Not a few observers will testify that with the year 2021 rounding up, so are the fortunes of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) sinking under a deluge of intrigues. Even as the agency has witnessed a significant dose of turbulence in its fortunes right from its inception 20 years ago, and was recently subjected to a forensic audit exercise that was launched with the expectation of helping it find its feet, recent developments point to the hard truth that its worst days may not be over yet. Among the culpable factors for prolonging its dilemma is the flip flop approach of the federal government which is played out through the ambivalent disposition of the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs Senator Godswill Akpabio towards the agency which his ministry supervises. Not a few public commentaries have raised strong reservations over his proclivities in respect of handling the fortunes of the agency through a pervasive grip on its operations, especially as it affects the inauguration of the board of directors for the agency. The latest disturbing twist that indicates more distress for the agency, is the tacit, indefinite postponement of the inauguration of its board of
Speaking last week on the matter Akpabio placed the inauguration of the NDDC Board deeper in the terrain of uncertainty, by assigning the timing of the development to whenever President Muhamadu Buhari concludes his study of the report of the forensic audit. To many observers of the country’s politics with respect to the Niger Delta region, Akpabio’s take is as good as the proverbial wait for Godot, which never comes to an end. This contention also tallies with his previous instances of prevarication on the issue of inaugurating a new board for the NDDC.
Nevertheless, of more significance in the matter of delayed inauguration of a new board for the NDDC, is the rather subdued disposition to it by the humongous stock of political assets in the Niger Delta region itself whose collective attention to this issue in their backyard, is a matter of concern. It must qualify as a shame of monumental proportion that given its endowments of Senators (including the Deputy President of the Red Chamber Ogie Omo Agege), scores of Members of the House of Representatives, Cabinet Ministers, (including Akpabio himself) and others, the fortunes of the NDDC – especially as concerns its board of directors should be allowed to fester for so long and only gets to be mentioned when the restive youths of the region rise up in arms..
The situation constitutes a serious indictment on the entire region which has demonstrated failure in mustering the full complement of its ‘foot soldiers’ to work for the salvage of the NDDC. Yet the imperative for a collective front by the Niger Delta region on the NDDC matter is crystal clear. Firstly is that the crisis in the NDDC is not just a problem of an agency but one that affects an entire region in which it is intended to intervene to promote rapid development and by extension the entire country. Hence the ongoing problems of the agency should be seen from the perspectives of both proximate and extended implications.
Secondly the delay in resolving whatever issues around the agency including the inauguration of the board of directors remains uncalled for as such constitutes a breach of the very law setting up the agency by the Federal Government. In no section of the NDDC Act is it provided that it l be run under a Sole Administrator as is the case for now. Hence the government should not be seen to be celebrating lawlessness at this stage of its tenure. This condition also confers accentuates the ambivalence played out by Akpabio and should be seen as hardly altruistic as it runs at cross purpose to the overall best interest of the region.
In the final analysis the time has come for a new paradigm of assertive consensus by the political assets in the region. The implication of a lack of assertive action by the region is that the NDDC will remain without a board for the foreseeable future and se5ve as a lap dog for interests that are strange to the zone.
Already there are speculation that the on goings at the NDDC bear clear imprint of deliberate steps to foster a campaign of blackmailing the region into acquiesance to manipulations during the forthcoming 2023 polls. This brainwave is informed by the seeming reluctance of the Presidency to act further on the report of the forensic audit, beyond receiving it, and claiming to study it. By such a dispensation, the forensic audit exercise which was intended as a restorative factor for the NDDC may end up as nothing beyond a political tool for dispensing electoral favours when the chips are down. Yet that is not what the NDDC was set up to be.
Wanted therefore is a dispensation that will restore the NDDC to what it was intended to be – a development driver for the by the Delta region, the failure of the extant powers that be, notwithstanding.