The foremost rights group, the Human and Environmental Development Agenda, (HEDA Resource Centre) has sought a public enquiry and the removal of the Niger Delta Affairs Minister, Godswill Akpabio rather than the ongoing probe of the NDDC by the National Assembly which it sees as an attempt to delude Nigerians.
HEDA in a statement signed by its Chairman Olanrewaju Suraju said the Federal Government the two important steps will ensure a transparent and meaningful probe of the NDDC.
The group said the public enquiry should be led by a retired judge and members be drawn from Nigerian Bar Association, (NBA), Nigerian Labour Congress, (NLC), the civil society among others.
“HEDA is working with credible organisations to expose the contract fraud over the years in NDDC. This has become necessary to save the commission and to protect the people of the Niger Delta on whose behalf the commission was established.”
HEDA said the recent revelation by Akpabio that members of the National Assembly took the lion share of the NDDC contract has exposed the futility of any probe instituted by the National Assembly.
HEDA said “The National Assembly is already compromised. It has become clear that they are part of the problem. There is no way that a suspect can be a judge in its own case. The Presidency owes it as a matter of national duty to constitute an independent public enquiry to investigate the dirty deals that appear to date back to decades”
The group said the hands of National Assembly members are not clean adding that it is clear from the revelation of the Minister of Niger Delta, Senator Godswill Akpabio.
“Akpabio said clearly that most of the contracts were awarded to the lawmakers. From all indications, there is no way the lawmakers will ever come out with a honest and transparent probe. Nigerians are not fools”
HEDA said what is needed is a comprehensive probe dating back to the year 2000 when the NDDC was established.
The group said the Commission has failed to meet the expectations of Nigerians, least that of the people of the Niger Delta whose resources are being pummelled and exploited by a few people to the detriment of the entire country.
“An independent probe will likely see members of the National Assembly panel as suspects. They should never think Nigerians will forgive them if they sweep the dirts under the carpet”
HEDA said the NDDC remains one of the richest agencies in Nigeria adding that in 2019 alone, the commission’s budget was N346b.
“The NDDC is a can of worms. The probe of the National Assembly has reached a dead end. What can salvage the situation is a public enquiry” Suraju said.
BADEJO ADEMUYIWA has 23 years experience as a Finance Writer, specialising in Insurance and Investigative Reporting.