By Kelvin Ohoror and Ruth Akpona
Niger Delta Activist and coordinator of Ijaw Monitoring Group (IMG), Comrade Joseph Evah, has stated in an interview recently, that the people of the Niger Delta are fully in support of president Muhammadu Buhari’s recent order for a Forensic audit of the Niger Delta Development Commission, (NDDC).
Comrade Joseph Evah however noted that the exercise should not be used as an excuse to stall the activities of the commission while urging the president to inaugurate the new NDDC board which has been constituted two months ago.
Speaking to newsmen, the foremost Niger Delta Activist, stressed that, the NDDC act, empowered the commission to submit a yearly report of its activities to the secretary to the government of the federation (SGF). So, the SGF is aware of all their activities even the ministry of finance as a department that monitors how monies are spent by the NDDC in line with the act.
“So, if the president is taking the monitoring to a higher level, it is a welcome idea. We welcome anything that will make the NDDC to be effective and efficient”.
When asked if the president has appointed any firm to conduct the audit, he said, no! he pointed out that the interim Management board of the commission cannot handle the assignment because, before the return of the president from the United Nations General Assembly in New York, the Niger Delta Governors have been complaining that he didn’t carry them along while appointing the new board of the NDDC.
“So, the Governors met and decided that when the president returns from his UN trip, they will go and meet with him to ask why he did not carry them along. When they tabled the issue before the president, they were embarrassed because none of them talked about how to make the NDDC efficient and effective”.
He also said that, some of us got to know that before that meeting, they were going to complain that the people the president nominated as the new board members are unacceptable to them, trying to cause confusion and delay the progress of the NDDC.
“We have confidence in the nominees. We have assessed them, some had held bigger appointments in the Niger Delta before now. Adding that the complaints from the Governors and others against the nominees should not make the president to change his mind about the inauguration of the board.
He also pointed out that when the South-East governors took a decision about the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu, the president announced the release of #10 billion for the project. But since the Buhari’s government came, Niger Delta Governors refused to hold meetings. But if it comes to petty things, they will come up with a pronouncement that is childish.
He therefore urge the president to ignore those governors. The president should, as a firm military man, take a decision if he means well for Niger Delta. He has done what is right by nominating the board members.
He also added that on the forensic audit, the Buhari’s administration had probed the office of the National Security Adviser (NSA) under the Yar’Adua and Jonathan’s administration. The EFCC is now prosecuting the formal NSA, Sambo Dasuki, over the arms deal for Boko Haram war. while the probe was going on, the president still appointed another NSA who is very competent and he’s doing his work well.
When asked if the NDDC has lived up to expectations, he said, the federal government owes NDDC over #500 billion and urged the federal government to pay its legal contribution to the NDDC as at when due. And that is why the Niger Delta accepted the president’s idea of a Forensic audit of previous NDDC management.
When asked if he’s satisfied with the money released, he noted that despite the fact that they are not satisfied with the money released and their achievements so far, he advised the NDDC to sit up and use what they have, adding that what is seen in the papers is not what is actually released.
“For instance, the minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, cried out to the House of Representatives Committee on Niger Delta Affairs, for #38.7 billion special funding for the critical projects in the Niger Delta in 2020 fiscal year. While decrying dwindling budgetary allocations to the ministry, he disclosed that a total sum of #35.2 billion was allocated to the ministry but it was yet to get any release for its capital projects in the budget”.
Meanwhile at the time of this report an interim board of The Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) has been appointed by the President Buhari led administration.