The Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, has said that the final report of a forensic audit of Niger Delta Development Commission will not be ready until the end of July when it will be presented to the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), for implementation.
Akpabio disclosed on Tuesday evening in an interview with State House Correspondents at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, after meeting with the Chief of Staff to the President, Ibrahim Gambari.
The minister also disclosed that the name of nominees for the reconstitution of the NNDC board will be forwarded to the National Assembly soonest.
Recall that the Federal Executive Council had in February 2020 approved the appointment of a lead consultant for the forensic audit of Niger Delta Development Commission.
“We have fast-tracked the process of constituting the board, but we insist that the most important thing is not just the development of the Niger Delta region but how to reposition NDDC to ensure optimal performance as against the practice in the past.
“So, the forensic audit of NDDC is on course and it is progressing very well and I am happy with the progress made so far.
“And I am very certain that by end of July which is just a month and a few weeks away from that the final result will be given to the president for implementation.
“And in terms of the composition of the board of the NDDC, that of course, we have fast-tracked the process and the National Assembly will soon get the list.
However, he said that this is not as crucial as the forensic audit whose presentation deadline has been slated for July.
Akpabio expressed hope that the new board would implement the recommendations of the forensic audit to work and reposition the commission.
He however regretted that, in the past, the NDDC headquarters was disconnected from the national grid for about 15 years.
“And we have noticed the fact that even the headquarters building that was started over 20 years to 24 years ago, nobody was interested.
“I think they were pursuing projects that were probably beneficial to either the staff or the management and not necessarily things that benefited the region.”
He stated that the East-West Road was another major area of concentration which the NDDC itself should have focused on; adding that, as Governor of Akwa Ibom State, he worked on several federal roads.
“And to the glory of God, the president has refunded the money that most of the states used in intervening in federal roads which means it was a good gesture and the president has reciprocated it by the fact that the monies were refunded to those states.
“So, I think, even NDDC should have intervened in East-West Road to ensure its completion because of the economic importance of the road.
“Just three days ago, we had a mishap where one of the bridges had a problem; the approach to the bridge, it caused so much traffic jam in Port Harcourt for hours and we had to move in.
“To the glory of God, we have repaired the damaged section of the road and traffic is flowing and we working very hard to make sure that we complete that road come next year for the benefit of the Nigerians not just Niger Delta,” he said.
The Minister also emphasised that the country cannot afford another crisis in South-South of similar magnitude with the South East because of its importance to the economic survival of Nigeria.
He also claimed to have held talks with former agitators in the region to avert any disruption to economic activities in that region.
He added that these meetings with stakeholders was part of his effort to calm the tensions and he recommended the same strategy to political leaders of other crisis-ridden areas.
Quizzed it he was under any form of pressure by former agitators to reconstitute the NDDC board, Akpabio replied, “No. Everything is politics whether it’s development or composition.
“Nobody has put me under pressure to reconstitute the board. I can sponsor any group of people to make a statement but the major thing is peace of the region.
“The region is very critical to the economy of the country. So, when I made the move I made to go and talk to stakeholders, it was for the purpose of the economy of the nation, and also, we cannot afford for the South-South region, particularly the Niger Delta to go into a crisis like what we are witnessing in the South-East and all that.
“And I think the example I set is what is being emulated now in the southeast that there is need for those in government to go home and interact with the grassroots and explain things to them so that we can stop the restiveness that we are witnessing in many zones in the country.
“So, my going into the creeks to meet with the traditional fathers and all…I can tell you we don’t have militants any longer because of the amnesty programme but you can say ex-agitators.
“It was in the interest not just for the security of the region but also the peace of the region and by implication ensure that critical infrastructure that affects the economy of the country were maintained and were not tempered with.
“I think it was a step in the right direction because I can see even the South-East is also emulating that example and I want to also urge other zones in the country to do so.
“We can’t all concentrate in Abuja. We should go back home and get the feelings of our people and explain things to them. That way, you will reduce the tension because sometimes ignorance can lead to insurgence and insecurity.
“So, I will continue to interact with my people, you may call it ultimatum or anything. It’s not. Sometimes, it’s a way of trying to say, come home and talk to us and let us know what is going on.
He assured Nigerians that the constitution of the board is in the pipeline and the same goes for the forensic audit, adding that both processes are not mutually exclusive because the outcome of the audit is what the board will use in repositioning the NDDC.