A body, the South-South Study Group (3SG), has said that revelations of corruption at the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) does not represent the culture of the geopolitical zone.
The group also described the revelations as deplorable, condemnable and emblematic national culture where unscrupulous individuals apparently see government institutions as fair game for plunder
The group stated this in a statement signed on its behalf in Port Harcourt by Otoks Dan-Princewill, adding that as a body, it finds it imperative to express the strong feelings of the region regarding the revelations from the recent legislative inquiry into the affairs of the NDDC.
According to the 3SG, the present scenario of affairs is not only deplorable but “the reality is that whatever resources the NDDC receives, however large, may never be sufficient to address the needs of the Region if the funds are misappropriated.
The group further argued that some political groups have developed the act of looting the national wealth into a system of privilege reserved only for their families, ethnic or geopolitical kith and kin and the NDDC like most national agencies are seeming caricatures of the national culture of disdain for public accountability.
It also said that as stakeholders and supposed beneficiaries, the people of the Niger Delta remains undaunted by the on-going setbacks and continue to hope that the Federal Government will overcome the challenge and be able to ensure that monies voted to the NDDC is channelled responsibly to benefit the communities of the Niger Delta Area.
The group however asked if revenues should continue to be collected by politicians and disbursed as they deem fit under law or should there should be legal provisions for the oil-bearing communities to be directly involved in the process?
Insisting that the Niger Delta deserves equity, fairness and justice, 3SG called on the Federal Government to ensure that all revenue accruing to the NDDC be judiciously and equitably channelled to benefit the people directly and that there should be consequences for abuse by Federal Government appointed functionaries.
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“It is most unfortunate that this cry for justice by the Niger Delta dates as far back as the Henry Wilkin Commission of 1958. 62 years later, all we hear is egregious, rambunctious and uncontrollably exuberant bad behaviour by Federal Government appointees. It is needful to establish this fully. NDDC was established as a Federal Government agency for the singular purpose of developing the oil-rich Niger Delta that continues to provide the lifeline for the Federal Republic of Nigeria while suffering the devastation of environmental degradation and to provide palliatives to the oil-bearing communities.
“The Law, an enactment of the National Assembly clearly spells out the functions and powers of the NDDC, including but not limited to the formulation of policies and guidelines, and the conception, planning and implementation of projects and programmes for the sustainable development of the Niger Delta Area. It is pertinent to reiterate at this point that the NDDC remains a Federal Government agency under the management and control of the president.
The group also called for an account of all the money should and have accrued to the NDDC since its creation.
“We the people of the South-South region hereby call on the Federal Government upon which the final accountability for all the NDDC appointees rests, to account for the full amount of statutory funds due to the NDDC since its inception, including actual allocated funds and those to date unpaid. By 2009, it was published in public records that the Federal Government owed the NDDC over N308bn as unremitted statutory due to the Commission. Many credible sources insist that if the fund statutorily due to the NDDC is compared with the actual funding made by the Federal Government and purportedly received by the NDDC, a wide embarrassing gap in trillions of Naira owed to the NDDC will be found.
“The current shameful revelations in the NDDC serves to reinforce the position of the South-South that the over-centralisation of governance in a Federal Government has failed the nation and in particular the people of the South-South. While the NDDC has failed to significantly impact the Region with development from the resources already provided it, the Federal Government has also failed to provide the enabling environment to make such development possible by failing to provide adequate security, stable and regular power supply, functional Ports and connecting rail lines to name just a few.
“Moreover, the control mechanisms to ensure accountability and transparency by the NDDC and other government entities are non-existent as illustrated by the current events. Since the Federal Government appoints all the key actors heading and managing the NDDC without reference to the people of the region and without transparency whatsoever, the failure of the NDDC rests solely on its shoulders for which it must singlehandedly take responsibility,” 3SG said.
The group also suggested how the NDDC can be made to function properly for the people it is meant to serve.
“If the Federal Government wants the NDDC to work for the development of the geopolitical zone as envisioned, it will create mechanisms that widely seek and obtain the genuine inputs of the beneficiary communities in what their development priorities are and institute an Ombudsman system to complement the oversight in the execution of such priorities.
“However, no paternalistic efforts will be superior to a situation where the people determine how their resources are disbursed and used, and how their Region is developed by the “proceeds under proper Federal systems.
“If the South-South States have jurisdiction over their resources as agreed in and practised after the Lancaster Agreement before military adventurists imposed distorted federalism on Nigeria, it may well be that some states or a Joint Commission of the South-South States will be better served by a Regional Sovereign Wealth Fund with its appointed Fund Managers to periodically prioritize specific strategic projects that will best impact its development objectives using acclaimed global governance standards and best practice,” it said.
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