The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, has stated that despite the huge funds deployed to the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), the region has continued to perform below expectation.
The speaker said this on Wednesday during the investigative hearing on the alleged financial mismanagement in the NDDC.
The House had on May 5 deliberated on a motion on the need to conduct the investigation.
A lot of controversies have emerged in the commission in the past one month.
Due to criticisms of the operations of the commission, the president had in 2019 ordered a forensic audit of the operations of the organisation from 2001 to 2019.
The commission is saddled with the responsibility of developing the oil-rich Niger Delta region of Nigeria.
One of the core mandates of the commission is to train and educate the youths of the region to curb hostilities and militancy, while developing key infrastructure to promote diversification and productivity.
Mr Gbajabiamila in his remark said in the 20 years of existence of the commission, the people of the region have not benefited significantly from it.
“In the over two decades since, that promise has not been kept. Despite its critical importance and the vast sums that have been appropriated by the Federal Government, the Niger Delta of Nigeria continues to score exceptionally low on many of the major human development indices.
“These statistics reflect the reality of disease and deprivation, lack of opportunity and broken dreams that is the plight of many of our fellow citizens in the region.
“It is therefore particularly disturbing and quite frankly, embarrassing that every other news report about the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) seems to centre around escalating allegations of corruption and malfeasance,” he said.
He said the purpose of the investigative hearing “is to ask why the failure persists and to do so with a determination to understand the causes of that failure so that the parliament can act to redeem the NDDC and remove those factors that imperil the commission’s noble mission”.
“We will examine the allegations of corruption and malfeasance that have dogged the commission,” he said. “We will do so with neither fear nor favour, confident in the assurance that we have both a constitutional duty and moral obligation to ensure that the enormous sums of money appropriated to the NDDC over the years are appropriately accounted for by those whose responsibility it has been to manage this important and all too essential public trust.”
The speaker said the success of the investigation will depend on the willingness of the various ‘stakeholders’ in the commission, within government and in the local communities to cooperate with the committee.
“I encourage all the stakeholders to consider this investigative hearing as a last-ditch effort to save the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and to engage with this committee in a patriotic partnership to break the jinx of underdevelopment in the Niger Delta region,” he said.
Meanwhile, the chairman of the committee, Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, said despite the needless distractions, the committee has remained focused.
“Because of the investigative nature of the House resolution, the past weeks have been spent on working tirelessly on gathering the necessary data and analyzing same,” he said.
He also said he is aware of the sensitivity of the matter and how, if not well managed, “might tend to degrade, incriminate or defame the person or persons involved”.
“Please note that the House has not condemned anyone, else there would not be the need for investigation as directed. We are not hypercritical or condemnatory but open without prejudice.
“We enjoin everyone to give this committee the maximum cooperation as the impact of this shall be far reaching results.”