Monday, March 9, 2020 9:42 am
By Nehru Odeh
The Niger Delta Development Commission, it seems, is on a downward slide to self-annihilation. And many interest groups are battling for the survival of its soul. This is despite the huge amount of money the federal government has expended on it since it was established by former President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2000, in order to bring development to the Niger Delta region. The NDDC has been the butt of people’s criticism because of what they believe are the large scale corruption, mismanagement of funds, white elephant projects, abandoned and uncompleted projects, award of spurious contacts to phantom contractors that have characterized it. As a result many see the interventionist agency as a drain on government’s resources, siphoning all the money expended on it since inception without bringing the much-needed development to the people of the region.
And recently the Niger Delta governors as, well as the Minister of the Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, have been at the forefront of the campaign against the management and Board of the commission. They have railed at the commission calling them all sorts of names and putting the problems of the commission at their doorsteps. The governors, on their part, met with President Muhammadu Buhari recently where they briefed him about the rot in the commission and the need for a forensic audit of the interventionist agency. They also asked for the setting up of the Board of Governors for the NDDC..
The various agitations calling for the overhaul of the NDDC has reached feverish point. However, the directors of the NDDC, in a bid to tackle the challenges bedeviling the it head on, had taken it upon themselves the task of providing solutions to the seeming intractable problems bedeviling it had held a meeting in Port Harcourt on 6 August, 2019 and arrived at some resolutions. In a statement signed by them, they made known the resolutions with the hope that if implemented, they will go a long way in resolving the crisis.
“The Directors, having observed recent happenings with trepidation, have become worried about the uncomfortably high level of rumours in the public domain about many anomalies in the management of the affairs of the commission and the various denigrating comments by some governors on the performance of the commission and the role of directors. The directors have decided they could no longer ignore such aspersions and disparaging comments, which have come from critical stakeholders. The directors have therefore decided to make their positions on some salient issues apparent,” the statement read.
The directors unanimously aggreed that the problems bedeviling the commission have different layers which all boil down to the failure of governance, lack of due process and the arbitrary use of power. For instance, they said the processes and procedures for the award of emergency contracts are not in line with PPA, 2007 and that most awards do not qualiy as emergencies , thereby resulting in burgeoning financial liabilities of the commission without control. They therefor e suggested that all emergency procurements should henceorth be brought to the management committee for consideration.
“The underlying factor in most of the problems is the issue of ailure of governance. It is no secret that there are various challenges of governance in the commission. This is the undamental problems causing hiccups in the commission. Put simply, governanace has become problematic. This is as a result of management and staff breach of laid down procedures and precesses,” they said adding that the failure of governanace has led to breakdown in discipline amomg staff and has this disabled the system. It has also caused controls put in place to become comatose. And that the commission must go back to strict adherence to due process.
They also made refernce o to the functionality of the system, which thy beliieve is another issue of governance.The directors decry the situation where the executive sometimes bypass the director in charge of a directorate to work directly with subordinates, which breeds indiscipline and should not be allowed to continue. It suggested that all directors (GL17) should be heads of directorates/departments before DDs and ADS are considered in that order .”This unwholesome practice (of bapassing the directors) is antithetical to good governace. We appeal to the executive to be mindul of the long established hierachical systems in the public servicee. The abuse of this hierachical system destrroys discipline, creates systemic ailure,confusion and makes the system generallly ineffective,” they said.
The directors also decried the indiscriminate use of external security personnel, which places a huge burden on the commission as well as the flagrant use of non-governmental organizations to perform most programmes of directorates/departments in an unregulated manner. They thereore suggested that the current number of security personel be pruned down and guidelines for the limited use of NGOs, in line with best global practice, formulated after due consideration and approval of the CRD Directorate Management Commitee.
The directors also touched on the “great challenge” trying to manage the various imprest being paid to the various offices of the commissiom as well as irregular payment, and the need to ncrease imprest to directorates/departments and all state offices by at least 100 per cent. And they frowned at not being treated with decency in accessing the executive, especially the abrasive attitude of security details. Other issues the directors decried include the indiscrimate and abusive redeployment of staff (especially those from GL15-17) as punitive measures, the increasing level of harrasssment of staff by the EFCC without mamagent support, the delay in payment of severance to retirees and a lot of distractons from the core mandate of the commission as well as the non-payment of service providers and other routine bills like rent, tax, liabilities, insurance premium, staff entitlements etc. According the directors these non payments have paralysed the activities of the commission.
“There is no doubt that the commission has lost focus. It started derailing gradually until we got to where we are now. It was thereore agreed that the challenges enumerated above pose existential threat to the well-being of the commission which have led to the increasingly poor perception of the commission by all our publics who are looking up to the directors to arrest the imminent slide to self-annihilation.. The above resolutions are corrective ways and means of improbing the good governance of the commission,” the direectors maintained
They concluded by saying they were submiting the resolutions for management consideration and approval for immediate implememtatio in order to bring sanity to the commission and put it back to the right track .