The Nigerian National Assembly has been conducting series of investigations on fradulent politicians and mismanagement of funds allocated for public usage. Prominent among their supposed fight against corruption is the recently conducted probe into the N81bn misappropriated funds of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC ).
In that probe, many prominent politicians were indicted which led to the now popular slang “off the microphone”, and in another occasion, the fainting of an acting managing director of Commission.
There’s the strong conviction amongst many Nigerians that the world ‘Probe’ is just aanother word for political manoeuvring and blackmail in Nigeria.
Many citizens especially those who follow the political antics of Nigeria political leaders believe political probes or fight against corruption as a predetermined plan or means of an individual or a group of people, exerting vengeance and paybacks towards political enemies, distractions from national discontent and sometimes as a means of setlling bad deals amongst themselves, rather than for genuine ends.
A cursory look at some of the probes and investigations carried out in the past reveals that they have oftentimes turned out to be manipulated and subsequently dismissed or swept under the carpet.
History shows that the Ndudi Elumelu corruption probe of the power sector in 2009 where as chairman of the house committee on power, ‘’the prober’’ was accused of receiving bribes and allegedly annexing N5.2 billion from the rural electrification budget alongside other officials on the panel. The probe died a natural death as nothing came out of it.
There was also the senate’s probe of the sale of government assets by the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) under Nasir el-Rufai in 2004. El-Rufai had alleged the previous year (2003) that some senators demanded a N54 million bribe to confirm his appointment as minister. This led to an angry revenge corruption probe which ended in futility.
Recently, Nigerians experienced a chaos laden probe of the fuel subsidy involving Farouk Lawan, Mr Integrity, in 2012. Lawan, who was the chairman of the house committee investigating fuel subsidies, allegedly demanded a $3 million bribe from Femi Otedola to exculpate his company, Zenon from the list of frauds. Despite the overwhelming video evidence of Farouk reception of $500,000 from Otedola – a part payment of the bribe, the probe came to an end as fuel susbidy was eventually removed by the ex- president Jonathan, who faced series of criticism for this decision.
In July 2020, Nigerians were entertained to an annoying but humorous spectacle from the national assembly panels probing the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) over alleged stealing of N81.5 billion. The interim management of the commission admitted to have spent N1.32 billion on themselves as ‘’COVID-19 palliative’’.
The commission also owned up to spending N81.5 billion in just eight months.
A look at how these huge sums of money was spent Revealed- the impunity with which these political looters take the Nigerian citizens for granted as breakdown by the house of representatives panel ‘’probing’’ the agency showed that the commission spent, ‘’N1.3 billion on community relations; condolences, N122.9 million; consultancy, N83 million; COVID-19, N3.14 billion; duty travel allowance (DTA), N486 million; imprest, N790.9 million, and Lassa fever, N1.956 billion’’.
There were also other items on the debauchery of the politicians which included; ‘’legal services, N900 million; maintenance, N220 million; overseas travel, N85.6 million; public communications, N1.121 billion; security, N744 million; staffing-related payment, N8.8 billion; stakeholders engagement, N248 million’’.
Obviously the NDDC has become a banquet feast for looters and the probe sessions by the senate had gradually become a comedy series where gross mismanagement, grave mediocrity and impunity is on show. Many months have gone by since the last enquiry and no one has been held to account for the gross plunder of funds assigned for the Niger Delta people. Concerned Nigerians, who followed up revelations from the initial proceedings as well as a civil society group led by Deji Adeyanju, filed a petition against certain officials allegedly complicit in the graft bazaar at the NDDC to the EFCC, but none has been invited for questioning, let alone being prosecuted.
Moreso, Kemebradikumo Pondei, acting managing director of the NDDC, ‘’fainted’’ during an interrogation by the house panel; Godswill Akpabio, minister of Niger Delta affairs, accused Peter Nwaoboshi, a member of the senate panel probing the NDDC, of being a major beneficiary of the loot. The senator replied accusing Akpabio of appropriating a N300 million NDDC fencing contract for himself. Joy Nunieh, former MD of the NDDC, also accused the minister of corruption, abuse of office and sexual harassment.
It is interesting how things are panning out in the senate, the House of Representatives and the various probes they have conducted so far. It is safe to say that what was happening was just crossfire of blackmail and intimidation. It is the threat of mutually assured destruction before the ‘’meeting at the table of kindreds’’. The NDDC probes have obviously gone south and the microphone has Indeed been put off.
Gift Joseph Okpakorese