Auditing the auditors
The presidency must save the NDDC from Abuja powerful forces
The Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) has glazed headlines with tears. It is the tears of scandal. It is also a cesspool of corruption paradox.
Since the Buhari Administration set up a board that went through the normal process and the Senate appended its honour in the form of an approval, the interventionist agency intended to save a fraught region is indeed in the dire need of being saved.
The messiah is crying for redemption. The Federal Government reversed its own decision and set aside the board, decided to set up an interim body to audit the organisation. It was put in place in controversial circumstances that undermined the integrity of the Senate.
The idea was that the corruption level was so bad it required a cleansing. The task of purifier would not be done by a new board but by an interim audit. The logic was that the board could not cleanse itself, but an outsider would do it. The thinking was naïve by the Federal Government but tendentious by those who sold it to the presidency.
But behind all of this, according to NDDC insiders, are some people, who subverted the process of installing a proper and constitutionally set-up board.
To head the interim management committee (IMC) was Joy Nunieh who found out that these powerful forces did not stand behind her because they perceived their interests were not analogous.
Since they did not stand with her, she decided to stand against them. So bad was the exchange that an allegation of death threat spun the narrative into a zero-sum affair.
The first story was the award of billions of Naira for the clearing of water hyacinth, an absurd affair made even worse because it was alleged that the decision did not follow due process.
That was a prelude to a state of putrescence that would make the whole prophecy of the IMC look timid given the scale of corruption and audacity of it. It turned out that Nunieh could not reconcile her work with those in the presidency and she was let go.
That did not stop the story of bad taste in the commission . The flavour gets bitter on the public palate with petitions in the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC).
The Senate is investigating the spending of N40 billion in a bare two months which some say did not follow the Fiscal Responsibility Act. There have been allegations of “emergency jobs,” de-silting contracts and a web of deals.
Some people have been separated from their jobs on the guise that they are inimical to the audit work in the agency. The agency has found itself in a terrible situation. Abuja has turned the place into an enemy territory to staff who have acquired institutional memory.
So, the audit itself now needs an audit. To make matters worse, the presidency extended the work of the committee for another six months.
This is a sort of carte blanche for new rounds of scandal. It is like opening the door for extension of contracts. Is the IMC to audit or to do the work of the commission? It seems the mandate confuses the public.
The presidency must save the NDDC and the region. It must get rid of powerful forces standing in the way.