NDDC scams: Where lies the truth? – Soji Akinrinade

NDDC scams: Where lies the truth? – Soji Akinrinade

NDDC scams: Where lies the truth?


If you are like me, you will probably be one of those people who take National Assembly’s committees and their oversight functions with a large dose of scepticism. This is not because they are unnecessary in a thriving democracy. They are indeed necessary, particularly as a bulwark against abuse of office by other arms of government. After all, the 1999 Constitution gives the Nigerian legislature the important functions of legislating, appropriating, and oversighting; appropriately and where necessary, the actions and conduct of the other arms of government.



However, the problem is that the story of our National Assembly in the past 20 years; especially the roles of the committees and how they use their oversight functions, have not really been democracy ennobling.



In fact, not a few Nigerians generally believe that both the House and Senate use this parliamentary leverage to enrich those who constitute the committees rather than using it to monitor governance and ministers, director generals of departments and agencies whose activities come under their purview. That is why there is constant allegation of intimidation and extortion against our lawmakers; who, incidentally, always scramble to be appointed to “juicy” committees.




NDDC scams: Where lies the truth? - Soji Akinrinade


Let us dial back to 2005.



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Those who have followed the story of our democracy, so far, would remember the plight of Fabian Osuji; a minister of education in President Olusegun Obasanjo’s second term. The minister was fired by the former president for bribing legislators. His mission was to ensure an easy passage of that year’s education budget for his ministry. The story at the time was that he allegedly withdrew N55million from his ministry’s coffers. This was allegedly shared with the senate president at the time, Adolphus Wabara and six other legislators; including chairman of the senate appropriation committee, John Azuta Mborta, chairman of the senate education committee, Chris Adighije; as well as chairman of the house of representative’s education committee, Shehu Matazu.



You will be forgiven if you thought at the time that any form of oversight functions from those committee chairmen were already compromised.



Although Senator Wabara denied that any form of monetary demand was made on the minister; he was eventually removed as senate president. In a radio and television broadcast addressing the issue, President Obasanjo said; “It is a disheartening event that the number three man in the government hierarchy is involved in this sordid matter. It’s an action that violates all known norms of good governance, progressive leadership, integrity, and credibility.



NDDC scams: Where lies the truth? - Soji Akinrinade



“It is the responsibility of the National Assembly to cleanse itself; to show Nigerians that it deserves their respect; to rebuild public confidence and flush out those members who continue to derogate and degrade its integrity and stature.”



The National Assembly, of course, did not cleanse itself because its committees which conducted enquiries as part of their oversight functions; regularly got themselves entangled in such investigations. In 2009, chairman of the house of representatives’ committee on power, Ndudi Elumelu and his deputy Mohammed Jibo; were themselves caught in a vortex of their committee’s probe of the misuse of millions of dollars of public funds on the money guzzling power sector. Senate’s power committee’s chairman, Nicholas Ugbane also got caught in the scandal.






They were all charged to court in 2009 over corruption and criminal breach of trust. This followed the alleged role that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, said they played in a N5.2billion rural electrification contract scam. Although the court eventually ruled against the EFCC, the Jonathan administration, rightly or wrongly; was accused of soft pedalling on the prosecution of this case.




It is this background that should help us situate the drama that is going on in the National Assembly; specifically, over the various alleged scams at the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC. The National Assembly is probing the commission over a “missing” N40billion in the accounts of the commission.  Although the commission says no money is missing, the National Assembly inquisitors have been grilling the officials; past and present, of the commission and its supervising minister Godswill Akpabio.



NDDC scams: Where lies the truth? - Soji Akinrinade




Now, the road to this oversight enquiry is really the decision of the Buhari administration to ask for a forensic audit of the NDDC since 2001. Here is a commission set up to succeed the failing Oil Mineral Producing Areas Development Commission, OMPADEC, which itself; after spending trillions of naira, has not much to show in terms of uplifting the lives of millions of the underprivileged in the oil producing states or other forms of achievements, not even its own permanent headquarters.




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With the staggering resources expended by the organisation in nearly 20 years; it was right for the current government to demand a forensic account of how exactly the money had been spent. Why has the level of poverty and degradation in the oil producing areas not really improved despite the trillions spent? So, President Buhari and the nine governors of the oil producing areas agreed on one thing; to go through the accounts of the commission with a fine-tooth comb.



What the president and the governors did not realise was that they were opening a pandora’s box; one that was likely to create problems for the entire political class. NDDC has been a cash cow for the political class for years. Indeed, many a politician had harvested tonnes of money from contracts that were either non-existent, haphazardly done or completely abandoned. That has been the problem of the organisation for years.



Even when concerned citizens asked that a laser-like focus should be directed at the money guzzling but well-intended organisation; there was always an ethnic tone in the response to such an agitation. It was always as if it was sacrilegious for non-Deltans to ask for NDDC or the governors; who got extra thirteen percent monthly derivation allocation, to be called to account. I remember one of the more popular militants in the area once said it was not anybody’s business how those in charge of the NDDC and the governors were spending allocated funds. After all, “it is our money” and “other tribes are chopping and stealing money too.”







The problem is that corruption somewhere hardly excuses corruption elsewhere; particularly when the organisation in question has been set up to help the overwhelming number of poor people in the oil producing areas; whose life continues to be degraded constantly.



This forensic probe may ensure that the chickens may now come home to roost. With the allegation that most of the contracts awarded by the NDDC have gone to members of the National Assembly; it is really suspicious that the lawmakers own enquiry would be going on simultaneously as the forensic probe. Undoubtedly, it is their constitutional right to have this oversight leverage. However, it would have made more sense if the legislators had allowed the forensic examiners to conclude their work. Thereafter, they could have then demanded a copy of it on which they can now do a real oversight job.



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As it is, it seems our lawmakers know where the axe may fall. Therefore, they are ready to encourage confusion and sow all sorts of doubts. In the end and with mud thrown here and there; we may not fully know where the truth lies and that would suit our honourables perfectly. Another fudged probe.



My hope is that the president will pursue this matter to its logical end. The well-being of millions of poor people in the oil region depends on it. Government must birth a new and reformed NDDC.


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