…Niger Delta is the revenue base of the country, yet the oil-rich region reeks of poverty and underdevelopment
The corruption allegation crisis of N40 billion upsetting the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) is another evidence that the oil-rich Niger Delta has not been liberated from the pangs of its looters, a prototype of the Nigerian state at large.
Niger Delta is the revenue base of Nigeria accounting for expected estimated N300 billion annually in the revised 2020 budget oil price benchmark. This was against N929 billion recorded in 2019.
From 2001 – 2004, the commission generated N121.05 billion, 2007 – 2011 was N593.96 billion, while N819.81 was generated from 2012 – 2016. But according to reports from the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI), the Commission has received a total of N1.413 trillion from 2007 – 2016.
It is then expected that the region which serves as the foremost resource derivation of the most populous black nation should be piloting infrastructural development of the country. In contrast, it reeks of indigence, dearth and underdevelopment as a result of a menace that has consistently incapacitated our commonwealth – corruption.
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Niger Delta, also known as the South-South region is characterised by environmental degradation resulting from oil spillage and gas flaring. This was the reason for establishing the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) to address these challenges.
President Olusegun Obasanjo commissioned the NDDC as a federal government agency in 2000 with the mandate to develop the Niger Delta. In furtherance to the Obasanjo’s programme, his successor in person of late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua created the Niger Delta Ministry and empowered the NDDC as a parastatal under the ministry with core directive of training and educating youths so as to check conflicts and militancy, thereby increasing significant infrastructural development to promote diversification and productivity.
The NDDC, with all its resources and masterplan, was supposed to initiate and maintain the sustainable development of the Niger Delta in all sectors of the economy including transportation, health, education, employment, industrialisation, housing, agriculture, water supply, electricity, telecommunications, and urban development.
The Commission has the overwhelming capital muscle to transform the region, but the reverse is the case. It is funded by the combination of contributions from the federal government and oil firms. The derivation principle also allocates 15 per cent to the member states which in this regard are Rivers, Cross River, Edo, Delta, Imo, Abia, Bayelsa, Akwa Ibom, and Ondo. There is another provision of 3 per cent from the aggregate yearly budget of the operational oil companies in the region that goes into the NDDC, as well as 50 per cent of funds from the ecological fund which is totally different from federal reserves. This is basically to respond to environmental deficiencies caused by oil production.
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Isn’t this a national tragedy if we almost depend on this section of the country for our survival without recording any giant project erected to flourish the welfare and infrastructure of the people in the region?
A glance at Niger Delta States key economic figures
|AVERAGE BUDGET SIZE
|POVERTY HEAD COUNT RATE (%)
The saddening issue about the effort of the government is that an estimated N1.5 trillion heavily invested into the region since 2000 via the NDDC lacks any substantial effect as development is bizarrely lacking in the region, consequently sinking the people into poverty. Who should we hold responsible for this? The public officers in charge? This is what leads to the questioning of the men manning the NDDC, the Ministry, and its related matters.
Read also: Magu, Buhari and Nigeria’s caricature corruption fight
When President Buhari ordered a forensic audit of the Commission on 17th October 2019, we wouldn’t have known as a people that such a dense fraud still pervades the region sapping its allocated resources for development, bearing in mind that majority of the helmsmen of both the Commission and the Ministry are appointed from the region.
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Prior to this time, in December 2008, Late President Yar’Adua appointed Ufot Ekaette and Godsday Orubebe as Ministers of Niger Delta Affairs and Minister of State respectively. In July 2009, he went further to appoint Larry Koinyan as the chairman of the NDDC, yet there were claims of N19.5 billion allocated projects not evenly distributed.
As the National Assembly is probing N40 billion scam at the commission, another N81.5 billion is being investigated which the Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the Commission claimed it expended in less than six months between January and May this year.
The revelation was scandalous as the Chairman, House Committee on the NDDC, Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo exposed how N81.5 billion was wasted on perky matters. The break down given include:
- Community relations – N1.3 billion
- Condolences – N122.9 million
- Consultancy N83 million
- COVID-19 – N3.14 billion
- Duty Travel Allowance – N486 million
- Impress – N790.9 million and
- Lassa fever – N1.956 billion.
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- Legal Services – N900 million
- Maintenance – N200 million
- Overseas travels – N85.6 million
- Project Public Communication – N1.121 billion
- Security – N744 million
- Staffing related payment – N8.8 billion
- Stakeholders engagement – N248 million.
Like in the alleged case of the suspended EFCC boss, Ibrahim Magu diverting the looted funds into his personal coffers, the officials of both the NDCC and Niger Delta Ministry are apparently public looters which should not be spared the wrath of the law. But if the law serves its purpose to ruthlessly deal with them, who are the next set of people to manage the Niger Delta affairs? This really is another cause for concern as no one is immune to the blight of corruption in Nigeria. In return, it eroded the confidence of political representatives, which persistently takes its toll on our nation’s treasures.
The reassuring remedies to combat our corrupt practices shall remain the strengthening of the anti-graft agencies to perform without compromise. Our judicial system should be totally independent. And the core values of the nation that is embedded in selfless service must be regularly circulated publicly until perchance our country is corrupt-free again.