The Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) is an interventionist agency created for the development of the oil producing region of the country.
Well, it is meant to be an interventionist agency, but one thing is crystal clear. Despite hundreds of billions of naira invested over 20 years, the true intervention has been in the pockets of some select people, rather than on the region, and the lives of the people in general.
There’s one thing President Muhammadu Buhari hates with a passion. Grand larceny. Expropriation and purloining. Once it’s confirmed that you are filching from the public purse, you can never be his friend, no matter who you are. So he had to bring to a halt the gravy train that the NDDC had become over the years. And no stampede, no rout or panic. The house cleaning must be done, and done well. Thorough.
In the Niger Delta, you see plenty signboards, but little or no projects. In other words, people collect contracts, erect signboards announcing the project, but the job never gets done. And the contractors get paid.
What to do? A forensic audit was necessary. Some powerful forces mounted robust resistance, but they didn’t reckon with the iron will of the President. The audit was done, and report submitted.
On December 30, 2021, while commissioning prototype hostels built by the NDDC at the University of Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, President Buhari gave inkling into shape of things that were to come.
“The ultramodern hostel complex, built and donated to the University of Uyo by NDDC, renews our confidence that the forensic audit, which has been completed and currently being reviewed for necessary action, has achieved one of its core objectives. That objective is to rebuild the NDDC into an agency that is equipped and better placed to facilitate sustainable regional development in a transparent and impactful way, “ the President said.
He added that if the resources pumped in over the years had been justified with verifiable projects, it would have impacted on the region, and on the lives of the people.
The President said the audit was done because of “serial abuse, lack of delivery, entrenched institutional decay,” and that every recoverable kobo would be retrieved, used in service of the people, and the malefactors would be prosecuted.
The case of the NDDC is symptomatic of the lot of our country. An interventionist agency is established to serve the people, and it turns to a private cash cow for a few people. Who has cursed and bewitched our country, that there are few men (and women) of probity and accountability in public life? No wonder after Buhari served us for 20 months between January 1984 and August 1985, and he was toppled, we brought him back to power 30 years later. Do they make them like this anymore? Doubtful.
See what has been happening at the same NDDC, where all you saw were just signboards, and no project. About September last year, a Special Protection Unit Base 6 Barracks, built by the agency, was commissioned by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, at Omaha, in Rivers State. Money well spent, simply because there is honest leadership in the country.
The hostels commissioned by the President in December last year had started in 2004. Hundreds of millions of naira had been paid, and the project was abandoned. But simply because President Buhari had directed the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, to finish all abandoned projects, a 1,050 hostel with 525 bed spaces for males, and the same number for females, came out. Fully furnished, and guaranteed to engender a positive academic environment. That is what we get when we have a honest leadership in the country.
As 2023 approaches, I pray that Nigerians would consolidate on honest leadership by electing somebody who can move us forward in probity and accountability. Buhari has shown us the way, may we never veer off the path again. Amen.
There has been strident clamor for a composition of the Board of the NDDC. It is inexorable that it would come, but it should never be the business as usual we experienced in the past. Honest service to the people must be the watchword. That is what President Buhari has in mind, and that is what we should get. Order is better than speed, and we will get there.
In the past couple of years, NDDC has recorded more positive strides than it did in about 15 years. It even has a befitting head office, something deemed impossible before now. That is what is possible with honest leadership in a country. Will we ever return to Egypt because of the free onions, garlics and leeks, but which eventually lead to servitude? Never! Forward ever, backward never. Nigeria should have learnt its lesson by now.
*Adesina is Special Adviser to President Buhari on Media and Publicity