Between 2008 and 2018, about N90.9 billion meant to execute 176 projects was unaccounted for in the coffers of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), a review of the auditor-general’s reports has shown.
The discovery was made through the review and analysis of the data from the 2008-2012 and 2013–2018 audit reports on NDDC as well as on-ground assessment of the project sites.
The review, by a coalition led by the Paradigm Leadership Support Initiative, detailed how, in the span of ten years, series of procurement infractions undermine the infrastructural mandate of the NDDC, which has left many projects abandoned, some poorly implemented or not executed at all.
This breach of the procurement law includes how some contractors were paid for jobs not executed without the money being recovered from the said contractors, or the contractor being blacklisted or referred to an anti-corruption agency.
NDDC draws funds for its projects from the annual statutory allocations from the federal government, as well as three per cent royalty of the total annual budget of oil companies in the country, as well as grants from international organisations.
The interventionist agency has received about $40 billion for capital projects since its inception in 2000 but has failed to realize its 15-year master plan pinned on bridging the infrastructural gaps in Nigeria’s oil-rich Niger Delta.
The agency has, as a result, been embroiled in allegations of corruption which has led to a series of probes by both Houses of the National Assembly as well as an order by President Muhammadu Buhari to carry out a forensic audit on the agency’s finances.
Demand for accountability
In a statement released Tuesday, the coalition called on the National Assembly public accounts committees and anti-corruption agencies, EFCC and ICPC, to investigative and recover the funds.
The executive director of Paradigm Leadership Support Initiative, Olusegun Elemo, who spoke on behalf of the coalition, noted that they are in possession of pictorial evidence and the identity of the erring companies and the beneficial ownership details.
“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,” he said.
“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,” he noted.
The deputy manager of BudgIT, Tolutope Agunloye, corroborated this by saying that over N500 billion was earmarked as statutory allocation to improve the development of the Niger Delta region between 2008 and 2018.
“However, the current state of some communities is not representative of this allocation. Many communities do not have potable water due to water pollution,” he said.
“Likewise, there is no effective healthcare system nor a suitable environment to advance quality education for children in that region.”
The country director, Accountability Lab, Friday Odeh, raised concerns about the unfinished forensic audit ordered by President Buhari since October 2019.
He urged Nigerians to charge the nation’s anti-corruption agencies to act and bring erring officials to book.
Coming under the aegis of the Civil Society Coalition on Audit in Nigeria (CSCAN), the coalition includes 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).