THE Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) may soon be history following plans to transfer its functions to the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs.
The planned scrapping of the agency is part of the efforts by the government to increase the pace of development in the oil producing Southsouth.
The Nation gathered yesterday in Abuja that under the planned restructuring, the ministry will assume the functions of the NDDC.
A highly placed official of the ministry told The Nation that the unfolding process is largely responsible for the delay in reconstituting the NDDC board.
Although the scrapping of the NDDC was not part of the recommendations of the forensic auditors, it was gathered that the Federal Government has lost confidence in the ability of the commission as currently constituted to deliver on the mandate of developing the oil bearing states.
The Presidency, the source said, was considering bringing the NDDC directly under the President’s supervision or transferring its functions to the ministry.
The delay in reconstituting the NDDC board has caused some concerns in the Southsouth with ex-militants threatening, at some point, to resort to violence if the board was not announced immediately.
The threat forced Niger Delta Affairs Minister, Godswill Akpabio, to travel to Delta State for meeting with stakeholders to appeal to them for patience.
The NDDC was established in 2000 by the administration of President Olusegun Obasanjo in response to the demands of the people of the area to care for their special needs.
It was charged with the specific responsibilities of formulating policies and guidelines for the development of the Niger Delta; conception, planning and implementation, in accordance with set rules and regulations, of projects and programs for sustainable development of the area in the field of transportation including roads, jetties and waterways, health, employment, industrialization, agriculture and fisheries, housing and urban development, water supply, electricity and telecommunications; and preparing master plans and schemes designed to promote the physical development of the region and the estimation of the member states of the commission, among others.
The NDDC itself had taken over the functions of the Oil Mineral Producing Areas Development Commission (OMPADEC) which was set up in 1992 by the Babangida military regime.
Eight years after the establishment of NDDC, the late President Umaru Yar Adua created the Niger Delta Ministry, with the commission as a parastatal under it.
However, the NDDC has failed to meet the yearnings of the people who kept asking questions about what happened to the N16trillion allocated to it in 18 years without commensurate results.
The forensic audit report submitted to President Muhammadu Buhari on September 2, 2021, recommended the abolition of mobilization payment to contractors and the employment of the services of professional project consultants to ensure accurate supervision and valuation of projects.
It was also recommended that the Commission should adopt a standard for costing contracts with appropriate profit margin.
Buhari, had shortly after receiving the forensic report from the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, said government was particularly concerned by the colossal losses occasioned by uncompleted and unverified development projects in the Niger Delta region, in spite of the huge resources made available to uplift the living standard of the citizens.
He vowed that the Federal Government would initiate criminal investigations, prosecution and funds recovery against contractors, firms and politicians indicted by the forensic audit report.
According to him, the government will apply the law to remedy the deficiencies outlined in the audit report.
In his words, “the report on the forensic audit of the NDDC and your recommendations will therefore be critically analysed for necessary action and implementation. We owe it a duty to the people of the Niger Delta region to improve their standard of living through the provision of adequate infrastructural and socio-economic development.”
However, when contacted, the Director of Press at the Niger Delta Affairs Ministry, Doworitsh Patricia, said she was not aware of any plan to merge the Commission with the Ministry.