Against the backdrop of gross underdevelopment of the oil-rich Niger-Delta region characterized by environmental despoliation, poverty and despondency there was established in July 1992, by decree number 23 the Oil Mineral Producing Area Development Commission (OMPADEC) with the mandate to rehabilitate and develop the region. Considerable attention was to be accorded human resource development through postgraduate scholarships amongst others and to establish science centers. A succeeding agency, the Niger – Delta Development Commission (NDDC) established by Act 2000 Act number 6, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, in Part II provided for elaborate functions and powers of the Commission to enable it fulfill the laudable objectives of developing the oil-rich region.
Specifically, Section 7(1)(b) of the 10 functions and powers states: “Conceive, plan and implement, in accordance with set rules and regulation, projects and programs for sustainable development of the Niger-Delta area in the field of transportation including roads, jetties and water-ways, health, employment, industrialization, agriculture and fisheries, housing and urban development, water supply, electricity and telecommunications”. Section 7(1)(h) states: “ Tackle ecological and environmental problems that arise from exploration of oil mineral in the Niger-Delta region and advise the Federal government and the member States on the prevention and control of oil spillages, gas flaring and environmental pollution”. Establishment of the Ministry of Niger-Delta in 2008 was further affirmation of the Federal government’s commitment to the development of the region in all ramifications.
The statutory revenue sources of the NDDC include: 15% of total monthly allocations due to member States of the Commission from Federation account; 3% of the total annual budget of any oil-producing company on-shore and off-shore in the Niger-Delta area including gas processing companies; 50% of the monies due to member States of the Commission from the ecological fund (NEITI, 2013). It is pertinent to note that the States in this region get 13% derivation on revenue accruing to the Federation from oil.
In light of all these sources of revenue it is reasonable to expect, apriori, a remarkable development of the Niger-Delta region. But what is clear at the moment is that there has not been meaningful development of the region commensurate with the huge finances available to the Commission over the years. It is in this regard that the forensic audit, ordered by President Buhari, of transactions of the NDDC is appropriate and incontrovertible. The media is expectedly awash with outrage over the initial revelation of financial impropriety and corruption in the affairs of the NDDC, particularly of projects never executed but monies appropriated with impunity involving high –profile public officers. The fact that, by the enabling Act of the NDDC, its affairs is substantially managed by people from the Niger-Delta region is a sad comment on their lack of patriotism and commitment to serve the people who are yearning for improved living conditions.
It calls to question the sincerity of purpose of leaders in the region who are in the vanguard for a re-structured Nigeria in governance architecture and for resource –control. However, it seems premature to hold this view when the forensic audit is yet to be completed and the outcome made public. This is because the Niger –Delta region and institutions associated with it, and these include the NNPC, is figuratively the ‘pot’ from which all manner of persons seek to have a taste of the pudding – the ‘national cake’. It is interesting that the National Assembly, in accord with its oversight functions is also investigating the NDDC. But it is sad that in the process, there is cacophony of accusations and counter-accusations by interested parties – National Assembly members, immediate past acting MD of the Interim Management Committee (IMC), acting MD, IMC, Minister of the Niger –Delta, etc. This panoply of accusations is a distraction from the core business of forensic audit which will hopefully expose the dramatis personae in the whole saga.
If, as it is being alleged, members of the National Assembly secured contracts from the NDDC, it calls to question the moral and ethical grounds for the same Assembly to embark on a formal investigation of the affairs of the Commission. Indeed it was a show of shame and opprobrium that the Chair of the House Committee investigating the NDDC only recused himself after he was identified as being on the NDDC list by the acting MD, IMC. In light of all these, it is hoped that President Buhari will do well to be firm on his directive for a forensic audit of the NDDC. The allegations of some malfeasance leveled against members of IMC are serious and unfortunate given that their mandate is to clean the Augean stable. The allegations however should be noted by the President without losing focus on the weightier issues for forensic audit.
In the final analysis, it cannot be overemphasized that failure of leadership and of institutions has been the hallmark of Nigeria – anti –corruption institutions are corrupt; Federal Character Commission lacks federal character; the National Assembly is a cesspool of corruption; local governments are bedeviled by corruption; NNPC, Ajaokuta steel project, Pension scheme and other institutions of state are not clean. And yet, the federal government wants us to believe it is winning the war against corruption. Many a Nigerian believes naively that elimination of corruption is achievable as a necessary prerequisite for development across the board. As desirable as it might seem, corruption cannot be eliminated in all its ramifications in any society when indeed human being is the vector.
In my view, what need to be addressed are factors which oil and propel the wheels of corruption. In the Nigerian case, the ascendance of corruption is systemic. A prime culprit in this regard is the 1999 Constitution, a derivative of the 1979 Constitution which laid the foundation for a centralized governance system, now so dysfunctional and retrogressive resulting in failure of leadership and of institutions. Nigeria has not made progress since 1966 and is not likely to make progress in light of the systematic decline in all development indicators. It is from this prism we must evaluate the goings-on in the Niger-Delta and indeed the country as whole. If this government is sincere it must admit that it has not delivered on its 3-point agenda – Economy, Corruption and Security.
It is not so much that the government is not making effort; it is simply that the effort is sisyphean underscored by a governance system that is constraining, disenabling and asphyxiating. President Buhari once remarked that true federalism is the way to go in Nigeria as panacea to the overarching problems confronting it. He must walk the talk away from rhetoric.
The 1999 unitary Constitution must be discarded to pave the way for a Federal Constitution that will meet the yearnings and aspirations of the peoples of Nigeria – one in which the constituent States can effectively govern and manage their affairs in accordance with the dictates of development priorities and rules of engagement. It is one by which there will be no need for NDDC and many such institutions of the Nigerian State.
Professor Ighodalo Clement Eromosele Former Deputy Vice-Chancellor,
Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta.