Spotlight on Accountability: Social Action and the Niger Delta Development Commission

Social Action has consistently worked with determination to promote accountability in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC). We’ve recently released two key publications that highlight our progress in promoting transparency, accountability, and community involvement in the Niger Delta area.

Tools for Reform

The first publication, a policy brief titled “Policy Options for Addressing the Failure of the Niger Delta Development Commission,” represents the culmination of a year-long analysis of the Commission’s deficiencies and the subsequent formulation of potential remedies.

The policy brief serves a dual function. First, it exposes the challenges undermining the effectiveness of the NDDC, spotlighting the profound disconnect between the objectives of the Commission and its actual accomplishments. Second, it proposes targeted policy reforms designed to address these very concerns, empowering citizens, policymakers, and stakeholders with the knowledge and tools to navigate the path towards meaningful change.

In parallel, Social Action unveiled its annual “Citizens’ Report on Budgets and Projects Monitoring in the NDDC.” The report presents a meticulous analysis of the NDDC’s 2020 Budget, highlighting the intricacies of budgetary allocations to different Niger Delta states. It also chronicles the findings from comprehensive project monitoring exercises performed across selected Niger Delta states.

The primary goal of this report is to demystify the NDDC’s budgets and illuminate the realities of project implementation. By presenting a clear, comprehensive, and nuanced account of NDDC’s budgetary practices and allocations, the report is designed to spark public debate about ways to strengthen the NDDC’s budgetary process and promote more inclusive participation.

Citizens, lead by the AntiCorruption Network (AcoNET), amplifying their anticorruption message in markets and motor parks in Port Harcourt

The Power of the People: Fostering Community Engagement

Beyond the release of these enlightening publications, Social Action has been relentless in its mission to actively involve the public and beneficiary communities in the struggle for accountability in the NDDC. Recognizing the power of collective action, Social Action has made mobilizing communities in the Niger Delta a fundamental tenet of its strategy.

By leveraging years of support and training from Social Action, communities across the Niger Delta have been equipped with the necessary tools to demand transparency from the NDDC. Agents within these communities have engaged in vigilant monitoring of NDDC’s budget implementation. When their requests for access to budgets, procurement, and contracts documents were not met, these community agents resorted to the legal system, initiating public interest litigations targetting the NDDC, thereby setting a precedent for similar actions.

Comrade Osazee Edigin upbeat about the FOI as an effective tool to obtaining fiscal documents from the government
Comrade Osazee Edigin upbeat about the FOI as an effective tool to obtaining fiscal documents from the government

For Edigin Osaze from Edo State,  “ …taking the matter up to litigation level and how it immediately generates reactions from NDDC and seeing how they promptly send the requested budget document shows communities can use the Freedom of Information (FoI) laws to compel government agencies to respond to their demands. We need to do more of this.”

Courting Transparency: The Legal Path to Accountability

The fight for transparency has also led to the demand for the release of the Forensic Audit Report on the NDDC, commissioned by former president Muhammadu Buhari. One year after its submission, the details of the report are still withheld from the public, a fact that has spurred Social Action and its allies into action. Social Action’s accountability partners in states like Abia, Edo, Rivers and Delta have initiated public interest litigation demanding the release of the Forensic Audit Report. Court processes are at different stages in the states even as communities are being encouraged to take similar actions. Beyond litigation, there have been 18 petitions and 15 FoI requests from community groups targeting the NDDC. These actions have prompted an increased awareness among community members about using legal means to promote transparency and accountability.

Beyond Borders: Regional Accountability and the ECOWAS Court

In a bold move to expand the scope of their demand for transparency, Social Action, in collaboration with the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), filed a lawsuit at the ECOWAS Court. The suit urges the Nigerian federal government to prosecute all those implicated in the misappropriation of NDDC funds as detailed in the Forensic Audit Report. This legal manoeuvre marks an escalation in the fight for accountability, extending the battlefield from the national stage to the regional theatre.   The case has witnessed two adjournments, with the defendant not appearing in court.

The Ongoing Voyage: A Commitment to Change

Social Action’s innovative publications and community mobilization initiatives underscore our unyielding commitment to transparency and accountability within the NDDC. These efforts are a testament to the organization’s dedication to supporting community actions to ensure public finance accountability.

It’s a formidable challenge, but Social Action continues to confront it head-on, bolstered by their unwavering belief in the power of informed, engaged, and mobilized citizens. Through tireless advocacy, strategic legal action, and public empowerment, Social Action is not only navigating the murky waters of the NDDC’s accountability issues but is also charting the course towards a brighter, more transparent future for the Niger Delta and Nigeria.