NDDC: Cleansing The Augean Stables
Recently, the Chairman of the COVID-19 Palliatives Distribution Committee of the
Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), High Chief Soboma Jackrich, cracked the atmosphere, saying the N6.2 billion approved by the Presidency as palliative to the oil region was diverted. He called for Senate’s probe again.
Jackrich, in a 12-paragraph petition dated August 3, 2020, sent to the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan and Speaker, House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, averred that the N6.2billion scam was different from N1.5 billion relief funds shared to over 4,000 workers of the commission and high command of the Nigeria Police Force by the Interim Management Committee (IMC) in April this year.
He said: “Today, all of that can be regrettably described as a show of shame and a scam. The N6.2 billion that was magnanimously approved by Mr. President to help the poor and indigents of the Niger Delta during this difficult period of the pandemic as palliatives has curiously been misappropriated and embezzled by the IMC of the NDDC and their co-conspirators.
“As the Chairman of the Palliatives Distribution Committee, my finding is not only that the money cannot be accounted for, but there is nothing on ground to show that N6.2 billion of our hard-earned tax payers’ money was invested for its original purpose, which the President approved,” Jackrich said.
Reacting to the allegation, the NDDC said the chairman knew nothing because the action was taken over by state governors who allegedly insisted on distributing the palliatives in their states. “Only two of the nine oil states are controlled by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) that approved the fund and runs the commission. The other states are controlled by the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the governors wanted to decide the distribution activity,” NDDC spokesman, Charles Odili, said.
Ironically, since the probe of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) began few weeks ago,various allegations and counter-allegations have been flying across tables on the financial operations of the commission.
Shocking beyond words, is the revelation that the commission spent N81.5 billion in eight months without tangible project to point to. A breakdown of the expenditure as claimed by the commission showed that N1.3 billion was expended on community relations; N122.9 million on condolences; N83 million on consultancy, N3.14 billion on Covid-19; N486 million on Duty Tour Allowance (DTA); N790.9 million on Imprest; and N1.956 billion on Lassa fever.
Also other frivolous expenses were legal services, maintenance, overseas travel, Project Public Communication, security, staff-related payment and stakeholders’ engagement, all of which gulped a whooping N11.313 billion.
The Tide is saddened that the NDDC management since inception has made mockery of the dearth of infrastructural development in the Niger Delta region with hundreds of irrelevant and uncompleted projects that litter the region, yet, an Interim Management Committee set up to oversee the commission all through the period which the forensic audit ordered by President Muhammadu Buhari would take place, after the previous management was sacked for financial irregularities, would be enmeshed in similar financial mess.
In response to the agitation by the people of the region since independence, for government attention to environmental degradation, insecurity, oil bunkering and other forms of crimes heightened by lack of education, skilled labour and empowerment for the youth, the NDDC was established by Act 6, 2000 as a successor to the defunct Oil Minerals Producing Areas Development Commission (OMPADEC) to among other things ‘‘formulate guidelines for the development of the Niger Delta’’ and ‘‘conceive, plan and implement, in accordance with set rules and regulations, projects and programmes for the sustainable development of the Niger Delta region in the areas of transportation, including roads, jetties and waterways, health, education, employment, industrialisation, agriculture and fisheries, housing and urban development, water supply, electricity and telecommunications.’’
For this reason, the sum of N15.34 trillion has been received by NDDC since its inception. Sadly, the NDDC, which was created as a response to intense agitations have fallen into the hands of unscrupulous political appointees who scramble for positions only for their personal interests.
It is rather shameful that 20 years after the commission was set up by former President Olusegun Obasanjo to empower restive youths in the region and provide infrastructural development, the region has long deviated from its core mandate and become a milking cow by politicians, civil servants and contractors.
For a region that produces the oil that provides revenue and foreign exchange for which the Nigerian tripod stands, that the Niger Delta is littered with abandoned projects and half-baked infrastructures that dilapidate as days run into months, is regrettable, to say the least.
It is against this backdrop, therefore, that The Tide supports the forensic audit and urges the panel to leave no stone unturned in the discharge of its assignment. We demand that the forensic probe must get to the bottom of the institution’s corruption morass.
We demand that all politicians must be made to give way and allow independent experts check NDDC’s books since it was founded and tell the public how the trillions of naira voted for the development of the Niger Delta were spent.
We also urge President Muhammadu Buhari to make the findings of the audit public. The NDDC must be run on a new, transparent and accountable template that delivers results. The forensic audit is a task that must be done to cleanse the commission’s Augean Stables.
Rivers @ 56, Still A Tough Journey
Tomorrow, the 27th of May, marks the 56th anniversary of the creation of Rivers State by the former Head of
State, General Yakubu Gowon (rtd). The creation of the state on the aforementioned date in 1967, underlined a significant and successful effort to protect and secure the interests of minorities in Nigeria. Additionally, it represented a vital challenge to the political power structures of the four regions at that time, namely the Northern, Western, Eastern, and Mid-Western regions.
The founding of 12 States was one of the most audacious and remarkable initiatives of the military regime. This resolution was indicative of Nigerians’ desire to gain enhanced autonomy and self-determination. The development reflects one of Gowon’s most deeply held intentions for his initiative. This was to ameliorate the often-expressed fear of regional hegemony of the South by the North in the nation’s political affairs. As a result, the introduction of balance in the regional order through the creation of six Northern states and six Southern states was carefully considered.
The 12 states were North-Western State, North-Eastern State, Kano State, North-Central State, Benue-Plateau State, Kwara State, Western State, Lagos State, Mid-Western State, Rivers State, South-Eastern State, and East-Central State. However, the 12 states have since metamorphosed into 36 federated units, giving new and more fundamental relevance to Gowon’s definitive action.
Gowon’s desire to strengthen national unity and prevent more instability led him to seek support for the states’ creation exercise from an extensive cross-section of regional leaders before declaring the enacted order. In the Eastern Region, the whimper for the creation of the Calabar – Ogoja – Rivers (COR) State had risen increasingly vocal. In the North, the Middle Belt movement became a major source of dissatisfaction in the region.
The battle, agitations, and creation of Old Rivers State, now Bayelsa and Rivers, commenced in 1939 and climaxed in 1967. The state as constituted then was under the Eastern group of provinces in 1939 with administrative headquarters in Enugu. The group of provinces later became the Eastern Region of Nigeria, made up of Igbos, as the dominant ethnic nationality with other minorities comprising the region. The minorities included the Ijaw, Ibibio, Efik, Anang, Ogoja, Ikwerre, Ibani, Ekpeye, Engenni, Ogba, Kalabari, Nembe, and Ogoni, among others.
Rivers State in the Niger Delta region is unique. Popularly known as the Treasure Base of the Nation, the state’s uniqueness is not random. The abundance of human and natural resources coupled with its people’s hospitality, makes the state stand shoulder-high among its contemporaries. Gowon’s proclamation of a distinct state was, indeed, a realisation of the vision of the founding fathers. These fathers over several decades, bemoaned the marginalisation by prominent ethnic groups in the Nigerian project. This was particularly the Igbos, who cohabited the then Eastern Region with its capital in Enugu.
Starting with its first Military Governor, Navy Commander Alfred Papapriye Diete-Spiff in 1967 to the present administration of Governor Nyesom Wike, successive administrations, both military and civilian alike, have made significant contributions to making the State the enviable one it is today. From the creation of Bayelsa State in 1996 to the exponential growth in the education sector, human capital development, infrastructural revolution, health sector development, national political relevance, active participation in the global economic renaissance and bold presence on the world entertainment stage, Rivers State can indeed be said to have come of age.
Perhaps, except for the epoch of the pioneer administration, at no other time in history has the State experienced such a level of transformation of its landscape as is being realised under the present administration. From an extensive urban regeneration effort that has seen the rebuilding of state-owned assets and city roads to meet present-day needs and the building of 12 new flyovers to the vast road infrastructure being built in all parts of the State, the exiting Wike’s administration is truly working hard to realise the objectives of the State’s founding fathers.
By the efforts of the state government, Opobo and some adjoining communities have been made accessible to the state capital by road. The same fortune is being enjoyed by erstwhile disconnected people of the Kalabari Kingdom through the completion of the first phase of the Trans-Kalabari Road. By the same token, a courageous move has been initiated to create more urban centres in Rivers State. This is done through the siting of Rivers State University campuses in Etche, Ahoada and Emohua.
The political class in the State, in particular, must utilise this event of the 56th anniversary of the state’s creation to evaluate and determine to eschew bitterness, rancour and acrimony and work with the in coming administration. The struggle for Rivers State achieved the desired results because the Rivers political elite, traditional rulers and the youth of the time shared a rare and uncommon sense of oneness, purpose, selflessness and indeed drive for service to the fatherland.
That widely acclaimed Rivers’ spirit of love and commitment to selfless service has waned significantly, leaving in its stead, a threat to public peace activated by political greed, selfishness and an unguided quest for personal and sectional aggrandisement far and above love for the State. The clarion call is, therefore, for leaders at all strata to introspect and purge themselves of all tendencies that are inimical to the overall development and prosperity of the State.
We must remind ourselves, especially the political class, that it took selfless sacrifices, personal denials and unrelenting activism from foundational leaders for the State to be created. This was achieved for us in the state we now call home. All must, therefore, embrace peace, tolerance, and true brotherliness and seek civil and lawful means to address all grievances and disagreements. This is because strife, violent confrontations and aggressive engagements will only destroy the time-enduring bonds of togetherness that have bound our people for years.
The founding fathers’ relentless struggle to question the imbalance and injustice of the Nigerian Federation remains the philosophy behind the state’s creation. Their mission and vision was to ensure Rivers State’s pride of place in Nigeria. The question remains, however, whether that vision has been achieved or not. More than any other time in our history, the need to re-enact and revive the values, sentiments, philosophies, and spirit that formed the driving force of the founding fathers to victory is now.
The Tide extends its heartfelt congratulations to the esteemed government and people of Rivers State on the auspicious occasion of the 56th anniversary of the state’s creation. It is imperative that all stakeholders rally together to pursue the common goal of ensuring that the state remains a safe haven, where security, peace, prosperity, and unimpeded opportunities for happiness reign supreme for all its inhabitants and the business community.
NYSC Is 50 Today
The National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) was established in May, 1973 by General Yakubu Gowon (rtd) to promote national integration after the civil war. Today marks its 50-year anniversary, and we congratulate its administration, staff, and all Nigerians who have participated in the one-year mandatory programme for graduates of tertiary institutions. Over the past five decades, the scheme has remained committed and become a vital agency of national integration among our institutions.
The NYSC has played a crucial role in our country’s development by providing quality manpower to less privileged states. This has been achieved through various partnerships with other organisations. These partnerships include using corps members for enumeration work during the national population census. They also include presiding officers during national elections, and deployment for routine immunisation. These contributions have positively impacted the country’s development.
Also, the health sector has benefited greatly from the scheme. This has successfully reversed the spread of HIV/AIDS, Ebola, and COVID-19 through awareness campaigns and public education on prevention and care. The service has also made vital impacts in other areas such as education, legal aid services, anti-corruption efforts, road safety awareness, and campaigns against drug abuse and human trafficking.
Gowon’s administration established a quasi-military plan for Nigerian university graduates to learn about their country’s people, history, culture, and geography. The scheme was initially opened to graduates under 30 with degrees from universities, polytechnics, and colleges of education. Specifically, those with BA/BSc, HND, and NCE were mobilised. Prospective corps members were assigned to states other than their origin.
The orientation included military and citizenship training, as well as lectures on Nigerian culture. Entrepreneurship training was added later. Following the one-month orientation, participants were assigned to their primary postings based on their qualifications. Medical doctors assigned to hospitals and other health facilities, engineers to construction firms and the Ministry of Works, and teachers to schools.
Corps members were assigned to universities, polytechnics, and education colleges. University and polytechnic graduates received N200 monthly allowance, while college of education graduates received N160. However, after NCE holders expressed their grievances over the discrimination, they were no longer eligible for the scheme after the 1984/85 service year. Hence, only HND and university graduates were recruited for the mandatory one-year service.
The programme facilitated the cohabitation of Nigerian youths from varying tribes and ethnicities, effectively eradicating prejudices and stereotypes towards different regions of the country. The NYSC initiative played a part in mitigating the war aftermath and fostering national unity among Nigerians. In addition to intertwining inter-ethnic relationships, it also brought about several inter-ethnic marriages and novel friendships.
It facilitates a sense of national identity among Nigerian citizens, transcending their ethnic and religious backgrounds. Prospective corps members expressed satisfaction at being appointed to serve in any given state. They similarly demonstrated patriotism by embracing their designated primary assignment place.
However, since the NYSC has been around for 50 years, it is essential to evaluate its implementation to determine its future. As with any intervention initiative, scheme or programme, the agency’s continued existence, modification, or outright scrapping should be considered. A thorough appraisal of the NYSC’s impact, benefits, and challenges will provide insight into its effectiveness and relevance in today’s society.
It is pertinent to recognise recent obstacles that have hindered the service, diminished its attractiveness, and undermined its purpose. Only 5.7 million Nigerians have participated so far, which highlights individuals evading responsibilities in a country where many graduate from tertiary institutions yearly. Some continue to question the programme’s value, and a bill proposed two years ago to terminate the initiative passed its second reading in the House of Representatives.
While we support the NYSC ideals, we believe reform is necessary to align with current requirements. Our proposed reform focuses on security, funding, branding, content, and structure. It also focuses on major milestones in corps members’ lives such as mobilisation, orientation, primary assignments, community development, and passing out.
Management should prioritise sorting out deployment issues to assist urgent national needs. This will lead to better manpower deployment, enhanced contribution to national development, improved self-esteem of corps members, no rejecting or underutilisation, and ultimately restore the spirit of public service.
It is a fact that corps members are sometimes discriminated against in postings to states and places of primary assignment. This discrimination is often based on their tribe and religion. That must be checked. Furthermore, the remuneration of N33,000 provided to a corpes member is inadequate when converted into its US dollar equivalent. This is therefore insufficient to meet the monthly expenses of a ‘corper’. It is recommended that President Muhammadu Buhari endorse the reviewed allowance awaiting his approval before leaving office.
Fifty years after its inception, Nigerian unity has diminished. The country is now more divided than when the scheme was launched. In the 2023 general election, individuals were openly disenfranchised in some states because of their ethnic identities. Without immediate action to prevent further division, Nigeria’s political landscape will only become more divisive.
As the NYSC celebrates its 50th anniversary, it is necessary to remember corps members who have lost their lives or suffered permanent injuries during their service. Despite challenges, the programme has been a huge success in Nigeria. To address financial hurdles, the trust fund bill has been approved by both the Senate and House of Representatives. Swift endorsement of the bill will promote youth empowerment and bridge the deficit.
Upscaling National Asset Protection
The Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) convened a meeting to reinforce the policy for safeguarding Critical National Assets and Infrastructure (CNAI) within Nigeria.
The validation exercise involved key collaborators who examined the draft Critical National Assets and Infrastructure National Protection Policy and Strategy (CNAI-NPPS 2023). Speaking after the meeting, the chief host and Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, maintained that security stakeholders must ensure appropriate safeguard of Nigeria’s critical assets and infrastructure.
According to the Minister, the terminology, CNAI was vast and varied, and as such, stakeholders should deliberate on its policies. He affirmed that it was judicious to enhance the roles security agencies and collaborators played in securing the CNAI hence, the need to know how to implement strategies regulating CNAI safety.
Similarly, the National Security Adviser, Babagana Monguno, lamented about the torrent of attacks on critical governmental assets across the six geopolitical zones of the country. This is even as the Commandant-General of the NSCDC, Ahmed Audi, acknowledged that the country had lost an estimated $200 billion to threats to strategic assets since 1999.
Indeed, the discoveries emitting from the CNAI meeting should be of immeasurable concern to the authorities and all Nigerians. Given the situation, there is a need to explore the role security agencies and stakeholders can play in securing the CNAI. It is essential to know what plans security operatives have in their effort to implement strategies guiding the CNAI security.
This is because the economic losses engendered by CNAI vulnerabilities are unquantifiable in monetary terms. The loss is attributed to terrorism, insurgency, banditry, militancy, vandalism, the End-SARS protest, the COVID-19 pandemic, among others. This is happening in a country with an appraised infrastructure shortfall of over $3 trillion. While Nigeria strives to traverse this gap, threats to CNAI take the nation one step forward and several steps backwards.
Nigeria’s crucial assets have come under sustained attacks in virtually every part of the country. In the North West, bandits and terrorist groups target transport infrastructure and educational institutions. They replicate this in the North East and North Central. The presence of these groups, specifically near the Kainji and Shiroro dams, somewhat imperils the region.
In the South East, attacks on infrastructure such as police stations, and security checkpoints are presumed to be carried out by members of the Eastern Security Network. In the South West, spectacular threats to critical national assets and infrastructure have emerged from armed robberies targeted at banks and financial institutions. In addition, there has been wanton annihilation of national infrastructure following public turbulence.
Militant activities stimulate attacks on resources and infrastructure in the South-South, including pipeline vandalism and oil fraud. Piracy poses yet another challenge in the Nigerian coastal territory, which straddles the zone. The menace virtually undermined the aquatic transport supply line as shipping premium insurance increased in response to piracy considerations. It is rather bolstering that the Nigerian Navy and other maritime partners have considerably hampered the hazard.
National assets are precious because, as we know, the survival and preservation of every nation and the quality of life of its citizens depend on the functionality of its critical national assets and infrastructure. Accordingly, any attack on these assets and base will alter national security. The Federal Government must supply funds for intelligence gathering equipment and gunboats for the Civil Defence Corps and other security agencies.
Contemporary concerns for public assets’ security became more prominent in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attack on the United States of America. Since that appalling assault, the United States and many other countries have taken the necessary steps to identify critical national assets and infrastructure. They have designed appropriate policies and strategies to protect them. Nigeria cannot be an exception.
United Nations Security Council Resolution 2341 places a premium on countries to prioritise strategic national assets and infrastructure. The Federal Government has to live up to this task by equipping the Nigeria Civil Defence Corps for efficient and limited physical security operations. The citizenry’s cooperation in assisting the formation in the fight against these atrocities is fundamental.
The government must take measures towards promoting the skills and competency of the NSCDC personnel by collaborating with relevant stakeholders, sister agencies, and pertinent government establishments. They must partner with international organisations to assist in training and efficiency development of the personnel, particularly in surveillance and intelligence gathering to upscale their competence and proactiveness.
Civil Defence and security personnel should implement a sequence of prompt measures to curtail the impudence and boldness exhibited by criminal elements in their illegal activities. It is imperative that they meticulously assess the nation’s public infrastructure and take action where deemed necessary to combat such abhorrent acts.
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