Group Flays Adesina’s Commentary on NDDC
Civil Society Organisation, Niger Delta Elders’ Forum (NDEF) has flayed Mr. Femi Adesina, Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to President Muhammadu Buhari, for what it called his “flawed position” on NDDC which “exposes the administration’s continued disdain for the Niger Delta people.”
In a statement by Chief Tonye Ogbogbula, National President of NDEF, the group stated that Adesina in his article, “PMB and NDDC”, published on Friday, February 4, 2022, in some Nigerian news media, offered nothing new on why President Buhari is yet to inaugurate a board for the NDDC over the past two years. “Rather, he mouthed the same empty statements on forensic audit under which guise the NDDC has been hijacked by a cabal in the last 2 years.”
NDEF stated that Adesina’s claim that “some powerful forces mounted robust resistance” to the audit was not true, emphasizing that “the truth is that nobody was against the conduct of a forensic audit in the NDDC. The issue was that everybody agreed that the NDDC Act should be complied with in the Governance of the Commission during the period of the forensic audit. It was illegal to have contraptions of interim management committees / sole administrator to begin to administer the NDDC and arbitrarily utilise the monthly sums due to the NDDC.”
According to the group, “no other part of this country has been so badly treated in such a manner where the forensic audit of its development Commission becomes a basis for setting aside the law setting up the Commission, which provides for a Governing Board to ensure fairness, inclusion and representation of the nine constituent states in the region. The North East Development Commission is operating in line with its Governing Act with a Governing Board and duly constituted Management in place.”
NDEF reminded Adesina that after initially committing to conclude the forensic audit in three months, the goal post was shifted severally until the report was finally submitted in September 2021 (after 2 years), yet no action has been taken to inaugurate a Governing Board for the Commission in compliance with the NDDC Act.
According to the group, on the 24th of June 2021, while receiving the leadership of the Ijaw National Congress in Aso Rock, Abuja, President Buhari promised that the NDDC Board will be inaugurated once the forensic audit report was submitted.
The President said: ‘‘Based on the mismanagement that had previously bedeviled the NDDC, a forensic audit was set up and the result is expected by the end of July, 2021. I want to assure you that as soon as the forensic audit report is submitted and accepted, the NDDC Board will be inaugurated.” That report has been submitted to the President since five months ago, on September 2, 2021. However the President is yet to fulfil his promise – the NDDC Board is yet to be inaugurated.
The group also stated that “in the last two and a half years, under the cover of conducting a forensic audit, the huge funds due to the NDDC has been frittered and this period has witnessed some of the most brazen incidences of corruption, fraud, financial recklessness, extra-budgetary spending and gross mismanagement of several billions of naira, with very little to show for it.”
It therefore recalled the Senate probe of NDDC Interim Management Committee (IMC) in June/July of 2020 which revealed how the IMC “blew N81.5 billion in just a couple of months on fictitious contracts, frivolities, and in breach of extant financial and public procurement laws. The Senate therefore recommended that the IMC should refund the sum of N4.923 Billion to the Federation Account, and that the IMC should be disbanded, while the substantive board should be inaugurated to manage the Commission in accordance with the law.”
The group condemned Adesina for engaging in use of propaganda and half-truths to mask the failure of Government while he (Adesina) rightly stated that it was “inexorable that it (inauguration of a board) would come,”
According to Ogbogbula, “it is even more disgusting to hear a presidential spokesman reduce the serious issues of governance failure at the NDDC to spurious statements such as “Order is better than speed, and we will get there” in the board inauguration as if the government does not understand its duty to comply with the Law at all times. Niger Deltans have continued to condemn the continued desecration of the NDDC Act, which makes clear provisions for the appointment of its management / Governing Board.”
Under the NDDC Act, each of the nine constituent states has a representative on the board. In addition, there is a representative of oil producing companies, all of whom are part time directors. The executive management has a Managing Director and two Executive Directors, who are the only full-time members of the Governing Board.
NDEF observed that “President Buhari’s silence on his commitment to make public the entire report of the forensic audit, and also inaugurate the NDDC Board in accordance with the law, and in fulfilment of his own promise of June 24, 2021, is of grave concern to Niger Deltans as it indicates a continued disregard by this government for the region as well as unwillingness to submit to transparency in administering the NDDC.”
NDEF restated that “The NDDC Act has no provision for the ongoing illegality in the Commission’s administration. The NDDC Act only provides that the Board and Management of the NDDC at any point in time should follow the provisions of the law which states that the Board and management is to be appointed by the President, subject to confirmation by the Senate. In effect, nobody is supposed to begin to administer the NDDC and utilise the huge funds accruing to it on a monthly basis without passing through this legal requirement as stipulated in the NDDC Act. To the detriment of the entire region, the illegal interim contraptions/sole administrator have been used to fleece the NDDC of its funds in the last two years.”
Ogbogbula observed that “whereas the North East Development Commission (NEDC) has been allowed to function with its duly constituted Board in place in line with its NEDC Act thereby ensuring proper corporate governance, accountability, checks and balances and fair representation of its constituent states, the NDDC on the other hand has been run arbitrarily in the last two years by Interim committees/sole administrator in breach of the NDDC Act.”
Niger Delta Elders’ Forum therefore summarized the demands of Niger Deltans as follows: “ending the illegal Interim Management/sole administratorship at the NDDC; Inauguration of the NDDC Governing Board in line with the NDDC Act to represent the nine constituent states; Publication of the Forensic Audit report for all Nigerians to see. (The report cannot be hidden because it is supposed to be a public document); and Prosecution of any indicted persons.”