By Chesa Chesa
The Civil Society Coalition on Audit in Nigeria (CSCAN) has raised the alarm and demanded urgent investigation into how N90.9 billion contract sums meant for 176 development projects under the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), saying the money have remained unaccounted for.
This amount is from the over N500 billion allocated via first-line charge to the NDDC to develop the region within the 10-year period under review.
The contracts span from 2008 to 2018, and CSCAN has therefore, called on Public Accounts Committees of the National Assembly and Anti-Corruption Agencies to urgently investigate the 176 contracts awarded by NDDC.
The Coalition includes Paradigm Leadership Support Initiative (PLSI), BudgIT Foundation, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), Dataphyte, Step Up Nigeria, Accountability Lab, Centre for Health, Equity and Justice (CEHEJ), Basic Rights Watch, Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) and some Nigerian media executives.
At a press briefing in Abuja on Tuesday, CSCAN said its members have physically verified many of the project sites, some at various stages of execution while many have been abandoned, some poorly implemented, and others not executed at all.
Speaking on behalf of the Coalition, the Executive Director at Paradigm Leadership Support Initiative (PLSI), Mr. Olusegun Elemo, said review and analysis of the data as well as physical assessment of project sites revealed how “wasteful and insensitive” the NDDC had been in managing resources belonging to citizens of the Niger Delta region.
He stressed that the development indicated that those who were entrusted with the mandate of the NDDC to implement between 2008 and 2018 had intentionally deprived the Niger Delta people of much-deserved development of their region.
“We have visited many of the project sites, we have pictorial evidence, we have identified the companies involved as well as beneficial ownership details. All we are asking the National Assembly Public Accounts Committees, Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to do is take a professional, detailed and investigative look at this evidence and recover the funds”, Elemo said.
He revealed that the inappropriate transactions have been flagged by Auditor-General of the Federation for non performance, double payments etc.; and that CSCAN intends to formally engage the ICPC, EFCC and the National Assembly to take these cases very seriously.
Another member of the coalition, BudgIT’s Deputy Manager, Tolutope Agunloye, who spoke at the press briefing stated that despite the over N500 billion was earmarked as statutory allocation to NDDC 2008 and 2018, the current state of some communities is not representative of this allocation.
According to him: “Many communities do not have potable water due to water pollution. Likewise, there is no effective healthcare system nor a suitable environment to advance quality education for children in that region.
“To execute its projects and programs, NDDC receives annual statutory allocations from the country’s federal government and an annual levy of 3% of the total annual budget of oil companies in the country. It also receives grants and other forms of support from International Development Agencies.
“However, despite the expenditure of approximately $40 billion on capital projects by NDDC since its inception, the Commission has failed to realize its 15-year master plan for the rapid development of the region.”
Also, the Country Director of Accountability Lab, Friday Odeh, noted that “only a modern audit law can help Nigeria effectively prevent corrupt behavior such as seen with the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) in recent years.
“What has happened to the forensic audit ordered by President Buhari since October 2019? Does it take this long to conduct a forensic audit or produce a report? Is there any need for an additional forensic audit with all the evidence on the ground as detailed in the reports by the Office of the Auditor-General for the Federation?
“Rather than allow leaders of the Niger Delta ‘off their mic’, I think it’s high time Nigerian citizens increase their mic to the loudest and insist that anti-corruption agencies act in a way their mandate permits, irrespective of political influence, to recover all funds not properly accounted for, prosecute all violators of our laws in relation to these NDDC projects and make governance work for Nigerian citizens in the Niger Delta region”.