The Minister for Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, on Friday, said the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) lacked funds, and demanded that its funding be improved to enhance the infrastructural development of the region.
Making a keynote address at an NDDC strategic capacity building workshop in Uyo, Akpabio said the funding system for the Commission was poor, as its budgetary provisions were not provided as and when due.
Also, the minister called for the amendment of the laws establishing the agency if the need arises, noting that he aimed to leave the commission better than he met it.
He said, “The commission is broke because the funding system is poor. We must leave the NDDC better than we found it even if it means that the lawmakers have to tinker with the law.
“The current funding patterns and budgeting processes must embrace good governance to achieve the best we can, while asking for more funds to carry out more sustainable projects and programmes,” Akpabio said.
This comes as the Commission has been in the news numerous times for the wrong reasons of misappropriation and embezzlements of funds meant for the Commission and the Niger Delta region.
It would be recalled that the then acting Managing Director of NDDC, Kemebradikumo Pondei, last year, admitted that the commission spent about N1.32 billion as ‘COVID-19 relief funds’ for NDDC staff, after being pressured by the National Assembly and angry Nigerians.
Pondei fainted during a probe by a House Committee into the financial activities of the NDDC, halting further probes into the matter. The House has seemingly dumped the exercise.
Also, Akpabio was accused of collecting about N500 million for projects in the NDDC, which he denied on the second day of a hearing probing how the commission squandered N40 billion within a few months.
Recall that Ripples Nigeria reported that the Senate had on May 5, 2020, set up a seven-member committee to investigate the “financial recklessness” of the Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the commission, noting that the commission spent over N40 billion of its fund in just three months, without recourse to established processes of funds disbursement.
Also, before she was hurriedly sacked, former managing director of the NDDC, Joy Nunieh had told a House of Representatives Committee that Akpabio had mismanaged N81.5 billion of the commission’s funds, a call which had prompted the governors of the south-south region to call for a forensic probe of the interventionist agency.
However, Akpabio, on Friday, said corruption, weak political and institutional governance, transparency and lack of proper consultation and engagement with the communities and state governments among others were the challenges confronting the commission.
“Corruption is one of the greatest problems of the Nigerian society and it also finds its ugly and devastating effects in all sectors of the polity, including the NDDC.
“The level of corruption engulfed all the sectors including government, parastatals, ministries, government officials and community leaders even the youth leaders and the NDDC is not left out.
“Weak political and institutional governance in the Niger Delta has led to the misuse of public resources, poor service delivery and poor enforcement of the law.
“The consequence has been the lingering restiveness, breakdown of trust, abuse and misuse of power between officials and the communities, embezzlement and attendant violence,” he added.
In his welcome address, the Interim Administrator and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the NDDC, Effiong Akwa, said the workshop was in furtherance of the consultation with its stakeholders for speedy development of the region.
Akwa noted that the NDDC was done with its unsavoury past, saying that continuous consultation and collaboration for effective development of the region was the focus of the commission.
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