The Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) has been dogged by corruption for several years.
Several ex-officials of the commission are either being prosecuted or being investigated for various acts of corruption.
Lamenting the level of corruption in the agency, established in 2000 to held develop the oil-producing Niger Delta, the current Niger Delta minister, Godswill Akpabio said the NDDC was treated like an ‘ATM’ where officials just went to take public funds for themselves.
President Muhammadu Buhari has also lamented the corruption in the agency and has set up a committee to probe its activities since 2001.
Mr Buhari also dissolved the board of the commission and nominated new members whom he hopes would be a deviation from the past corruption and inefficiency of the agency.
On Thursday, Nigerian lawmakers had the opportunity to grill these nominees and ask them what they would do differently from their predecessors and how they would end the corrupt practices at the agency. However, the senators gave ridiculous reasons not to do so and instead asked the 14 nominees who appeared before them to ‘bow and go.’
The screening of the nominees of the NDDC board was handled by the Senate Committee on NDDC on October 31.
The panel had gathered and also invited the press to cover the screening process.
Two things, however, dominated the whole process. One, the ‘bow and go’ treatment to all the nominees who appeared and the ridiculous comments they gave.
‘Bow and go’ tradition
According to the tradition of the Senate, any executive nominee who has been a federal lawmaker is asked to take a bow and leave without being questioned.
Although this used to be applied to past federal lawmakers, the senators, during the ministerial screening, adjusted the tradition and extended the privilege to past state lawmakers too. This tradition was on Thursday applied to the NDDC nominees.
However, only some of the nominees have ever been lawmakers.
Reasons for ‘bow and go’
It was almost as though the lawmakers knew how the screening would go before it even started.
Pius Odubu who was nominated as the chairman of the NDDC board by President Muhammadu Buhari, was the first to be ‘screened.’ The committee chairman, Peter Nwabaoshi, asked that he takes a bow after which the following conversation transpired between Senators George Sekibo and Ike Ekweremadu (both members of the committee).
“This is not screening. If na screening, nominees dey piss for floor,” Mr Sekibo said.
He also noted that the committee chairman had pleaded with his colleagues not to be hard on him (Mr Odubu).
“Not in this Senate,” Mr Ekweremadu said – in response to Mr Sekibo’s comment.
Mr Ekweremadu, a former deputy senate president, appeared to be suggesting that under the current Senate led by the All Progressives Congress, lawmakers are not allowed to ‘go tough’ or properly drill a presidential nominee.
If this is the case, it is understandable going by the fact that more than half of the ministers appointed by the president were asked to bow and go for one reason or the other.
Shortly after, Oluremi Tinubu (Lagos Central) came into the meeting and was heard telling her colleagues “una no go put me for this NDDC even with my history as Itsekiri?”
Mrs Tinubu is not a member of the committee and her comment appeared like a joke while the ‘serious screening’ of the NDDC nominees were ongoing.
When it was the turn of another nominee, Maxwell Oko, to be screened., “Na my child,” Mr Sekibo said to the committee chairman.
“Just to support his case here. He came 10 years after I had left Community primary school Onasega, Bayelsa,” the Rivers senator told his committee colleague Rochas Okorocha.
In the same vein, when Theodore Alison stepped in for his screening, the committee chairman said “You attended the great university of Benin. We will say no more. You can take a bow and go.”
The ‘Nigerian’ screening
When the Senate embarked on the ‘bow and go’ screening of ministers, even amending its own rules to accommodate more of such, many Nigerians criticised the move.
“It will never cease to amuse me the way we do things in Nigeria. The Nigerian mode of screening is nothing but a joke. We need to have candidates come with their respective portfolios so that targeted questioning and grilling can take place. It is unfortunate we are not yet ready to truly weed out non-performers. When it suits us we are quick to cite America yet we choose to do it the Nigerian way when it come to serious business. Our insincerity as a people is what is haunting us as a people. May God help us!” a commentator, Du Covenant, said in his reaction to a PREMIUM TIMES report.
However, Thursday’s committee screening shows the lawmakers are willing to take their reasons for ‘bow and go’ to another level; even if it involves the NDDC, an agency that was treated like an ‘ATM’.