, one of the nine states of the oil-rich region and came back with findings further lending credence to the allegations.

From traditional rulers to ordinary people in the areas, nobody agreed to have seen any serious and completed NDDC projects in their localities.

Paramount Ruler of Nonwa Kingdom in Tai Local Government Area, Chief Emmanuel Nyedan said: “Idon’t know of any NDDC project in Nonwa hear. The light project we have here was done by OMPADEC.”

At Bane, the hometown of the fallen Ogoni hero Ken Saro-Wiwa, Prince Mike Karikpo told Business Hallmark that there is nothing like NDDC project in Bane and its environs.

“You can look around as you move. There is nothing, nothing to show that this place is where the oil is coming from. As far as NDDC is concerned this place does not exist.”

At Kira, also in Ogoniland, Mr. Destiny Nyar, said. “There’re no NDDC projects in Kira. But in few communities n Tai, there’re few NDDC projects.

“The only one we have here is a cottage hospital, which is not yet completed, so I cannot count ourselves as having any.”

In Oyigbo Local Government, the situation is not any different as a traditional ruler, who does not want his name on print stated his locality has not benefitted from the NDDC.

Changing the narrative?

Ndoma-Egba and Ekerefrom their comments are not oblivious to the fact that the agency has been a den of corruption where nothing seemed to have worked well in the interest of the people.

They are making franticefforts to convince Nigerians that they have the capacity to rebrand and reposition the commission for better performance.

The new leadership claims to believe that due process and transparency will facilitate sustainable development in the Niger Delta region and end the era of uncompleted projects and corruption.

Against this background, the new board and management has promised to adhere strictly to processes and procedures that conform to international best practices.

This new vision is encapsulated in the commission’s 4-R Initiative of restoring its core mandate, restructuring its balance sheet, reforming its processes and reaffirming a commitment to doing what is right and proper always.

At the inaugural meeting of the new board Ndoma-Egba had remarked: “We must rebrand the Commission and change the public perception of it as a slush fund and this we must do through our honest work and single-minded focus and discipline.

“We must see our appointments as a lifetime opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of the ordinary people of the region and write our names in gold for posterity and not an opportunity for our own slice of the proverbial national cake or short term benefits. We should keep our eyes on history.”

 

 

 

 

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