By Utibe Uko
No doubt, some folks are psychic, very perceptive. Some are gifted with the ability to see what mere mortals cannot see, they tread in realms where no mortal dares. It seems there are mentally gifted folks who have seen the NDDC Forensic Audit Report without the Report being in public space.
Before the NDDC Forensic Audit Report was submitted to President Muhammadu Buhari, cynics had begun to gather. For them, however the Report turned out, it was already a rotten carcass that was doomed to the garbage dump. For these pessimists, nothing good was in the NDDC Audit Report.
When on September 2, 2021 the Report was formally presented to President Buhari, the cynics pounced, engaging in very selective analysis and critique of the Report rather than detailed, wholesome analysis of the NDDC Forensic Audit Report. Yet, it is clear that none of these critics have a copy of the yet to be publicly released Forensic Audit Report. How does anyone critique a Report based on excerpts of a multi document Report that covers two decades of an organisation’s operations?
The BIG question for these pessimists who see only a carcass in the NDDC Forensic Audit Report is, have you seen a certified true copy of the Report? Have you read the Report from cover to cover?
The NDDC Forensic Audit Report is a compendium of facts found by the project’s Auditors and their recommendations (which may be ignored by the powers that be), so why the hullabaloo?
The NDDC Forensic Audit Report is the property of the Federal Government of Nigeria, and the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami has pledged that it would be “critically analyzed for necessary action and implementation”.
The matter is no longer about Senator Akpabio. By their narrow critique of the Audit Report and their brazen, unproven allegations against the Minister for Niger Delta Affairs, these persons who see nothing else have exposed their narrow minded biases. In the wake of the Audit Report’s submission to the President, some have vehemently called for the sack of Senator Godswill Akpabio, the Supervisory Minister of the NDDC.
If the President did not sack the Minister despite the avalanche of fabricated publications and all the contrived probes at the National Assembly that happened last year, will poorly written posts on social media provoke President Buhari to discard the Report? If the President was not moved by ingenuous talk on sponsored TV programmes, the false accusations of a fake NGO and the paid protesters in Port Harcourt to sack Akpabio and discontinue with the audit, it is highly unlikely that any other publications would convince the President to discard the NDDC Forensic Audit Report.
For those uninformed folks who have taken up arms against the recommendations of the Forensic Audit Report that members of the NDDC Board be engaged on part time basis, note that by virtue of section 2(3) of the NDDC Act, 2000, those positions of Governing Board of the Commission (NDDC) that the people of Niger Delta region demanded in year 2000 be placed on part-time are already on part-time.
Furthermore, of every 19-member substantive Governing Board of NDDC, 16 are on part-time; only three of them, the Managing Director/CEO, Executive Director, Finance and Administration, and Executive Director, Projects, are on full-time. So, 80% of a substantive NDDC Board is legally and technically engaged on part time basis. Then why kick up a fuss about a “recommendation” about a part time NDDC Board?
Still on the issue of the recommendation of a part time Board for the NDDC, a cursory look at the Act setting up a similar interventionist agency in Nigeria, the North East Development Commission reveals that all Board members aside from the Managing Director and the 3 Executive Directors are on part time basis in line with the North East Development Commission Act which was patterned after the NDDC Act.
No doubt, the NDDC cannot be separated from the politics of the Niger Delta region.
Since its creation, it has been an almost helpless pawn in the hands of politicians within and outside the Niger Delta region. That said, the Forensic Audit Report offers a credible route to sanitise the interventionist agency. The vultures who see nothing but a carcass in the Report represent the plans by some discredited stakeholders and their corrupt cronies to discredit the Forensic Audit Report.
It is notable that the Auditors made far-reaching recommendations to the government, including remedial and preventive measures that would prevent further abuses in the agency.
The revelation that the Commission has received N6 trillion from 2001 to August 2019 without making much impact on the lives of the poor masses of the region makes the audit exercise compelling. Any attempt to further create tensions could instigate the people of the Niger Delta to request the Federal Government to open the Pandora Box and bring the culprits indicted by the NDDC Forensic Audit Report to book.
The Niger Delta has seen so much deprivation despite all the trillions of Naira sunk in. Those arguing against the yet to be published Audit Report should take a cue and shed their ugly feathers for more wholesome plumage. Rather than selective criticism, they should proffer even better solutions to the challenges faced by the Niger Delta region. The region now deserves peace to turn the corner.
It is only fair and responsible for the Federal Government to implement all the Auditors’ recommendations that aim to build better processes, create a better organizational structure, and enhance good corporate governance in the Commission.
Uko, a Marketing consultant, writes from Port Harcourt