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In his hey days of superlative penmanship through the pages
of the now rested ‘Newswatch’ magazine, the late Dele Giwa once wrote that
Nigerians had become ‘unshockable’ in the face of daily cascades of
imponderable developments in the public space which often defy reality. Given
that he lived in Nigeria when the country was considered apparently saner than
now by many, it remains a matter of speculation, how he would have addressed
some of the new-age outrages and the current state of the nation.

With today’s routine playout of high caliber impunity in
abusing public trust, what would Dele Giwa have said of the country? For
instance, what would he have said about the rather outlandish scenario of a
serving Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (name withheld), collecting
as in trophy-hunting, as many as 300 contracts from the Niger Delta Development
Commission (NDDC)? 

It is required by law that Senators and other public officers
who are elected to serve full-time in the service of the country, should resign
from any other full-time engagement, in order to concentrate fully on their
designated duties. Hence they are accordingly remunerated.

How then could this contract-swallowing Senator been able to
combine his functions as a Senator with the impossible task of executing such
quantum of contracts, given all the due process imperatives that remain
inherent in such an exercise. Yet this is just one of the several instances of brazen
looting of the public largesse, which has been the rule rather than the
exception in the operations of the agency, since its inception in 2000.

Crime busters know that one of the most effective ways to
dismantle a crime syndicate is to set the members against each other. Given the
course of recent developments in the Commission, many wonder if the crime
busters’ scenario is not playing out in the NDDC. Not a few observers
acknowledge a similitude in the few developments there.

For instance, there is a growing consensus that the
Presidential marching order on the forensic audit of the agency, may have
triggered a widely spreading state of unease among some of NDDC’s culpable
beneficiaries of past and present scams. These include implicated former and current
contractors as well as consultants. Others are staff who had compromised their
positions to defraud the system along with accomplices on the outside.

And it seems that the day of reckoning is already claiming
casualties in the establishment. Indeed, is the NDDC’S Pandora’s box about to
be uncovered?

For instance, the recent revelation about the contract
swallowing Senator, came to light simply as a result of an ‘uncommon shaking of
the table’ in the agency.

Although the affairs of the Commission had traditionally
attracted controversy at every turn, recent hike in public interest in the NDDC
followed a spate of misgivings expressed in several quarters over the
nomination of members of a new board for the agency. The situation led to a
meeting between governors of the Niger Delta region with President Muhamadu
Buhari, where they actually called for a change in the way the affairs of the
Commission were handled.

In response, the President directed the forensic audit to
precede whatever remedial action he would take in respect of the agency.
However, even before the Presidential audit has fully commenced, the agency is
once more living up to its billing as a cauldron of intrigues.

This writer had in a a previous article, called on the
President not to be deterred by any delay from the run of the audit, but
continue with whatever measure he deemed fit to execute in respect of the
agency, and which the audit would not impair. Hence the screening of the new
board members by the Senate could be seen to be in order.

However, before the conclusion of the Senate screening of
the nominees, came a development where Godswill Akpabio – Minister of Niger
Delta Affairs (where the NDDC is now domiciled from the Presidency) appointed a
three-man Interim Management Committee, to take over the affairs of the agency
pending the resumption of the newly confirmed board members.

Apparently implied in the brief of the Interim Management
Committee is the conduct of the presidential audit exercise. Meanwhile as the
public is still contending with the Akpabio intervention, the cascade of the
Commission’s in-house scum started hitting the public space, with the tale of
the contract swallowing Senator, in the lead.

While it may have been out of place for the recent
dispensation of convolutions in NDDC to fester, the resultant effervescence is
nevertheless, unearthing interesting secrets of the agency with positive value
for public interest. The mere oddity of the convolutions, has unearthed the
culpability of the contract swallowing Senator, with the promise of similarly
exposing other culprits whose identities as well as nefarious activities in
respect of the mindless rape of the Commission, may soon hit the public space.

The question now is, what implications will the present run
of events have for the future of the agency, especially in respect of the
concern of the region’s governors as well as the various dispossessed
communities there. This consideration qualifies for as much attention as can be
mustered over it. After all, this is Nigeria where disorder often trumps over
order in defining trending circumstances in the public space.

For one, the situation signposts the onset of a fresh round
of power play, the vey syndrome that brought the NDDC to its ignoble
degenerative state which requires the presidential audit and subsequent
surgery. In the present circumstances, the Minister Akpabio intends to hold the
driving seat firmly and may have proceeded to isolate and eject interests that
reflect present or future hostility to him.

Incidentally, protests have come from some circles over
Akpabio’s appointment of the interim management of NDDC even as the statutorily
designated and now confirmed board designates are billed to resume. So offended
are some of his critics that they have called for his sack by President Buhari.

Incidentally that too may not happen soon if it is the
Buhari of present day Nigeria.

Hence Akpabio may remain to call the shots in NDDC for some
time to come and as the beat goes on. Meanwhile this is a prayer for more
shaking of the table and equally more revelations from the NDDC’s Pandora’s box
please…

Courtesy Daily Trust on Sunday.

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