By Onyedi Ojiabor, Abuja

The Civil Society Coalition on Audit in Nigeria (CSCAN) Tuesday asked the Public Accounts Committees of the National Assembly and Anti-Corruption Agencies to investigate 176 contracts awarded by the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) for which N90.9 billion is yet to be accounted for.

The Executive Director, Paradigm Leadership Support Initiative (PLSI), Olusegun Elemo, who spoke on behalf of CSCAN in Abuja, said that their findings showed that NDDC awarded the contracts between 2008 and 2018.

Elemo noted that based on data from 2008-2012 and 2013-2018 Audit Report on NDDC, it was obvious that N90.9bn was yet to be accounted for on 176 contracts awarded by the commission.

The Coalition which included; Paradigm Leadership Support Initiative (PLSI), BudgIT Foundation, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), Dataphyte, Step Up Nigeria, Accountability Lab, Centre for Health, Equity and Justice (CEHEJ), Basic Rights Watch, Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) and media executives in the country said it has physically verified many of the projects which it said had been at various stages of execution.

CSCAN said while many of the projects were abandoned, some were poorly implemented while others were not executed at all.

Elemo said that review and analysis of the data carried out by the Coalition as well as on the ground assessment of project sites conducted revealed how wasteful and insensitive the Commission had been managing resources belonging to citizens of the Niger Delta region.

He said, “We have visited many of the project sites, we have pictorial evidence, we have identified the companies involved as well as beneficial ownership details.

“All we are asking the National Assembly Public Accounts Committees, Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to do is take a professional, detailed and investigative look at this evidence and recover the funds”.

He further stated that “there can be no other explanation to what has happened at NDDC between 2008 and 2018 than the fact that those entrusted to manage the commonwealth of the Niger Delta people had intentionally deprived them of the much deserved development.”

Similarly, BudgIT’s Deputy Manager, Tolutope Agunloye – who also spoke at the press briefing noted that over N500 billion was earmarked as statutory allocation to improve the development of the Niger Delta region between 2008 and 2018.

He lamented that the current state of some communities is not representative of this allocation.

Many communities, he said, do not have potable water due to water pollution.

He added that there is lack of effective healthcare system or a suitable environment to advance quality education for children in that region.

He said, “To execute its projects and programs, NDDC receives annual statutory allocations from the country’s federal government and an annual levy of 3% of the total annual budget of oil companies in the country.

“It also receives grants and other forms of support from International Development Agencies.

“However, despite the expenditure of approximately $40 billion on capital projects by NDDC since its inception, the commission has failed to realize its 15-year master plan for the rapid development of the region.”

The Country Director, Accountability Lab – Friday Odeh, on his part note that “only a modern audit law can help Nigeria effectively prevent corrupt behavior such as seen with the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) in recent years.

He asked, “What has happened to the forensic audit ordered by President Buhari since October 2019? Does it take this long to conduct a forensic audit or produce a report? Is there any need for an additional forensic audit with all the evidence on the ground as detailed in the reports by the Office of the Auditor-General for the Federation? Rather than allow leaders of the Niger Delta “off their mic”.

“I think it’s high time Nigerian citizens increase their “mic” to the loudest and insist that anti-corruption agencies act in a way their mandate permits, irrespective of political influence, to recover all funds not properly accounted for, prosecute all violators of our laws in relation to these NDDC projects and make Governance work for Nigerian citizens in the Niger-Delta region”.

He believed that “these actions will set a tone to building trust between the citizens who are being served and the leaders who serve them.”

Olusegun Elemo concluded by urging the two Chairmen of Committee on Public Accounts in the National Assembly, Senator Matthew Urhoghide and Honorable Oluwole Oke as well as the leadership of ICPC and EFCC to ensure that justice is served to the people of Niger Delta and by extension Nigerians especially in relation to how this N90.9bn not accounted for was utilized.

“We all must work together to change the trajectory of that region and ensure the quality of life for citizens in that environment is urgently improved upon.”

The Nation