BOGGED down by corruption, waste and scandals, the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) has been unable to execute its well-intentioned mandate of improving the lot of the oil-rich Niger Delta region.
In the 19 years of its existence, over N15 trillion has reportedly been spent on the commission . But there has not been stellar development in the Niger Delta to justify this huge amount .
Rather, the commission has consistently been a haven for the festering of negative reports that alert citizens to the unbridled corruption in the body .
The commission has become a conduit for breeding overnight billionaire contractors who abandon developmental projects after getting paid humongous amounts of money.
Thus, roads in the area that is the nation’s cash cow are in unmitigated ruins while oil companies’ operators in the region fly their executive workers over them to their operational locations.
The despoiliation of the region continues unremediated as the residents of the region do not have even drinkable water and are prone to suffering diseases of all kinds.
Indeed, people jostle to serve on the commission not with the purpose of developing the region but enriching themselves. It is such people who turn politicians and seek public office after stealing billions from the commission.
Not even under the President Muhammadu Buhari government that prides itself on its anti-corruption mantra has this pattern of corruption in the NDDC been broken.
In recent times, there have been accusations and counter-accusations about the corruption of those who are supposed to oversee the implementation of the mandate of the commission.
Under the Buhari government, corruption in the NDDC has not only persisted, it has worsened . Now, under Buhari, there is obvious official complicity in the negation of the raison d’eter of the commission.
It is such complicity that has emboldened the officials of the commission to commit all kinds of heist at the commission while the government watches.
The Buhari government prepared the ground for the current corruption and confusion at the NDDC by overruling itself on the need to set up a substantive board for the commission.
After the Senate had approved a list of the board members the presidency sent to the upper legislative chamber, Buhari went ahead to stop the inauguration of the board and set up an interim committee to oversee the affairs of the commission. This interim committee has since been immersed in scandals of different kinds.
There is also complicity on the part of the nation’s lawmakers. After screening the board members that Buhari refused to inaugurate, they threatened not to have anything to do with a parallel board in the name of an interim committee set up by the president.
But rather than insisting on the illegality of this interim committee, they demurred when the president asked them to approve a budget for it instead of the approved but yet to be inaugurated board.
So their current probe into alleged corruption in the commission may not change the trajectory of deviation from the noble objectives of the agency.
While they may continue with the probe, they need to focus on the fundamental intervention that will restore the integrity of the commission.
A major step towards achieving this is the inauguration of the board that has got the approval of the president and the legislative chamber since last year.
The commission does not need an interim committee to oversee its affairs especially when this stopgap body has failed to be above board and has rather become a conduit for siphoning funds from the commission.
The NDDC needs to have a substantive board that will be accountable to the people of the region , the government and the entire nation. Having this board in place after its inauguration will not jeopardise the ongoing forensic audit.
It is high time the presidency and the National Assembly stopped those who have been suspected as the cause of the ruination of the NDDC to be its supervisors.