The House of Representatives Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila said the region has continued to perform below expectation, despite the huge funds deployed to the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
The speaker said this on Wednesday during the investigative hearing on the alleged financial mismanagement in the NDDC.
On May 5, the House had deliberated on a motion about the need to initiate the investigation.
There’s been a lot of tension in the body in the last month.
In 2019, the president had requested a forensic audit of the organization’s activities from 2001 to 2019, owing to criticisms of the commission’s operations.
The commission is being saddled with responsibility for developing Nigeria’s oil-rich Niger Delta region.
One of the commission ‘s core mandates is to train and educate the region’s youth to curb hostilities and militancy, while developing key infrastructure to foster diversification and productivity.
In his remark Mr Gbajabiamila said in the commission’s twenty years of operation, the citizens of the area did not benefit significantly from it.
“In the over two decades since, that promise has not been kept. Despite its critical importance and the vast sums that have been appropriated by the Federal Government, the Niger Delta of Nigeria continues to score exceptionally low on many of the major human development indices.
“These statistics reflect the reality of disease and deprivation, lack of opportunity and broken dreams that is the plight of many of our fellow citizens in the region.
“It is therefore particularly disturbing and quite frankly, embarrassing that every other news report about the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) seems to centre around escalating allegations of corruption and malfeasance,” he said.
He said the purpose of the investigative hearing “is to ask why the failure persists and to do so with a determination to understand the causes of that failure so that the parliament can act to redeem the NDDC and remove those factors that imperil the commission’s noble mission”.
“We will examine the allegations of corruption and malfeasance that have dogged the commission,” he said. “We will do so with neither fear nor favour, confident in the assurance that we have both a constitutional duty and moral obligation to ensure that the enormous sums of money appropriated to the NDDC over the years are appropriately accounted for by those whose responsibility it has been to manage this important and all too essential public trust.”
The speaker said the investigation ‘s progress would depend on the ability of the different ‘stakeholders’ within the commission, government and local communities to cooperate with the committee.
“I encourage all the stakeholders to consider this investigative hearing as a last-ditch effort to save the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and to engage with this committee in a patriotic partnership to break the jinx of underdevelopment in the Niger Delta region,” he said.
Meanwhile, the chairman of the committee, Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, said despite the needless distractions, the committee has remained focused.
“Because of the investigative nature of the House resolution, the past weeks have been spent on working tirelessly on gathering the necessary data and analyzing same,” he said.
He also said he is aware of the sensitivity of the matter and how, if not well managed, “might tend to degrade, incriminate or defame the person or persons involved”.
“Please note that the House has not condemned anyone, else there would not be the need for investigation as directed. We are not hypercritical or condemnatory but open without prejudice.
“We enjoin everyone to give this committee the maximum cooperation as the impact of this shall be far reaching results.”