The Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, said on Thursday that the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) has over 13,000 poorly executed and unverified projects despite N6trillion allocation it received from 2001 to 2019.
“The federal government is particularly concerned with the colossal loss occasioned by uncompleted and unverified development projects in the Niger Delta region, in spite of the huge resources made available to uplift the living standard of the citizens,” Mr Malami said.
Mr Malami spoke as President Muhammadu Buhari’s representative at the presentation of the report on forensic audit of the NDDC.
The President had in August 2019 ordered the forensic audit of the agency, in response to what the AGF described as “the yearnings of the people the Niger Delta region to reposition it for effective service delivery”.
Mr Malami . who commended the auditors and assured that all aspects of their report would be “strategically” implemented “without hesitation”, noted that the President had directed his ministry to conduct a legal review of the report to ensure “justice is done”.
He indicated that criminal investigations, prosecution, and recovery of diverted funds would be initiated against suspected looters of the agency’s funds.
Mr Buhari administration, which has not constituted a governing board for the agency as statutorily provided since 2015, superintended over the last four years of the 19 years period in the life of the NDDC reviewed by the auditors.
NDDC funds and projects
NDDC is an interventionist agency set up in 2000 to see to the development of the oil-rich Niger Delta region and tackle the ecological problems arising from oil production activities in the mandate states.
The agency has generally fallen short of meeting the expectations of the people of the nine mandate states – Abia, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Edo, Imo, Ondo, and Rivers.
In its 2020 years of existence, the agency has been at the centre of many mind-boggling unresolved corruption allegations undercutting its capacity to deliver on its mandate to the people of the Niger Delta region.
“It is evident that considerable resources have been channeled by the Federal Government to the development of the Niger Delta from 2001 to 2019,” Mr Malami said.
According to him, within 19 years, from 2001 and 2019, the federal government approved over N3.3 trillion to the agency as budgetary allocation, and N2.4trillion as “income from statutory and non-statutory sources”.
This, according to him, “brings the total figure to the sum of approximately six trillion Naira given to the Niger Delta Development Commission”.
The minister said despite this, “We have on record over 13,777 projects, the execution of which is substantially compromised”.
Apart from poorly executed or non-execution of contracts, Mr Malami pointed out to the issue of the agency running 362 bank accounts resulting in lack of proper reconciliation of accounts.
“The federal government is also concerned with the multitudes of Niger Delta Development Commission’s bank accounts amounting to 362 and lack of proper reconciliation of accounts,” Mr Malami said.READ ALSO: UPDATED: Why some Nigerians finance terrorism – Buhari
Action to be taken
Mr Malami said the President had directed that the audit report be forwarded to the Federal Ministry of Justice “for a legal review and relevant Ministries, Departments and Agencies of government will be engaged in doing justice to the findings accordingly”.
Although he did not give timeline, Mr Malami said criminal investigations, prosecution, and recovery of improperly used funds would be initiated.ADVERTISEMENT
“The federal government will in consequence apply the law to remedy the deficiencies outlined in the audit report as appropriate.
“This will include but not limited to initiation of criminal investigations, prosecution, recovery of funds not properly utilized for the public purposes for which they were meant for review of the laws to reposition and restructure the NDDC for the efficiency of better service delivery amongst others.
“In all these instances of actions, legal due processes will strictly be complied with,” he said.
Mr Malami said it is important for “the public to be properly informed of what has been spent and how that has been spent” by the NDDC.
He said the essence of the forensic audit carried out on the NDDC “is to ensure probity and accountability in the use of public funds”.
“It is against this background that the Federal Government will without hesitation strategically implement all aspects of the audit exercise that will promote probity and greater prosperity for the Niger Delta Region and Nigeria as whole,” he said.
According to Mr Malami, the auditors comprised the Lead Forensic Auditors and the 16 Field Audit Firms with a Security Committee for securing the lives and properties of the Audit Firms throughout the duration of the forensic audit exercise.
Suffering golden goose that lays the golden egg
The level of poverty and general deprivation suffered by the people of Niger Delta is at odds with their profile as the region that produces the oil which serves as the mainstay of the Nigeria’s economy.
Niger-Delta people’s long-suffering condition is largely attributable to official corruption at various levels.
Since 2007, two former governors of states in the region – the late Diepreye Alamieyesegha of Bayelsa State and James Ibori of Delta State – have been convicted of money laundering involving funds they stole from their people.
Some other former governors from the region are under criminal investigations.
Cases of funds diversion and poorly executed contracts are also rife in the NDDC, which is supposed to apply funds directly allocated to it by the federal government to develop the region.
But officials have only become rich at the expense of the long-suffering and poverty-stricken people of the Niger Delta, resulting in myriads of environmental hazards that deprive them of potable water and means of livelihood, mainly fishing and farming.