By Dr. Tony G. Umunna
It is a fact that an NGO by the name Act for Positive Transformation Initiative (APTI) has frontally accused the interim Management Committee (IMC) of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) of ‘UNPRECEDENTED CORRUPTION’ to the staggering tune of N40 Billion. QUITE SHOCKINGLY, THE IMC HAS NEVER REBUTTED ANY OF THE ISSUES RAISED BY APTI. The IMC’s very loud silence on ALL THE ALLEGATIONS sends a clear message of its very possible guilt. It is striking that each time the IMC’s Dr Cairo Ojougbo appears in the media, he prefers to talk divert attention from the substances of the allegation and spew innuendos instead of talking about the alleged sleazes by his IMC.
Yes, the NDDC is generally believed to be a cesspool of unimaginable corruption. For this, President Muhammadu Buhari’s directive for its comprehensive forensic audit is a patriotic step to clean it up, make looters account for their misdeeds and ultimately reengineer it to execute its mandate. To these ends, the IMC empaneled by Mr President to oversee the forensic audit ought to do its job with the highest standard of integrity and avoid credible and indefensible allegations of scandals.
Therefore, where there is alleged “unprecedented corruption” against the IMC itself, then the IMC must respond factually, coherently and sensibly. However, if its only response is to insult imaginary enemies, invoke ethnic sentiments, and sing ‘corruption is fighting back because the NDDC is corrupt’, then reasonable minds must question why the IMC prefers this classic strategy of deflection and diversion. It is classic because, it has been established overtime that guilty minds would rather not answer questions on their wrongs. Is this the IMC’s exact strategy? If yes, is it meant to cover up the alleged crimes?
Let us look at just a FEW of the allegations that the IMC is running from and its responses:
1. N800M FOR EMERGENCY ROADS BECAME N25BILLION IN 6 MONTHS.
Before the IMC, the NDDC had a BUDGET of N800 Million for emergency road construction/repairs. The IMC said it spent N25 BILLION instead of the N800 Million in the budget in less than 6 months! Questions and Answers: Where are the N25 BILLION emergency roads? IMC says, ‘Corruption is fighting back’! When did the National Assembly approve N25 BILLION expense? IMC says, “Our enemies in the National Assembly are at work’!
2. N5.5 BILLION FOR COVID19 PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT (PPE)
The IMC said it bought COVID-19 PPE to the tune of N5.5 BILLION! Questions and Answers: Where are the PPE? IMC says, ‘Our enemies are at work’! Why spend N5.5 BILLION when Lagos as Nigeria’s epicenter of COVID-19 and even NCDC has not spent much? IMC says, ‘Our enemies of in the National Assembly are against Mr President’s forensic audit’!
3. N7 BILLION TO TRAIN WELDERS
APTI also alleged that the IMC claims to have spent N7 BILLION for the training of welders in the Nigeria Delta. No problem. Questions and Answers: Where are the welders? IMC says, ‘Our enemies want the forensic audit to fail!’ Where did you organise the training and who facilitated it? IMC says, ‘Power forces in the National Assembly are fighting us!’
4. N5.5 BILLION FOR HEALTHCARE AWARENESS CAMPAIGN
The IMC also reportedly spent N5.5 BILLION on healthcare awareness campaign. It is good to carry out health care awareness campaigns, but in the spirit of transparency there are questions. Where and when was this campaign done? IMC’s answer: ‘Corruption is fighting back!’ Which media houses were involved in this campaign? IMC’s answer: ‘The National Assembly is trying to stop the forensic audit!’
Without question, the IMC’s answers do not meet the minimum threshold of transparency expected of a quasi-anti-corruption group. By diverting attention from the weighty allegations and blaming only imaginary enemies for each of the scandals, they are declaring their guilt so easily. The IMC should be able to carry out its forensic audit assignment without hitches. Nobody has stopped it and there is no good reason to advise so. However, to use that as a subterfuge to evade responsibility for the alleged historical looting in the NDDC is a shame for which heads must roll if criminal culpability is ultimately established.
It is in the best interest of the IMC and everyone for the IMC to answer to ALL the allegations factually and correctly. The strategy of diverting attention will not work. Somehow, somewhere and sometime, it shall do so, and this appears as sure as death.
Source: Newsroom Nigeria