In February, 2020, a firm of Leading Forensic Auditors in the country was nominated and appointed at Federal Executive Council to look into the activities of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) from inception to August, 2019. It was not only this lead Forensic Consultant that was appointed, 16 other Field Forensic Auditors were also procured to handle the complex audit process of the Agency.
The utilitarian value of the audit is to unravel the absurdities in the Commission since its inception as an interventionist Agency in the Niger Delta Region and to recommend the proper way to achieve its core mandate of developing the region. In other words, the findings and recommendations of the Auditors will reposition the Agency for optimal performance as against the practice of the past.
It must be pointed out at this juncture that the forensic audit was at the instance of the President of the country, His Exellency, Muhammadu Buhari. The stakeholders made up of the governors had earlier on pleaded with the President to heed to their advice to audit the Agency, a plea the President accede to and directed the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs Ministry, Senator Godswill Akpabio to comply accordingly.
It is the belief of everyone including the President and the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs that so much have been released to the Agency in the past and nothing on ground to show for it, thereby necessitating the audit into the finance and projects of the Commission.
As expected, the forensic audit did unearth several anomalies in the system indicating that all have not been well with the Agency.
Receiving the Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations in his office sometime in July, 2021, the Minister of the Niger Delta Affairs Ministry, Senator Godswill Akpabio revealed that with Interim Report of the forensic audit, it was discovered that over 12,000 projects which had no clear-cut ownership were built and abandoned even as they have become sanctuaries for hoodlums and kidnappers.
In order to avoid such anomalies in future, the Minister informed his guest that:
“A Systematic Implementation Work Plan has been developed within the Ministry to avoid duplication of projects”.
The forensic audit had the physical verification component. The field Auditors, sixteen in number were selected to identify and verify the over 12,000 projects across the nine Niger Delta States. Security Committee comprising the Army, Navy, Nigerian Police Force, Department of State Service and Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps provided adequate security for the Auditors as they carried out the forensic audit of the Agency.
On Monday, the 9th of August, 2021, the leader of the Security Team, Admiral Oluwagbamila presented the completed Security Report to the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs Ministry, Senator Godswill Akpabio. The elated Minister while receiving the report thanked the entire team for a job welldone. He specifically thanked the Security Team who discharged their duties professionally as there was no casualty either on the field or at the homes and offices of the Auditors. The Minister further stated:
“the report will be studied, salient area would be extracted for Mr President to take further action, noting that the exercise would reposition the NDDC as well as enhance the socio-economic status of the Niger Delta Region”.
Encomiums have started to pour on Mr President, Mohammadu Buhari and on the Minister, Senator Godswill Akpabio for driving the process through successfully.
As the people of the Region wait with bated breath for the final submission of the Audit Report by the Lead Auditor to the President on the 19th of August or so soon thereafter, the Minister of Niger Delta, senator Akpabio, the interim Administrator of NDDC, Mr Effiong Okon Akwa and the team of Auditors will not forget in a hurry the various landmines, the booby traps, various blackmails and propaganda carefully orchestrated by the defaulting contractors and compromised political gladiators whose hands were not clean with regards to several contracts they collected from NDDC but which they failed to execute or executed poorly. They did everything humanly possible to stall the audit process but for the unwavering resolve of the President, the Minister and the entire audit and security team, the exercise would have suffered untimely abortion.
The recipients of the various contracts in the Region who are victims of uncompleted projects, poorly executed projects and not executed projects welcomed the forensic audit with enthusiasm and have prayed that the report of the exercise will be made known transparently and that the exercise will set the Agency on track as its mandate and objective have since been derailed.
The gains of the audit exercise are numerous and some of them are hereunder listed:
(a) There will be a restoration of the original objective of the Agency.
(b) Those who collected money from the Agency and abandoned the contract or poorly executed them will be recommended for prosecution and or be made to refund or to return to site to complete their contracts.
(c) Presently it is widely reported that since the setting up of the audit team, some of the defaulting contractors have since gone back to site and completed the contracts they abandoned or poorly executed.
(d) The Agency will never be the same again as it will not be business as usual after the implementation of the recommendations of the Report.
(e) The Agency will be properly repositioned to attain proficiency and optimal performance of the annual budgetary allocations of the Agency.
(f) There will be no future and further political and elitist interference on the Agency as all these encumbrances shall be annihilated based on the recommendations of the audit report.
(g) The people of the Region will be made to own all the projects designated for their various states in the Region.
After the submission of the Audit Report with its recommendations to the President, it is believed that the President will have to study and act in accordance with the tacit purpose for which the forensic audit was initiated. The President is expected to constitute the much awaited Board in accordance with the NDDC Act so soon thereafter.
It is hoped that the new board will start on a clean state with clear direction from the comprehensive recommendations derived from the Forensic Audit Report that will be submitted. As a new beginning, the Agency will henceforth carry out its mandate with an understanding that it is set up as an interventionist Agency in the Region to address the followings but not limited to these:
1. The infrastructural inadequacies of the region.
2. The environmental degradation of the Region occasioned by the destructive oil activities that have affected the socio-economic lifestyle of the people of the Region.
3. Develop the manpower capacity of the Region since their economic mainstay which is farming and fishing have been destroyed by the harmful oil explorational activities in the region.
Now that the right thing is being done by Mr President and the Minister, let the mandate and objective of the Agency be activated by the soon coming management of the Board to chart a new beginning for this interventionist Agency.
For completing the forensic audit as promised, it is kudos to Mr President, Mohammadu Buhari and the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio for a promise well kept. Let the implementation of the recommendations of the Audit Report give birth to a new and revived NDDC, hopefully.
By Dr Monday Onyekachi Ubani
An Abian and A Legal Practitioner.