The President, Citizens Quest for Truth Initiative, Oby Christy Ndukwe was at the just concluded two day Senate investigative public hearing on NDDC, not as observers, but as stakeholders, advocacy group that has taken a tour of NDDC states for the past two years. She spoke to journalists in the National Assembly after the hearing. Haruna Salami was there for Newsdiary Online. Excerpts.
“I think I can make bold to say that we are the only one that has gone round NDDC project sites in the past two years. If there is any group that has what it takes to make suggestions and recommendations, I think we actually do and not those that merely exist on papers and television manufacturing papers here and there. They have to back it up with physical evidence. We have them in audio and video too.
The invitation extended to us was to make our submission, which we did.
“Our findings on the alleged financial recklessness by the Interim Management Committee, IMC of the NDDC, for the past 19 years, the interventionist agency (NDDC) has not lived up to people’s expectations, but one will recall that when it started, it had to cope with the issue of youth restiveness and I think that was their major focus.
Now, that has been contained to a reasonable extent and we have moved from there to actual provision of infrastructural amenities. But we are saying we need to move beyond those one kilometre road repairs and begin to see mega projects, regional projects, presidential legacy projects. Unfortunately from our findings, those who are meant to oversight NDDC are involved in what major stakeholders, not just from the Niger , but from across the country see as problem. I have said it before on live TV, the richest civil servant in NDDC is from the North.
What we are saying is, it is not about the Niger Delta people alone. The President has said let us go for the forensic audit, let us find out what happened, why we didn’t get it right and from there we move to the next level.
When this call for a probe came for IMC, we said no, this will stall what they are doing at the forensic audit. We expected that they ought to have allowed the forensic audit for the 19 year period to take place first before we look at the six months of the IMC. So, nobody can actually say if the NDDC has mismanaged funds or not. Of course, there is malfeasance or whatever, but the only way you can find out is from the report of the forensic audit.
Even before we started Citizens Quest, as a journalist who is in the Niger Delta and who is from the region, with a burden in the past 25 years, I have sufficient evidence on the goings-on in the NDDC.
We came and made our submissions to the two houses based on the advert, but unfortunately, when we came here it looked like the whole setting was different from what they actually wanted. That notwithstanding, we were able to make it clear that this probe shouldn’t have been since there is a forensic audit of 19 years going on; that is a presidential order and you are doing a probe of six months.
“We are not in support of the probe pending when the forensic auditors complete their job. We saw people who came to the probe with all manner of papers, but they never said they went to the project sites to see things for themselves, to verify. Citizens Quest has gone round the project sites and can say over 90% of of IMC submissions are in order.
“I’m aware that even the two chairmen of Committees incharge of NDDC (Senate and House) are accused of being involved in the sleaze. How do you sit down to begin to probe someone else? You are probing a system you are accused, who is going to probe you? You don’t build a wall around yourself and say nobody is going to ask questions and you are ready to ask others questions. With due respect to the Senate President, he was able to bring other senators into the ad-hoc committee, I tell you the politics of PDP, APC still played out