It’s been nearly four years since President Muhammadu Buhari dissolved the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) board. Finally, on January 4, 2023, the new NDDC board was inaugurated with its first female chairman, Lauretta Onochie.
What is the NDDC?
The NDDC was created in 2000 by former president Olusegun Obasanjo to help create sustainable development, job opportunities and foster peace in the Niger Delta regions, which have served as Nigeria’s golden goose for years. Taxes are paid to the NDDC by oil companies operating in the area. Sadly, over the years, the commission has performed far below expectations and is now becoming synonymous with abandoned projects and corruption.
Remember this man?
2020 was a memorable year for many reasons. Coronavirus forced the world to take a temporary break, and we got to see the acting skills of Prof. Kemebradikumo Pondei, the former acting Managing Director of NDDC.
In July 2020, a committee from the House of Representatives probed the NDDC for allegedly misusing ₦81 billion. When Pondei was asked to explain how he spent ₦1.32 billion on COVID-19 palliatives and ₦336 million on the Save Life campaign, he “lost consciousness”.
You’d think the 2020 probe would lead to ending corruption in NDDC, but that’s a big dream. In August 2022, the Accounts and Finance Director of the NDDC was detained by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for allegedly diverting over ₦25 billion in tax remittances.
What do we need from the new board?
Over the years, the NDDC has been in the news for the wrong reasons. The new board should focus on creating lasting solutions to the region’s economic, social and infrastructural problems.
Fight against corruption
The NDDC is riddled with corruption, so forensic audits should be done with stolen funds recovered. Once there’s a thorough clean-up of the agency, progress can finally be made.
There should be accountability and effective monitoring of every process and project, with excess waste prevented at every point. This would ensure that funds are properly managed, and projects can be completed on time.
The Niger Delta has had its fair share of woes over the years, and it seems only fitting that they have a body that puts its needs and issues first. And hopefully, this newly inaugurated board finally gets it right.