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Apparently worried over the continued under-development of the Niger Delta Region and with a resolve to fast-track development, President Muhammadu Buhari has raised questions about the role of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) in the region vis-a-vis the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs.
The New Diplomat authoritatively gathered that President Buhari who raised these questions when officials of the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs led by its Permanent Secretary, Mrs Fatima Bamidele briefed the President on activities of the Ministry specifically wanted to know the existing nexus between the Ministry and the NDDC to help with better co-ordination of government activities in the region and to avoid duplication of roles and responsibilities, a situation which has hampered proper planning and co-ordinated development in the Niger Delta through the years.
President Buhari’s inquiries are coming on the heels of a series of petitions bordering on allegations of graft and massive corruption against the Board and Management of the Commission. The New Diplomat gathered that this latest development is already causing panic and apprehension amongst the top echelon of the NDDC management.
The New Diplomat gathered that the Commission has in recent times been dogged by internal strife and boardroom crisis, following alleged attempts by the Managing Director of the NDDC, Mr Dan Abia to query some directors for alleged involvement in controversial contracts deals, including the outright sale of contracts and splitting of same in exchange for upfront payments. Sources disclosed that the senior management team saw the queries as part of the MD’s dramatic moves ‘’to distance and save himself from long-running wrong-doings in the Commission’’.
Investigations by The New Diplomat revealed that President Buahri may be summoning the Management team of the NDDC to Abuja soon to throw light on the activities and role of the Commission. Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina, confirmed that the President had sought to know the relationship between the Ministry of Niger Delta and the NDDC during a meeting with officials of the Ministry of Niger Delta led by its Permanent Secretary, Mrs Fatima Bamidele The NDDC has been in the news in recent times for a slew of wrong reasons. Global watch-dog and Germany based Transparency International for example, had called on President Buhari to investigate affairs within multi-billion naira interventionist agencies like the NDDC with a view to finding out why the region has remained perpetually under-developed despite the huge funds allocated to the agency and help to address issues and allegations of graft and corruption which have continued to characterise operations of the Commission. TI’s call followed growing agitations by a group known as Nigerians in Diaspora for Justice (NDJ) who had called on TI l and Interpol respectively to beam its intelligence search light on the activities of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) in the last one year over alleged fraudulent and non-transparent financial deals amounting to about N300bn.
In a petition signed by Prof Matthew Okonta, Dr Best Imafidon and Humphrey Koripamu to Transparency International(TI) headquarters in Germany and the Interpol as well as President Buhari, the NDJ had demanded urgent and speedy investigations into the activities of the interventionist Agency in the last one year, a period that coincides with the tenure of the current management led by Barrister Dan Abia, a former Attorney General in Akwa Ibom State who had been appointed MD/CEO of the commission by former President Goodluck Jonathan on the recommendation of former Akwa Ibom governor, Obong Godswill Akpabio. The NDJ alleged that the management has perfected the act of splitting contracts and awarding several frivolous contracts amounting to over N300bn in clear and manifest violation of the Nigerian Public Procurement Act, as well as additional presidential directives to the effect that the Commission must not award new contracts but should concentrate on completing existing ones as well as maintaining globally acceptable fiscal responsibility best practices on transparency and whistle-blowing which Nigeria is a signatory to in Canada.
‘’The truth of the matter is that the Commission has already awarded far more than they can chew in new contracts and they are engaged in contract splitting, an offence punishable by jailing. It was this same offence that sent Bode George to jail when he engaged in contract splitting in NPA to evade FEC and presidential approvals. As we speak, Mr President, new contracts amounting to N300bn have been awarded and are being hacked by agents of directors and members of the board. Within the commission itself, there is clear evidence of internal rumbling. For some time now, staff of the commission have been wearing black clothes to work in protest against the impunity that is going on at the Commission. Efforts to get the MD of the commission, Mr Dan Abia to respond to the
new twist in the unfolding NDDC saga were unsuccessful as calls made to his telephone line and text messages were not responded to as at press time But a source within the management blamed the crisis and spate of accusations on politics which has its roots in the fight for political control in Rivers State between the APC and the PDP.