…As Social Action commences Tracking of NDDC Operations
By Ekemini Simon
Corrupt contractors and officials of Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC )may no longer find Akwa Ibom State safe for their activities as their operations are now being tracked.
Social Development Integrated Centre (Social Action), a not-for-profit organization advocating for Open Government Partnership principles andsupported by MacArthur Foundation has trained the capacity of community agents to engage NDDC, track and monitor the implementation of NDDC projects in Akwa Ibom State.
The training which took place on Tuesday, July 13, 2021 witnessed community agents drawn from Civil Society Organisations, media, social activists and community stakeholders put heads together to design ways on how to eliminate corruption in the operations and system of the NDDC towards positioning it for effective service delivery.
According to the Programmes Coordinator of Social Action, Botti Isaac, the programme moves beyond capacity building to an agenda setting programme for citizens of Akwa Ibom State in order to devise methods of tracking the operations of NDDC as it relates to openness of her budget and project implementation.
He noted that the organisation has identified opacity in the operations of NDDC and poor project implementation as the problem militating against the success of the commission.
Isaac noted “We have identified key areas we will work on. In terms of openness, NDDC is not. If citizens are aware of what NDDC is doing, people will be able to engage them. The citizens are not privy to its budget. They cannot find NDDC budget anywhere except in their office. Of course even on NDDC’s website, it isn’t there.
” It shows that they are operating a closed system. They have to be open thus allow citizens to engage them and form a kind of symbiotic relationship that allows them benefit from citizens input and vice versa.”
The Programme Coordinator insisted that a closed system operated by NDDC is the reason there is high level corruption in the Commission since impunity thrives only in a closed system.
He explained that the workshop is geared towards equipping citizens with the understanding of the right thing to be done, how to access the budget of NDDC, how to track the award of contracts and implementation of the project.
On the problem of budget implementation, Isaac decried the level of abandoned project in the region noting that NDDC must cease serving as conduit pipe for corrupt contractors and officials of NDDC.
“You must have seen the forensic report that NDDC has over 12,000 abandoned projects and these are just special ones they have shown us because about last year, Premiumtimes did a special report and showed that there are about 24,000 abandoned projects.
“When you have these kind of abandoned project scattered across the region, you begin to ask yourself what happened to funds gone into these projects? So, you see that NDDC has become a conduit pipe. We need to work to bridge the gap so that subsequently we can begin to have a more responsible and effective NDDC that implements project to suit the needs of the people.”
Commenting on the ongoing forensic audit of the Commission, the Programme Coordinator said although the personalities behind the audit raise questions about the possibility of shielding some persons who are politically exposed, the report will still be appreciated as a milestone.
” On the surface, there should be some level of confidence in the forensic audit. But when we look at how the forensic audit was initiated, it was initiated by a Ministry which ordinarily was to oversight the Commission. But the head of the Ministry has been indicted in corruption related issues in the commission. This is the same person setting up and inviting corporate auditors to come and audit. So you should understand that that audit report will be a waste of time. It will not reveal the reality of what goes on in the system.
“However, half a loaf is better than none. Let’s see the report and citizens begin to work with the report. If it is a contractor that collected the money, then we begin going after them. But we know that that report will shield some persons who are politically exposed. This is because they know mentioning their name will cause a lot of damage. Although we lack confidence in that report, we believe it is still a milestone we can work with”.
He stated that a lot of mechanism have been put in place by the organisation to engage the citizens in readiness of the forensic report.
Isaac pointed out that when it is established that a contractor or official siphoned NDDC funds, they will work with Independent Corrupt Practices and Related Offences Commission (ICPC) and the Economic Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to track and bring such persons to justice even as they will use litigation processes to compel persons who try to circumvent justice to be responsible to the law.
The Programme Coordinator disclosed that so far, Social Action is in six states of the Niger Delta and will at the next stage of the project engage duty bearers; NDDC, ICPC, and Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) for collaborative engagement.