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Published On: Wed, Jul 22nd, 2020

Niger Delta: Our leaders have been the problem

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By Reginald Tobin

Recent happenings have indeed exposed certain things and It is now beginning to unfold to us that the real enemies of a particular region are not those who we have always presumed it to be, but those who come from the region and claim to be leaders.
The long time believe that outsiders (northerners) have been behind the misfortune of the Niger Delta region are mere lies and excuses which leaders of the region have used to brainwash the vulnerable people of the region, while they continue to feast on their livelihood.
Recently, we have seen events which have played out from the region through the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC). immediate past and present executives of the commissions IMC as well as the minister for Niger Delta affairs, have entertained Nigerians and have made news for media houses, while exposing themselves and making mockery of the region before the entire nation as Accusations and allegations from Dr. Joi Nunieh, immediate past acting Managing Director of the commission and Senator Godswill Akpabio, Minister for Niger Delta affairs, have been on the front line of reportage in the past few days.
The NDDC was established by former President Olusegun Obasanjo, in 2000 with the sole mandate of developing the oil-rich Niger Delta region of Nigeria. In September 2008, President Umaru Yar’Adua announced the formation of a Niger Delta Ministry, with the NDDC to become a parastatal under the ministry.
The commission was established to settle the agitating people of the region by training and educating youths from the region as well as curbing hostility, while developing key infrastructures in the region.
But after 20years of its establishment, one can only say the commission has been able to deliver little out of all the purpose for which it was created.
What are the reasons for this and who are we to blame is another angle we have failed to look into. If the NDDC has failed, whose fault has it been as the commission since it’s inception has always been managed by sons and daughters of the Niger Delta Region.
NDDC has been a notable cash cow for few people from the region, people who may have been seen as leaders but unfortunately have been the reasons behind the travails and failure of the region.
If not, why should a commission that receives an annual budget of about 300 billion naira, not be able to boast of mind blowing achievements in the Niger Delta region. The commission since it was created has received a budget of about 16 Trillion naira, but has nothing to show compared to the much money it has received.
Over the years, key positions in the commission have been used for political settlement, top executives of the commission have been appointed on political grounds to settle political interest and fund political activities instead of developing the region.
The sole aim for the establishment of the commission has long been forgotten as the commission has now become a major point of carshing out for the political class and leaders.
With the amount of money the NDDC recieves, shouldn’t one be envious of the people of Niger Delta? Should the Niger Delta not be one of the most developed or even the most developed part of the country? Shouldnt students from the region be one of the most intellectually equipped materials in Nigeria? But it is sad to see that the same people from the region have been the reason why it has not been so.
Instead, the region has been flooded with abandoned projects awarded to individuals and leaders from the region. Students from the Niger Delta find it very difficult to get scholarships from the commission and even those who may be lucky, may just have to pray hard not to be abandoned by the commission. What a pity!
In November 2019, President Muhammadu Buhari ordered a forensic audit of the NDDC, which was to audit the activities of the commission from 2001 – 2019. An interim management committee (IMC) led by Dr. Joi Nunieh was setup to oversee the forensic audit of the commission. The supervision of the commission was also transferred to the ministry of Niger Delta affairs, where the immediate past governor of Akwa Ibom State, Senator Godswill Akpabio seats as minister.
About three months after, Dr. Joi Nunieh was removed as acting Managing Director of the commission for some reasons which we are still not clear of. Following Nunieh’s sack, Daniel Kemebradikumo Pondei, a professor of medicine at the Niger Delta University (NDU) Bayelsa State, was appointed to replace Mrs Nunieh as acting managing director of the commission, a position which he holds till date.
Pondei’s led NDDC has been accused of mismanaging a whooping sum of 81.5billion naira. The NDDC through its official twitter handle, @nddconline refuted the claim, stating that the money was spent by two interim committees of the commission between October 29, 2019 and May 31, 2020, according to the central Bank of Nigeria.
Recall that the house of Representatives also resolved to investigate members of the interim management committee of the NDDC over allegations of mismanaging 40 billion withing three months.
What was this money used for? This is the question some people may have been asking.
Recently, Joi Nunieh, immediate past MD of the commission accused the minister for Niger Delta affairs, Godswill Akpabio of trying to embezzle funds from the commission, she alleged that he had asked her to change dollar belonging to the commission which she refused as well as other allegations she leveled against him.
The IMC which was brought in to supervise the forensic audit of the commission from 2001-2019 has also not performed differently from the others. And all these are being carried out by leaders from the Niger Delta region.
It may seem like those who do not come from the Niger Delta are benefiting more from the region and are behind its failure, but what about the NDDC which is being run by our own brothers, what benefit has it added.
This alone shows that the Niger Deltans have been behind the sorrows and pains of the Niger Delta.
Tobin writes from Port Harcourt.

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