Niger Delta

NDDC’S Interim Management Committee: The Expectations, Fears, Possibilities

By Substance Nature


As long as records could testify, Probe Committees set up by the federal government for any popular or unpopular reasons in contemporary history of the country have shared at least three enduring and transferable characteristics.

One is that they always emerge with great promises and barking, but at the end would lack the teeth to bite deep, or even bite at all. The second is in connection with the fact that such Committees are almost always rendered useless by the mystery and syndication of sacred cows, official secrecy and conspiratorial political hobnobbing. Thirdly, reports and recommendations by such reports are hardly made known or acted upon, depending still on who were involved or indicted.

Considering the thermal heat that was generated right from the conception of the idea of forensic audit of activities of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and the subsequent setting up of the Dr. Joi Nunieh-led three-man Interim Management Committee (IMC), to probe the financial character of the Commission from 2001 to 2019, not few Nigerians are worried whether the exercise as glamorous as it has become shall ultimately go beyond typical grandstanding and beat its predecessors by doing something commendably different.

It can never be news anymore that the inexorable and heat-generating Minister of Niger Affairs, Sen. Godswill Akpabio, had on Tuesday, October 29, 2019 set up a 3-man Interim Management Committee (IMC) for the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC). The Committee comprised Acting Managing Director, Dr, Joi Nunieh (Rivers), Acting Executive Director, Projects, Dr, Cairo Ojougbor (Delta); and Acting Executive Director, Finance/ Administration, Chief Ibanga Bassey Etang.

Consequent upon these changes, the then Acting Managing Director, Dr. Akwagaga Enyia, had on October 30, 2019 handed over to Dr. Nunieh. But Akpabio’s action had come as an affront than a coincidence just on the same day the Senate was on protocols in a plenary for the screening of a 16-member new NDDC board, having received a letter from the Presidency containing names of nominees for the board.

The board was subsequently screened and confirmed by the Senate on November 5, 2019. But that was to be of no effect as that action threw power blocs into theatrical furious disputations, with the IMC being described as “stillborn”, “illegality”, “and “anomaly” by the national Assembly; yet President Buhari tactically refused to discard it or inaugurate the duly confirmed NDDC board.

After months of remonstrations on who should be in charge of the NDDC especially in connection with the proposed audit, President Muhammadu Buhari, who hitherto had watched the drama in total silence from the sidelines, finally gave an unassailable nod to the existence of the IMC by sacking or keeping in suspension all matters pertaining to the composition and inauguration of a new NDDC board. The development was contained in a statement dated Thursday, December 19, 2019 and signed by the Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to the President, Mr. Femi Adesina.

Assuming the matter has been resolved by the President’s carrot and stick, it is expected that the IMC which Sen. Akpabio said has a lifespan of six months shall do its work without fear or favour. It is also expected that it will dig down the mud to discover the source or perpetrators of the financial rape that the Commission has suffered in the last 19 years, which has accounted for its general poor performance.

To the credit of the IMC, just two to three days following its inauguration, it made some earth-quacking discoveries. For instance, a serving Senator was alleged to have been awarded 300 contracts, greater part of which contract sum had been paid even when he was yet to mobilize a single worker to site. Also unearthed was how a single consultant was purportedly receiving a monthly fee of 1billion naira for collecting statutory percentage returns due the Commission from International Oil Companies (IOCs). The IMC also revealed that there were about 12,000 uncompleted and abandoned projects of the NDDC scattered over benefiting areas and an estimated debt portfolio of upwards of 3 trillion naira.

Again, in prima facie circumstances, a top-ranked Nigerian soldier, Brigadier-General Charles Nengite and his wife, two former Managing Director of the NDDC, Messrs. Nsima Ekere and Nelson Brambaifa, were indicted is cases of slush funds they allegedly misappropriated for personal interests. United States authorities had alleged that the sum of S16m was traced to Nengite’s wife’s account alone. Not done, Sen. Akpabio recently hinted that S70 million belonging to the NDDC was abandoned in a bank since 2006. Remember that the former Akwa Ibom State governor had also described the NDDC as “ATM” on accounts of its endemic profligacy and poor documentation.

According to a report by the Nation Newspaper, Friday 27 December, 2019, the said bank has stepped forward with the revelation as part of fallouts of the ongoing audit. “I know of a bank that came to say that they have S70million from 2006. One also came to say N170million had been abandoned. I have forgotten in which administration in the last 11 years. They said they are ready to refund. I said there is no problem, just hang on, we’ll sort all these out when the forensic audit comes in to let us know all the recoverables and all that.

Nevertheless, following these heavy allegations, there has been a tide of rebuttals and challenges from individuals and groups to the IMC to prove their allegations beyond reasonable doubt. They described the claims as crying wolves and a cheap way to attract public attention and maybe gratify President Buhari to the effect that the IMC was working.

For instance, back on December 8, 2019, Senate Committee on NDDC had challenged the IMC and Akpabio to substantiate with facts their claims that N1billion consultancy fee was being paid to a consultancy firm allegedly linked to the Chairman of the Senate Committee, Sen. Peter Nwaoboshi, for the purpose of collecting levies in its favour from IOCs. Nwaoboshi who addressed newsmen through his Special Adviser on Legislative Matters, Luka Igbonoba, in Abuja rather dangled some fresh cans of worms before Akpabio.

On the same vein, a recent investigation by an online media platform ( had refuted Akpabio’s claims of NDDC’s abandoned money in banks. Based on investigation, the source contended that the NDDC has over N400billion of Advance Payment Guarantee, APG, scattered in several banks before the full implementation of the Treasury Single Account (TSA) policy of the federal government, and therefore that ought to be no news or facet of any latest discovery.

“There is absolutely nothing like an abandoned S70million belonging to the NDDC in any bank in the world. I challenge Akpabio to name the account and the bank and show how such money got there from the NDDC”, the medium quoted a high ranking official of the NDDC who is perplexed by the bizarre claim.

Although fireworks should be expected in situations like this, in the case of the S16million in which Nsima Ekere is allegedly linked with, a group called Niger Delta Delta Youth Forum (NDYF) has described the claims as untrue and a cheap blackmail to taint the image of the immediate past MD of the Commission as well as tarnish the blossoming career record of Brig-Gen. Charles Nengite and his wife.

In a statement signed by Mr. Edet Udoh on behalf of the group, it saw the attempt as a deliberate ploy. “We see this report as another ploy to tarnish the image of Nsima Ekere by Akpabio who has embarked on vendetta against his perceived enemies using this interim Committee of the NDDC”, the statement argued. Yet unaffected analysts appear to be of the palpable belief that because the report originated from the U.S authority, there was little or nothing to question, pending conclusive findings though.

It cannot be confirmed if the IMC had presented any substantiating facts to the Senate since the challenge was thrown to it by Peter Nwaoboshi or any other group. But it would be infantile to play the ostrich over the alarming impropriety that has characterised the NDDC from inception, evidence of which could unarguably be seen in its lack of sparks and sustainable unproductively 19 years down the line.

Given the merit of the forensic audit as well as the acclaimed strength of character of members of the IMC, the best way for Munieh to justify their essence to Nigerians and the curious listening world is to hold the bull by the horn and prove to all and sundry that their controversial mandate was, after all, not a ruse to gratify political feelings.

But as it stands, that possibility is seriously threatened by some subterranean grumblings about who owns whom on the IMC. In typical Nigerian pattern, every member on the ad hoc committee has been allocated to a benefactor, same whom many suspect must have been responsible their nominations and appointments, hence the fears that they might want to act at their behest in terms of the tenor and outcome of the forensic audit.

In a media chat on Friday, December 27, 2019 at his Uyo residence, Senior Special Assistant to President Buhari on Niger Delta Affairs, Sen. Ita Enang, had however stated that the forensic audit of the NDDC was not to witch-hunt anybody but “meant to find value of money for projects spent on the NDDC and not targeted at individuals”.

But that does not tend to be the general belief everyone shares in the public space. That perhaps because of the politics we have experienced in recent times and the fact that probe committees in the country have a ridiculous history.

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