The management of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, has noticed a flurry of attacks in the media against the Commission in the past three weeks. The attacks bear the hallmark of a carefully choreographed campaign to bring down the executive management of the commission, and impair its ability to deliver on its mandate as an interventionist agency.
This campaign started with petitions to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, alleging financial impropriety when there was none. It is instructive to note that officials of the crime commission, being persons with proven intellect and integrity, saw through the pack of lies, and thus exonerated the executive management from any malfeasance. The discerning public also saw through the monumental lie, as no person or entity in Nigeria can withdraw N2.8 billion, in cash, across the counter.
Next came allegations of the “Squandering of N750 billion by the executive management in four months.” Laughable as the allegation sounds, it has been repeated in several online platforms. Thankfully, none of the mainstream media outlets has caught on to this for the simple reason that the allegations defy common sense. For a start, the entire budget of the commission in the last two years is not up to that amount. Funds available to the commission in the last two years, is nowhere near the amount. How anyone can claim a commission can squander what it does not have, beats the imagination. Any one conversant with public sector rules, and the strict financial regulations enforced by the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari , will know that a government agency cannot spend what amounts to more than twice its two year’s budget in four months.
The allegations against the commission flies in the face of the excellent work the present executive management, led by Prof Nelson Brambaifa has done to deliver on its core mandate of developing the region. This executive management on assumption of office drew up a strategy of intervention to kick start the economy of the region and drive progressive development. As a result, it decided to tackle the mountain of debts owed to contractors. As part of that process, payment had commenced for those owed N20 million and below. Some of these date back to 2008. These debts, were not incurred nor contracts awarded by the present management. Those who have been paid did not need to engage with the commission before being paid. This in fact, is a sea change in contractual responsibility on the part of the commission.
The executive management had also cleared all arrears of tuition and maintenance fees owed scholars of the commission studying abroad. In the last four months, at least N2 billion have been remitted. The liability in respect of the scholars dates back to 2018, before this executive management assumed office on January 25, 2019.
The commission has also prioritised key projects for completion. One of such is the N24 billion, 29 kilometre Ogbia Nembe Road which is due for commissioning. This road creates a land route to Nembe, and also opens up arable lands for economic activity. The management has also embarked on the emergency repair of roads. One of such roads, Reclamation Road in Port Harcourt had revived the fortunes of the Nigerian Naval Shipyard, and dozens of industries in the vicinity of the Port Harcourt port.
As part of its strategy, the management has also focused on small population segments who are often neglected. It has intervened in women and youth empowerment as well as providing support for those with disability.
Another priority of this management is the completion of the head office project, which it is pursuing with relentless vigour.
The executive management, made up of only technocrats, is working assiduously to address the multifarious challenges of development of the region. It is doing this in the face of scarce resources. For the purpose of clarity, the revenue inflow to the commission is an average of N7 billion a month. Rather than become the victim of a smear campaign, this management deserves acclaim. We are happy that the ordinary people of the region (silent majority) who are beneficiaries of the work of the present management in the past four months have appreciated our efforts and given resounding approval.
We wish to plead with the political class not to see the commission as a collateral target in the fight for power and influence. The NDDC is an interventionist agency. We have a sacred duty to the people of the region and sue for the latitude to deliver on our historic mandate.
The NDDC is working for the common good, for the corporate citizens of the Niger Delta region
Charles Obi Odili
Director, Corporate Affairs.
July 2, 2019.