The Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) says the forensic audit ordered by President Muhammadu Buhari for the body, was a solution to the years of decay and challenges of underdevelopment in the Niger Delta.
Speaking during a two-day training for ten communication specialists in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, the NDDC’s Acting Managing Director, Professor Daniel Pondei, said that the audit followed a request by the governors of the nine Niger Delta states.
He noted that the aim of the forensic exercise was to highlight the areas of strength and weaknesses of the commission and not to witch-hunt any group or individual.
Pondei, represented by the Director, Corporate Affairs, Mr. Charles Obi Odili, stated that the audit was sacrosanct because the time had come for the NDDC, which was established in 2000, to offer a lasting solution to the socio-economic challenges of the area, to take a quantum leap into the future as evidenced in other delta regions of the world.
He remarked: “I am happy you are being trained today to give strategic communication support to the Forensic Audit teams in the nine Niger Delta States and the assignment of the audit team is to evaluate and examine the financial records of the Commission.
“In September last year, when the governors of the Niger Delta States visited the President, Muhammadu Buhari, they highlighted the need for the forensic examination of the account of the NDDC, so that we can see what we have done with what we have received so far.
It has come to a point the NDDC needs to know where it stands, not just in the court of public opinion but in the very essence of the organization. That is why this is important, so that we can take positive steps towards getting positive results.
“So, what the exercise would do is that, it would highlight the areas of strength and at the same time point out the various areas of weaknesses. This is very important because it is high time the Niger Delta region took a dynamic leap into the future. Why this project is key is that whenever the Niger Delta is sick, the entire nation would be sick.”
Delivering a paper entitled: “The NDDC, Facts, Figures and Falsehood”, the Deputy Director, Corporate Affairs, Mr. Chijioke Amu-Nnadi, noted that the area which is the third largest delta region on earth populated by 31.2 million people, was the least developed part of Nigeria.
Amu-Nnadi explained that while the natural resources from the Niger Delta makes Nigeria the 6th largest oil producer in the world, 70 per cent of the people in the region live below the poverty line, just as “all indices of development such as education, health, sanitation, job creation, water and other physical infrastructures were far below acceptable standards.”
He said: “To address this unfortunate paradox, the Federal Government established the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, through an Act of the National Assembly, the NDDC Act 2000, with the aim to cater for the needs of the nine political States of the Niger Delta region.
To implement its obviously wide mandate, the NDDC at inception adopted a two-pronged strategy, an interim action plan under which all projects abandoned would be completed and new ones executed to douse prevalent tension and a regional master plan that will be a roadmap for integrated, long-term development.
Over 2 million patients have been treated in the NDDC Free Healthcare Mission, a figure that far outweighs numbers typically treated by some of the best hospitals yearly.
“But after many years of failed promises, lingering mistrust has remained one habit that refused to go away. Even people using NDDC facilities and/or projects, such as roads, still say NDDC has done nothing. It is sometimes difficult to get the communities to support and/or partner with Government.’
“Also, there are serious poor governance issues across the region. Despite receipts by other agencies and project providers, there is serious pressure on the NDDC, due to poor allocation, application and implementation issues. Unfortunately, funding has been a lingering issue and NDDC has not received its full statutory due.
“At this point you may want to ask, after the period of praises for being a solution to the problems of the Niger Delta, what went wrong?
How did NDDC go from an agency of hope and promise to one which is being investigated for poor delivery on its mandate? The answer would be that we are in the era of emergency projects, budget strictures and undue political influence.”
In his own presentation, the Deputy Director, Media Relations, Mr. Pius Ughakpoteni, discussed what it takes to manage digital public relations and social media for the NDDC Forensic Audit Team.
He stated: “As Communications Specialists, the most critical part of your job entails assuaging a largely angry and disappointed people and taming voices of discord the genuine intentions of the NDDC Forensic Audit across the Niger Delta region.
To achieve this, you must be subsumed within the overall corporate, departmental strategy and social media plan of the NDDC Forensic Audit Team.”
To enable them function effectively, the specialists were presented with laptops, modems and flash drives to achieve key communication objectives for the NDDC Forensic Audit.