The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, on Wednesday, rated the Niger Delta Development Commissoon ((NDDC) low in performance.
It was a damning verdict for the 20-year old Commission by the House of Representatives..
Gbajabiamila gave the House’ assessment of the Commission at an investigative hearing on the alleged administrative malfeasance and financial impropriety in the organisation.
“The Federal Government of Nigeria created the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) as an interventionist agency, to bridge critical development gaps in a region where years of underinvestment in infrastructure and the damage from fossil fuel exploration, has had a severely deleterious effect on the lives, livelihoods and wellbeing of the people.
“It was intended that the Commission will begin the long-overdue process of making good on our nation’s obligations to the people of the Niger Delta, from whose lands and waters we have for decades drawn our nation’s sustenance.
“In the over two decades since, 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”, the Speaker stated.
He said the Committee would get to the bottom of the allegations financial impropriety, no matter whose ox is gored.
“Our purpose today, and over the cause of this Investigative Hearing, is to ask why this failure persists and to do so with a determination to understand the causes of that failure so that we can act to redeem the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and remove those factors that imperil the Commission’s noble mission.
“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,” he said.
He however observed that the success of the assignment will depend on the cooperation of officials of the Commission, as he warned the Committee to avoid pitfalls that will tarnish the reputation of the House.
“The success of this present assignment will depend in no small extent on the willingness of the various stakeholders in the Commission, within Government and in the local communities to cooperate with the Committee, by providing material evidence in the form of documents or witness testimony. I encourage all the stakeholders to consider this investigative hearing as a last-ditch effort to save the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and to engage with this Committee in a patriotic partnership to break the jinx of underdevelopment in the Niger Delta region.
“Mr Chairman, Honourable colleagues, as you take on the responsibility of this critical national assignment, the eyes of a nation are upon you, and the reputation of this 9th House is in your hands. I am confident of your ability to meet the high expectations we have of you and I assure you of the steadfast support of the House of Representatives,” he added.
Earlier, at the opening of the hearing, the Chairman of the Committee, Tunji-ojo, recalled that the House of Representatives on 5th May, 2020, deliberated on a motion on the need to investigate the alleged financial malfeasance and other activities in the Niger Delta Development Commission (N DDC) and consequently, referred same to the Committee to investigate.”
The forensic audit ordered by Mr President in NDDC, must have been premised on these critical questions, perhaps the unremitting cry of the people in the region and the need to see maximum value for successive allocations.
According to him, “Because of the investigative nature of the House resolution, the past weeks have been spent on working tirelessly on gathering the necessary data and analyzing same.
“We are aware of the sensitivity of this matter and how if not well managed might tend to degrade, incriminate or defame the person or persons involved and have therefore, been very painstaking in approach.”