Do you agree that corruption in Nigeria is like a cancerous wound; the more one tries to treat it, the more it aggravates? Is there any government sector in Nigeria that is free from the corruption saga?

I recently dropped my pen, after writing an article on the travails of all EFCC chairs, titled, “WHEN THE HUNTER IS HUNTED” But I’m forced to take it up again to address another scandal; this time involving the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).

As the name goes, the NDDC was established for the development of the oil-rich Niger Delta regions. But it would seem that the Commission has derailed in its purpose.

If my position is not the case, why has the region, and the lives of the masses in it, not improved tremendously since the Commission was established? Why is the Commission still on rent, with an annual wastage of a whopping 200 million naira, despite the billions ceded every year to it? Why do people fight dirty to become key actors in the Commission?

But thanks to Joi Nunieh, the erstwhile Managing Director of the Commission, who recently decided to spread the dirty linens in the public. Thanks to her for bringing the naked dance into the public domain. Many have however criticized her for her bold and courageous action, by calling her names.

The truth is that she may not be totally free from some counter accusations for taking the bull by the horn. This is because as a human, she is finite, with her own limitations. In the meantime, there is reason to believe most of her allegations. We mustn’t forget that even rumours have elements of truth. We do hope the courts will be objective, and strong willed enough not to play into the hands of our desperate politicians, should the case end up in court.

Meanwhile, sitting before NDDC Probe Committee on July 20th, Akpabio nearly made a fool of himself, when he accused lawmakers of taking most of NDDC contracts. He soon withdrew some of his statements almost immediately, when he was asked to justify they claim.

Earlier before Akpabio, there was equally a mild drama when the acting Managing Director, Prof Kemebradikumo Daniel Pondei, slumped briefly before the probe panel. He had earlier on July 16th, walked out on the Probe Committee, while accusing the Chairman of the Committee, Olubumi Tunji-Ojo as a judge in his own case.

While some Nigerians have described the ‘fainting incident’, as a way to divert attention, others have rebutted the claim, saying that the acting Managing Director had been earlier advised by his Medical Doctor not to appear before the Panel on health grounds. Whatever the case may be, we wish him a speedy recovery.

In the meantime, Nigerians are waiting for the House of Representatives and the Senate to refute the weighty accusation against them. Within a space of three months, the National Assembly has been accused not less than three times. There are those who argue that with the weighty accusations leveled against them, it would seem that the lawmakers have become judges in their own case?

Let’s revisit the question of why the NDDC was established. Then we will move to the matters surrounding the alleged corruption in the Commission

The NDDC was established on June 5, 2000, during Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s tenure as President, barely a year after Nigeria returned to democracy. The aim was “to develop the oil-rich Niger Delta regions of Nigeria. Among other reasons, the Commission was set up to train and educate the youths of the oil-rich regions to end hostilities and militancy why focusing on the development of major infrastructures to promote diversification, and productivity”(see “NDDC,” Wikipedia). The regions include Abia, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Edo, Imo, Ondo, and Rivers.

During Umar Musa Yar’Adua’s tenure, precisely in September 2008, the formation of a Niger Delta Ministry was announced, and NDDC was made a parastatal under the ministry, so that it can oversee the Commission (cf. “Yar’Adua Creates Ministry of Niger Delta, by Juliana Taiwo, September 11th, 2008).

That said, let’s look at the recent happenings in the NDDC, which became subservient to the Niger Delta Ministry for the purpose of transparency, accountability, and positive results. How did its shameless dance has enter the public space?

In an interview with the press, recently, former Managing Director of the Commission, Joi Nunieh alleged that the Minister of Niger Delta, Godswill Akpabio, was the brain behind her remover; an allegation which Akpabio did not deny. The Minister explained his actions by saying that Joi was removed because of insubordination.

Going further in her allegations, Joi told journalists, “Nobody makes any payment to NDDC without Godswill Akpabio’s approval. When we first came, on the day of the inauguration, he said to me in the car; madam MD, if you don’t do what I say, the same pen with which I used to sign your papers is the same pen I will use to remove you…” (“NDDC: Former MD, Joi Nunieh Makes Damming Revelations About Buhari’s Minister Akpabio,“by John Owen Nwachckwu, Daily Post, July 11th, 2020).

According to Joi, she was removed because she refused to indulge in illicit sexual activities, and to cooperate in further milking the regions as requested by Akpabio. She went as far as saying on international TV that she slapped Godswill Akpabio in the face for sexual harassment.

On his part, Akpabio has so far responded to the damming allegations with a threat to take legal actions against her for defamation of character. But Nunieh seems undaunted by his threats. Since both parties are lawyers, they may hopefully settle their scores in a competent court of law.

With all that has trailed the Commission since its establishment, it is easy to deduce that it has done little or nothing for the raging youths of the Niger Delta. The Commission may have further impoverished the masses they were mandated to serve, continuing to milk the oil-rich regions dry, for selfish gains.

This dirty fight shows that every politics is local. But in this case, not for the good of the locals, but for selfish interests.

When one gets a political appointment in Nigeria, people want to know where he/she is from. Where the person comes from matters to those in the same region because they believe something positive may only come their region if their son or daughter was at the helm.

Perhaps this is why the NDDC chair and other major positions have been rotational among the regions of the Niger Delta. But sadly, the failure on the sides of the chairs, and other appointees to better the fortunes of the people in the Niger Delta region is proof that one’s real enemy is very often within.

To whom shall the stranded students of NDDC abroad cry to? To whom shall the people of the Niger Delta regions cry to, when their very problem is their own sons and daughters? What hope lies in wait for a better Niger Delta region in the near future?

These are questions that we must keep in mind as the saga unfolds.

It’s a shame!

© Israel GodsPower ANAWEOKHAI, MSP, July 20th, 2020.

Israel GodsPower ANAWEOKHAI is a Catholic Priest of the Missionary Society of St Paul. He is currently on mission in the Archdiocese of Douala, Cameroon.