Communique of the Regional Accountability Conference 2022: Beyond the Forensic Audit – Repositioning the Niger Delta Development Commission for Inclusive and Effective Service Delivery
Social Development Integrated Centre (Social Action) with support from the MacArthur Foundation successfully organized the 2022 Regional Accountability Conference with the theme, Beyond the Forensic Audit – Repositioning the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) for inclusive and effective service delivery. The conference, which was held at Visa Karena Hotels, Port-Harcourt, Rivers State, on Thursday, February 24, 2022, was attended by various stakeholders from anti-corruption agencies and committees, traditional rulers, civil society groups, community groups, and the Media.
The conference made available space for open conversation and inquiry into the activities of the NDDC as an agency in response to the cry of the distressed people of the Niger Delta and to draw the attention of the Federal Government to the deteriorating state of infrastructure and socio-economic development of the oil-producing areas of Nigeria. The Niger Delta region, which spans nine states, is littered with abandoned projects. The federal government commissioned a forensic audit of the Commission. However, the crucial report of the forensic audit is yet to be made public months after it was presented to President Muhammadu Buhari.
The Conference featured the public unveiling of the Citizens Report on Budgets and Projects of the Niger Delta Development Commission – produced by Social Action with the support of the MacArthur Foundation. The document was aptly appraised at the event by Dr. Osasu Isibor Ekpen – General Secretary, Oil Producing Host Communities.
Beyond the Forensic Audit – Repositioning the Niger Delta Development Commission for Inclusive and Effective Service Delivery.
The conference reviewed the performance of the Niger Delta Development Commission after 20 years of operation with over 13,000 projects initiated and over 15 trillion naira spent. The conference concluded that considering the level of impact and development of the Niger Delta and the quality of life of its people, the NDDC has failed woefully.
A panel discussion was held on “How effective collaboration between NDDC, CSOs, and anti-graft agencies can help reposition the NDDC for accountability, inclusive and effective service delivery”. The discussion which drew very candid contributions from participants, opening up different perspectives to the issue, observed the following:
- There are very many projects that were never started across the Niger Delta region but with payments fully made.
- The indictments of some Niger Delta senators of malfeasance in the awards and execution of projects through the revelations made are heartbreaking.
- The alleged perpetrators of misappropriation of public funds are not brought to answer to allegations levelled against them.
- Niger Delta Development Commission personnel have been compromised and therefore can’t speak against the misappropriation and infraction committed by corrupt contractors and public officers.
- Some of the identified corruption cases in the Niger Delta Development Commission were not committed by foreigners but by some privileged indigenes of the region.
- There is a huge state of secrecy in the operations of the Niger Delta Development Commission
- There is a deliberate mystification in the Niger Delta Development Commission.
- The Presidency and the National Assembly has failed in their oversight functions over the NDDC
- There have been twenty years of total abuse of the opportunity given to the region.
- Some traditional rulers, youths and community members also have their fair share of the blame for their complacency and compromise in under-developing the Niger Delta.
- Most projects constructed by the Niger Delta Development Commission are below specification.
- There is no access to the complete master plan of the Niger Delta Development Commission.
- Citizens of the Niger Delta give up too quickly.
- Existing laws concerning transparency and accountability of public office holders and private contract scammers are not strengthened and enforceable.
- There is neither balance nor synergy between traditional rulers, elders in council, and the members of the communities in monitoring projects sited in their domains.
- Sensitizations and Need Assessments are not carried out before projects are awarded.
The conference made recommendations as follows:
- That the President Mohammadu Buhari constitute the substantive board of the NDDC immediately.
- The Forensic Report on the NDDC should be made public immediately and those found wanting to be prosecuted accordingly to serve as a deterrent to the current actors.
- That the representation of members of Civil Society Organizations be included in the board of the NDDC.
- A bottom-up approach for project identification and design must be observed and led by members of host communities.
- There should be effective and increased community sensitization and mobilization and this must be executed with all seriousness.
- A monitoring and supervising team should be formed by community leaders to ensure that projects in these communities are effectively and efficiently executed.
- Traditional institutions must live up to their roles and make it a point of duty to invite legislators and other state actors to account for projects awarded.
- Projects shouldn’t be designed at the NDDC headquarter but there should be needs assessment as identified by members of the communities and a clear plan before being awarded.
- Niger Delta Youths should participate effectively and engage in the execution of projects in the communities.
- All those involved in the non-execution of projects in the Niger Delta region must be brought to book to show there is accountability in Nigeria.
- There must be value for money, an effective procurement process, efficiency in the use of scarce resources, and transparency in the award of contracts.
- Contractors of Niger Delta willing to partake in NDDC contracts must endeavour to acquire the necessary qualifications and requirements needed to bid for contracts.
- NDDC must employ effective procurement processes in order to meet global best practices.
- Budgets must be prepared with the involvement of host communities and not imposed on them.
- Local contractors must have the first choice of refusal based on project identification as needed by the communities.
- Qualified contractors who are members of these communities should be employed in accordance with the local content provision law.
- Contractors should only be paid after project validation and certain milestones have been achieved.
- Anti-corruption agencies must take the initiative to carry out investigations and ensure prosecution of those found culpable.
- Quality attention must be paid by citizens to what is been done in the NDDC and must ask relevant questions.
- There must be continuous engagement, sensitization, and collaboration amongst Anti-graft agencies, CSOs, Government agencies, traditional leaders, and youth groups.
- The NDDC should have a system void of politics and a new set of developmental projects crafted.
- Civil Society Coalition should be formed to monitor NDDC project in the different affected state
- Gender inclusion in the activities and development plans and projects executed by the NDDC
Participants agreed that every effort geared towards the repositioning of the NDDC should have the support of the Anti-graft agencies and there is a need for the people of the Niger Delta to own the fight against corruption. It was also noted that the NDDC may not remain or be relevant for too long and therefore the remaining years of the NDDC lifetime should be utilized effectively for the development of the people. The conference strongly believed corruption thrived in a monumental magnitude in the NDDC because of lack of retribution. People are not held accountable for outright theft, fraud or collusion to defraud the people and so corruption has kept the people in perpetual under-development
The citizens of the Niger Delta have to follow the money to ensure that projects across the region are successfully executed. Success can only be recorded through effective collaboration with Anti-Corruption agencies as it is a collective responsibility.
|Social Action||Vivian Bello, Project Coordinator|
|Partners||Niger Delta Budget and Citizens Platform,
Guild of Community Development. Advocate in Akwa Ibom State,
Rivers State Anticorruption Network,
Delta Civil Society Network,
Imo NDDC Advocates,
Ondo Budget Transparency and Accountability Platform (OBTAP)
Better Common Life Initiative (BECOLIN).
Civil Rights Council (CRC)