THE country was scandalised to learn recently from the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Usani Usani, that the bulk of the N423 billion released to the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) to execute 427 projects in the region between 2009 and 2015 had been allegedly misappropriated. Going into specifics, the minister, who was giving highlights of the report of a technical audit committee set up to investigate all contracts awarded and projects and programmes executed by the ministry since its inception, had said: “The revealing content of the report shows that over N423 billion had been expended in the region by the ministry alone, besides other intervening agencies. From this amount, project execution rate was 12 per cent, with an average completion rate of a project standing at five years and the impact rate is eight per cent.” Also speaking along this line, Acting President Yemi Osinbajo had said, while playing host to a delegation from Bayelsa State, that sometimes NDDC projects “are designed not to succeed, but just for some people to make money.”
We consider it a national embarrassment that a commission that was set up to improve life and living in the Niger Delta region has been turned into a cesspool of corruption by some people. It is also off-putting that programmes and projects designed purportedly to alleviate poverty, enhance living and improve the environment have turned out not only as a conduit to enrich some individuals but also a means of making life more horrible and terrible for citizens of that region. If indeed the execution rate of projects is a mere 12 per cent and the impact rate is only eight per cent, not only have the people been robbed of what was allocated to them, the country has also been shortchanged because the money expended did not give the value expected. Breaking it down, it means the people get N8 million value for every N100 million spent in that region by the government through the NDDC.
The country found itself in this situation because of its fondness for throwing money at problems. The fact is that money on its own does not have the capacity to solve problems; it is money that is properly monitored that gives optimum value and produces the desired effect. Therefore, it is not enough for the government to just appropriate resources to ministries, agencies and departments. There must be an inbuilt mechanism to ensure judicious utilisation of such resources, otherwise such allocations will not be better than money thrown down the drain. If the government appropriates and abandons its monitoring responsibility, the country will not have value for money appropriated and problems will not get solved. It is high time the country took seriously, the issue of tracking released funds so that the essence of such releases would be realised.
Then, it is not enough to inform the country about the theft of allocated funds. The government must also go a step further to arrest those who misappropriated the resources and bring them to book no matter what their political affinity is or how highly placed they are. Those who took the contracts and failed to deliver on the agreed terms should be made to pay for their actions. That is how to stop a repeat of this. We must stress that Nigeria has a responsibility to develop the Niger Delta region. The nation cannot afford to shirk its responsibility to the region under the guise of misapplication of resources allocated to it even by indigenes of that region. So, the government must monitor every kobo that is allocated to the development of that region and guard against its misappropriation or diversion. Individuals who are guilty of any larceny should be heavily sanctioned but it must be noted that in the final analysis, the buck of developing that region stops at the desk of the Federal Government