THE ARREST OF MRS PATRICIA ETTEH AND MR NSIMA EKERE OVER NDDC CONTRACT SCAM AND FRAUD; A STEP IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION: SOCIAL ACTION CALLS FOR MORE INVESTIGATION AND PROSECUTION OF ALLEGED CORRUPT PUBLIC OFFICIALS, AND THE INAUGURATION OF THE NDDC BOARD.
The news of the arrest of a former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mrs. Patricia Etteh, and Mr. Nsima Ekere a former Managing Director of the NDDC by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in connection with NDDC contract scam and fund diversion is a welcome development. Mrs. Etteh was arrested in connection with an N240 million contract scam while Mr. Ekere was arrested on Wednesday 18 May, 2022 in connection with the diversion of N47billion. Mrs. Etteh’s arrest was over an unexplainable N130 million transferred to her personal account from Phil Jin Project Limited, a firm that was awarded the N240millon contract by the NDDC. Mr. Ekere on the other hand was alleged to have diverted funds through registered contractors. It would be recalled that President Muhammadu Buhari in 2019 had ordered the forensic audit of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) due to public outburst over the monstrous corruption and impunity going on in the NDDC. These two arrests are indications that no corrupt public officials will go unpunished.
Alone commends the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for taking the bold step of arresting both Mrs. Patricia Etteh and Mr. Nsima Ekere in connection with NDDC contract fraud and outright corruption. This shows that the government is not resting on its oars in bringing corrupt public officials to book. While reacting to the development, the Programmes Coordinator of Alone, Isaac Botti lauds the development and calls on the anti-graft agency to extend its searchlight on every other person(s) who have been alleged to be involved in the series of corruption scandals that the commission has been enmeshed. He noted that Mrs. Etteh and Mr. Nsima Ekere are not the only public officials who are involved in NDDC corruption; there are still many out there who have been involved in the flagrant mismanagement of the public resources allocated to the NDDC and are still enjoying the proceed of corruption. We, therefore, call on the EFCC and ICPC to go after all others who have been fingered in the outrageous corruption being perpetrated in the NDDC whether they are contractors, management members of NDDC (past or present), members of the National Assembly (past or present), and politicians.
Alone further calls on President Muhammadu Buhari to take decisive actions towards repositioning the NDDC for effective and inclusive service delivery and to better the lot of the people of the Niger Delta region. The NDDC has over the years fallen short of its mandate of bringing development to the Niger Delta region. This is a result of the endemic corruption that has brought about the wastage of over N15trillion that has accrued to the commission. While the president has taken the first step towards institutionalizing probity in the commission by ordering the forensic audit of its record from 2001 to 2019, it is only important to act on the report of the forensic audit and mandate an immediate and urgent investigation into the misappropriation of monies spent on abandoned projects across the region. The findings of the forensic report should not be ignored if anything is to be achieved in the fight against corruption in the NDDC. We call on Mr. President to be mindful of his body language toward the impunity in NDDC so as not to inadvertently embolden perpetrators of corruption in the NDDC. A major way to achieving this is for the NDDC Forensic Audit Report to be published- ensuring that all aspects of the Forensic Audit report are made available to the public and decisive actions are taken with all sense of responsibility.
Alone also calls for an immediate end to the illegality in the appointment of interim management to run the affairs of the Commission. This illegality according to Isaac, has contributed in no small measure to the level of impunity going on in the NDDC. We condemn in strong terms the practice of interim management because it runs contrary to the provision of the NDDC Act. We call on President Muhammadu Buhari to without further delay constitute the substantive board of the NDDC as this will help strengthen supervision around the operation of the NDDC. We call on Mr. President to leave no stone unturned in ensuring that the NDDC is put on the path of transparency and accountability for posterity’s sake.