President of the Centre for Leadership and Justice, Emmanuel Umohinyang, a legal practitioner, has asked President Muhammadu Buhari to freeze the account of the Niger Delta Development Commission till the end of the forensic audit going on in the commission.

Umohinyang said the Interim Management Committee of the commission inaugurated by the President to solve the problems in the NDDC had in fact contributed more problems to the organisation by looting funds meant to erect important projects for the people of the oil-rich region.

Speaking in Lagos recently, the social commentator said, “I was one of those people who had hope when the current Minister of Niger Delta Affairs was appointed because when you look at his performance when he was governor of Akwa Ibom for eight years, you would have hoped that he would deliver.

Emmanuel Umohinyang

“It was also our hope that the looting, stealing and abnormalities that had gone wrong in the agency for decades would come to a close but sadly that has not been the case.

“It looks as if the current management of the agency is competing with the previous management on who looted the treasure the most.

“It’s unfortunate that Mr President brought the IMC to solve the problems in NDDC but now they are the problem themselves. They have contributed largely to the stealing in the system.

“I think what the government can do is to freeze the account of the NDDC. Let us shut the place down within this period of forensic auditing. The account of the agency should be frozen and those things called IMC should also be chased out and handed over to security agencies for investigation. After the forensic audit, we can begin to look at the challenges in the agency.”

Speaking further, Umohinyang condemned the management of the NDDC for claiming to spend around N1.5bn to provide palliatives for themselves during the period of Coronavirus lockdown.

According to him, such should never happen in a region where the majority of the people live below the poverty line.

He said, “It came to me as a rude shock and looks to me as if some of these people don’t understand what palliatives mean. Palliative is a stopgap to certain challenges in the society. Palliatives are given to the poorest of the poor.

“But for an agency whose funding is statutorily provided for in the NDDC Act, it is shameful to see all that is happening.

“I am more depressed that the minister has not up till this moment taken steps to weed those people out of that place or initiate an investigation on how this humongous amount of money was shared by some group of people in the name of palliative.

“The challenge we have in the NDDC is not that of the government but it is the leadership problem and it is being compounded by malnourished followers in the region.

“Before we can think of meaningful progress within the Niger Delta Development Commission, certain things have to be put in place.

“We must jettison the idea of suggestive leadership where the leaders sit down and begin to nominate people into the agency.”

Revelations of massive financial misappropriation in the NDDC further came to light during the recent House of Representatives investigation into the activities of the agency.

The investigation also exposed how lawmakers were among the highest beneficiaries of project contracts from the NDDC and how many of those are never executed and or completed.

Many Nigerians angered by the situation have called for the total scrapping of the commission and prosecution of all those found to have embezzled funds meant for project execution.

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