NIGERIA’S Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) has been described as a failed enterprise by the speaker of the Federal House of Representatives Hon Femi Gbajabiamila who said it does not have enough to show for its 20 years of existence.
Established by the administration of former president Chief Olusegun Obasanjo in 2000, the NDDC was created to address the neglect suffered by oil-producing communities in the Niger Delta. It was tasked among other things with bringing the social infrastructure in the area up to the level of other parts of Nigeria and providing education for its neglected youths.
Over the last week, the House of Representatives has been investigating the finances of the NDDC amidst allegations that it is immersed in corruption. Speaking yesterday during the investigative hearing, Hon Gbajabiamila said that in the 20 years of existence of the commission, the people of the region have not benefited significantly from it.
One of the core mandates of the commission is to train and educate the youths of the region to curb hostilities and militancy, while developing key infrastructure to promote diversification and productivity. Due to criticisms of the operations of the commission, President Muhammadu Buhari had in 2019 ordered a forensic audit of its operations between 2001 and 2019.
Hon Gbajabiamila said: “In the over two decades, that promise has not been kept. Despite its critical importance and the vast sums that have been appropriated by the federal government, the Niger Delta of Nigeria continues to score exceptionally low on many of the major human development indices.
“These statistics reflect the reality of disease and deprivation, lack of opportunity and broken dreams that is the plight of many of our fellow citizens in the region. It is therefore particularly disturbing and quite frankly, embarrassing that every other news report about the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) seems to centre around escalating allegations of corruption and malfeasance.”
He added that the purpose of the investigative hearing is to ask why the failure persists and to do so with a determination to understand the causes of that failure so that the National Assembly can act to redeem the NDDC and remove those factors that imperil the commission’s noble mission. Hon Gbajabiamila pointed out that the success of the investigation will depend on the willingness of the various stakeholders in the commission, within government and in the local communities to cooperate with the committee.
“We will examine the allegations of corruption and malfeasance that have dogged the commission. We will do so with neither fear nor favour, confident in the assurance that we have both a constitutional duty and moral obligation to ensure that the enormous sums of money appropriated to the NDDC over the years are appropriately accounted for by those whose responsibility it has been to manage this important and all too essential public trust.
“I encourage all the stakeholders to consider this investigative hearing as a last-ditch effort to save the NDDC and to engage with this committee in a patriotic partnership to break the jinx of underdevelopment in the Niger Delta region,” Hon Gbajabiamila said.