*Orders comprehensive staff audit of Commission
*Says violators of procurement laws now to face appropriate sanctions
Ndubuisi Francis in Abuja
Amid agitations for the implementation of the forensic audit report of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday declared that the report was already being implemented in phases, assuring that the process would soon usher in a new management and board for the Commission.
The president also promised to complete the East-West Road before the end of his administration, directing the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) and its subsidiaries to step in and fix Section 4 of the road (Eleme Roundabout to Onne junction), through the Tax Credit Scheme.
Presenting a keynote address at the opening ceremony of a two-day top management retreat organised for its officials and those of the NDDC by the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, Buhari stated that the implementation of the audit report and its recommendations had commenced in phases.
This was contrary to the perception that the administration had dumped the report.
While receiving the report on September 2, 2021, the president had threatened to apply relevant laws to remedy the deficiencies outlined in the audit report, noting that this would include, but not limited to the initiation of criminal investigation, prosecution, and recovery of funds not properly utilised for the public purposes which they were meant for.
The president, who was represented at the retreat which was held at the State House, Abuja, by the Minister of Transportation, Muazu Jaji Sambo, said: “Undoubtedly, the federal government has made huge commitments to the Niger Delta region in furtherance with its desire to give the people a new lease of life.
“This administration has been proactive in response to issues of the region. We are adopting and implementing more prudent policies and programmes that will bring about a better Niger Delta region.
“It is gladdening to note that the ministry has prioritised the repositioning of the NDDC to ensure they deliver on their objectives and mandate. This is evidenced by its efforts that led to the completion and commissioning of the Commission’s headquarters building complex in March, 2021, providing the Commission with a conducive base to operate.
“In pursuance of our determination to curb corruption and in response to the call of the governors of south-south for a forensic audit of NDDC, I undertook some critical reforms and requested a forensic audit of NDDC from inception to 2019.
“The report of the audit has been submitted and implementation of its recommendations has commenced in phases. This process will soon usher in a new management and board for the Commission.”
Buhari stated that the expanded retreat with the governors of oil-producing states, chairmen of the relevant committees of both the Senate and House of Representatives, oil companies, ministries, departments and agencies in attendance, was a veritable platform to take major decisions towards effective collaboration to derive value for money in the developmental initiatives by all these stakeholders in the region.
He threatened that, going forward, fraudulent practices and violation of the procurement laws would be visited with appropriate sanctions as stipulated in the Public Procurement Act.
The president noted that it was important to underscore that the Strategic Implementation Work Plan (SIWP), a framework that focuses on the strategic objectives raised in the federal government’s 20-point Agenda and the Pan-Niger Delta Forum’s (PANDEF) 16-point Agenda would be strengthened to provide the strategic framework for coordination of development initiatives in the Niger Delta Region to achieve maximum impact at this critical time.
He also stated that in order to strengthen the internal structure of the NDDC, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs had been mandated to carry out a comprehensive staff audit of the Commission, and ensuring that right staffing and proper placement were achieved.
“Accordingly, I urge all well- meaning Nigerians, especially the Niger Deltans, to exercise restraint and ensure a conducive and secured environment for implementation of the several developmental projects and programmes in the region,” added.
He also noted that the ongoing East-West Road project is one of the largest infrastructure projects in Nigeria, adding that it is very strategic, connecting the country’s busiest and foremost commercial cities, in the region.
Its completion, he stressed, was a priority to his administration, assuring that it would be completed before the end of this administration.
He said: “Accordingly, the Nigeria National Petroleum Company (NNPC) Limited and its subsidiaries should step in, to fix the Section 4 of the East West Road (Eleme Roundabout to Onne junction) through the Tax credit Scheme.
“This should be expeditiously addressed considering the importance of the road to our national economy, ” expressing optimism that the outcome of the retreat would bring about the repositioning of NDDC to work amicably with the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, as clearly laid down in the extant rules of the public service.
In his address, the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Umana Okon Umana, disclosed that his vision was to utilise the few months left in the life of the administration to make a huge impact in the development of the region, adding that it was his desire for the ministry and the NDDC to robustly collaborate and synergise with a view to bequeathing a more prosperous Niger Delta region.
While soliciting the collaboration of development partners and other stakeholders in the formulation and implementation of policies and programmes geared towards development of the region, he noted that his focus would be directed towards result-oriented and impactful activities within his limited period in the ministry.
Umwna said ministry had made commendable progress at repositioning the NDDC to achieve its original mandate.