Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila on Wednesday said that the Niger Delta Development Commission has failed to deliver on it’s mandate of serving as an interventionist agency about two decades after it was created by government.
The Speaker spoke at the commencement of an investigative hearing into an alleged N40 billion irregular expenditure in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) with a view to reposition the commission for better service delivery.
However, the Management of the NDDC were absent at the commencement of the investigative hearing, but sought another date for appearance as they were summoned to appear before the Federal Executive Council.
He said the Government established the Commission as an interventionist agency to bridge critical development gaps in the oil rich region with years of underinvestment in infrastructure.
According to him, the damage from fossil fuel exploration had a severely deleterious effect on the lives, livelihoods and wellbeing of the people of the region, adding that it was the intention of government 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.
He stresses that over two decades after, the promise has not been kept despite the vast sums that have been appropriated by the Federal Government while “the Niger Delta region 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.
“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.”
Chairman of the House Committee on NDDC, Rep. Olubumi Tunji-Ojo said documents obtained from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation showed that Commission spent N81.5 billion between January and May.
Giving the breakdown of the expenditure by the Commission, Tunji-Ojo said that the NDDC spent N1.3 billion on community relations, N122.9 million on condolences and N122.9 million on consultancy within the period.
He said further that the commission spent N31.4 billion on COVlD-19, N486million on Duty Tour Allowances (DTA) N790.9 million as impress and N1.956 billion on Lassa fever.
Also within the period, he said the NDDC spent N900 million on legal services, N220million on maintenance, N85.6 million on oversea travel while project public communication gulped N1.121 billion.
Tunji-Ojo said that the documents also showed that N744m was spent on security, N20.9 billion on staffing related payments while N248 million was spent on stakeholder’s engagement between Feb. 18 and May 31, 2020.
He however said the Interim Management Committee (IMC) is expected to appear unfailingly on Thursday, July 16 before the committee.
The House however frowned at the processes employed by the Bureau of Public Procurement in issuing certificates of no objection for anticipatory purchases from by the Niger Delta Development Commission NDDC
According to the lawmakers some of the blame for the spending by the NDDC could be laid at the doorstep of the Bureau of Public Procurement.
However, the Auditor General of the Federation, Anthony Ayini and Representative of the Accountant General of the Federation, Mohammed Sabo confirmed they had challenges auditing the books of NDDC and urged the House to amend the constitution to reflect punitive measures for defaulters who do not submit their financial reports to their offices as of when due.
The Auditor General, said ” it has been difficult getting NDDC to respond to us which equally affected us in concluding our report. However, there has to put in place punitive measures so as to discourage to agencies that would want to go against the constitution”.
As for Mr. Sabo, “we had challenges with NDDC. We had serious difficulties getting responses from NDDC and that’s why the audit report was delayed because of getting NDDC to respond”.