By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
Buhari: PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari yesterday ordered a forensic audit of the operations of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) from 2001 to 2019.
President Buhari in statement issued by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Chief Femi Adesina, said the action was taken out of worry over criticisms of the operations of the commission, and after he received governors of the states that make up the Commission, led by Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State, who had called for the repositioning of the NDDC.
According to the President, what is presently on the ground in the South-south region does not justify the huge resources that have been made available to the organisation.
He said, “I try to follow the Act setting up these institutions, especially the NDDC. With the amount of money that the Federal Government has religiously allocated to the NDDC, we will like to see the results on the ground; those that are responsible for that have to explain certain issues.
“The projects said to have been done must be verifiable. You just cannot say you spent so many billions and when the place is visited, one cannot see the structures that have been done. The consultants must also prove that they are competent. “
The President admitted that developing the Niger Delta area required enormous resources compared to other parts of the country with firmer lands.
He said, “I am acutely aware, with my experience, that projects in your area are very expensive; that is why if any job is given, we must make sure that the company is competent and has the capacity to do it well with experienced consultants.”
He, however, said that he would wait for the report of the audit before deciding on the next line of action regarding the NDDC.
Governor Dickson had earlier expressed the disappointment of other governors with the operations of the NDDC, which they said was characterised by a poor choice of projects, shoddy handling, uncompleted jobs and lack of the required support for the efforts of the states and local government administration in the region covered by the organisation.
He called for the repositioning of the NDDC in order to achieve the objectives for which it was set up.
He said, “Our concern has to do with the stability and development of the Niger Delta. We had a robust discussion with Mr President who fully understands the challenges that come with development, and he promised to look into the challenges which he’s aware of and we all agreed to work together. “
Present at the meeting were Governors Ifeanyi Okowa (Delta); Nyesom Wike (Rivers); Dickson (Bayelsa); deputy governor of Edo State, Philip Shaibu; Minister of Niger Delta, Godswill Akpabio; Minister of State for Niger Delta, Tayo Alasoadura; among others.
He expressed optimism that the president would address the concerns raised by the governors about developments in the commission.
“Today, I came here with my colleague’s governors of the oil-producing states; states that make up the Niger Delta.
“We came to have interactions with the president and senior officials of his government on our concerns about developments in the Niger Delta.
“We also discussed fears and what we know is going on in the NDDC which is a critical agency,” he said.
He said that the governors were delighted with the president’s understanding of the challenges and the issues in the commission and had promised to address them.
Dickson said that the concerns had to do with stability, security and development.
“That is a broad spectrum; we had a robust discussion and the president fully understands, from his experience, the cost of development and the peculiar challenges that come with being an oil-producing region.
“He has promised to look into it and take steps regarding some of the observations that we came to make which he and his team, the Niger Delta Ministry, are on top of.
“So, more or less, we had a meeting of minds; we compared notes and all agreed on the challenges we all need to work together to address,’’ he added.
On the forthcoming governorship election in Bayelsa, Dickson said he was looking forward to a fair and peaceful poll.
He said that Bayelsa was known for restiveness and militancy prior to his becoming governor in 2012, but that the narrative had changed.
The governor said that his collaboration with security agencies, community and opinion leaders as well as all strata of the people and leaders had brought stability to the state.
Dickson said he was hopeful that his party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), would win the election as it was the largest and most formidable party in the state.
On security, he said that Bayelsa was one of the most stable states in the Niger Delta and could also pass for the most stable and peaceful state in Nigeria.
“So, we are concerned about maintaining the current momentum of stability which is a necessary pre-condition for any kind of development.
“Talking about development in all spheres, you know that I and my team in Bayelsa State, in the last eight years, have advanced the frontiers of development in all sectors.
“`In education, in healthcare, in critical infrastructure, in that tough and difficult terrain, everybody is happy about developments.
“So, my call back home to all politicians, parties and all institutions of government, particularly the INEC and the security agencies, is that all hands must be on deck.
“We have very unfortunate instances wherein the election, you see unnecessary violence, carnage, brigandage, maiming and displacement of people.
“In Bayelsa, we have Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) you guys don’t know about; you don’t talk much about it,’’ Buhari said.
He said that politics was about management of dissent, management of conflicting interests and sometimes, management of ego.
Dickson said he was good at reconciliation as he was leading reconciliation efforts, getting different stakeholders at state and national levels for peace.