19 September 2011
It had a clear mandate to turn around the fortunes of oil-bearing communities in the Niger Delta. But intrigues among those saddled with the implementation of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) mandate have robbed the region and its people of the desired benefits, reports OLUKAYODE THOMAS.
MORE than a decade after the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) was established by former President Olusegun Obasanjo to replace the defunct Oil Mineral Producing Area Development Commission (OMPADC), the commission has not lived up to its mandate of stimulating rapid and sustainable development of the oil region.
Rather than making the Niger Delta area economically prosperous, socially stable, politically peaceful and environmentally stable, the NDDC has been crisis-ridden. The commission has consistently been in the news, unfortunately for the wrong reasons. If it is not misappropriation of funds, it is outright embezzlement. If the youth groups are not demonstrating over perceive injustice, the board members and the directors are at one another’s throat.
But all these came to a head with last week’s dissolution of the NDDC board.
The dissolution was the culmination of allegations of financial impropriety, forgery and subversion of due process, recklessness and disregard for both the NDDC Act and Public Procurement Act.
Thelast straw that broke the camel’s back began shortly after the sacked board was inaugurated in 2009. Governor of Kano State, Rabiu Kwankwaso had resigned his membership of the Board in June 2010.
Genesis of the crisis
What was basically an in-house crisis blew into the open when some board members petitioned the then Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Alhaji Yayale Ahmed, on the power tussle between the sacked Managing Director and Chief Executive (MD/CEO), Mr. Chibuzor Ugwoha and some board members over who should be saddled with the day-to-day running of the Commission.
While Ahmed raised a panel to look into the crisis, petitions were sent to the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC) over an alleged transfer of $20 million from the Commission’s account in the United Kingdom and award of contracts without following due process. Ugwoha and other directors were invited by the anti-corruption agency for interrogation.
The petitioners had alleged that since the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) said funds in ailing banks were secured, Ugwoha had no justification to move the fund from Union Bank to First Bank. Besides, they stated that if his intentions were genuine, he would not have withdrawn only $20 million and leave $58 million in the troubled Union Bank.
They also claimed that the account opened with United Kingdom (UK) branch of the First Bank by Ugwoha was a Current/Deposit Account and that no interest had accrued to the NDDC since it was opened.
The petitioners alleged that another $37million was transferred to the First Bank (UK) bringing the total transferred fund to $57 million.
The sacked managing director was also alleged to have awarded contracts without due process; failed to implement board decisions, interfered with the functions of state representatives, usurped the functions of the board, among others.
The Steve Oronsanye-committee was established with a mandate to investigate the current crisis, review the process and challenges facing the NDDC with a view to making recommendations to government on ways to address institutional weaknesses.
Though given two weeks to complete its work, it took the panel a month to finish its fact-finding and submit its report to the Federal Government.
Investigation showed that the panel faulted the managing director ‘s controversial transfer of $20 million from Union Bank, UK and the opening and lodgement of same in a current/deposit account with the First Bank (UK).
The Oronsanye panel also stated that the action was carried out after belated mandatory approval of the Accountant- General of the Federation (AGF) as required by the NDDC Act and Section 701 of the Federal Government Financial Regulations. The approval of the AGF to open the said account was obtained in December 2010, three clear months after the account had been opened. The panel discovered that while $20 million was withdrawn from the ailing Union Bank, a sum of $58 million was left in the same.
The committee also discovered that no interest had been credited to the NDDC since September 2010, when the account was opened. The committee established that another $37 million was transferred to First Bank UK’s offshore account bringing the total of funds in the account to $57 million.
It found that over 500 contracts worth over N120 billion were awarded without budgetary provisions, in total disregard to the Public Procurement Act (PPA).
The findings of the Oronsanye-led committee sealed the fate of the Commission’s Board and its directors as the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Senator Anyim Pius Anyim said that the dissolution was in line with the report submitted by the Presidential Committee set up to look into the problems of the NDDC.