OrderPaperToday – The Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) probe as initiated last year by the ninth National Assembly and several others could be regarded as charade going by antecedents in the past. Nigerians, and of course the rest of the world, is losing hope in investigations such as these because either they are not being concluded or resolutions of such reports never get implemented by the executive arm of government which is saddled with the responsibility.
Mr. Ken Chikere, a member of the House of Representatives representing Port Harcourt 1 from Rivers State on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), shared his thoughts on the NDDC probe.
According to Chikere, a lawyer and former Attorney General of Justice of Rivers State who has been representing his constituency from 2011 to date, in this exclusive interview with OrderPaper Nigeria said he believes nothing would come out of the controversial NDDC probe. EXCERPTS:
Two decades after the NDDC was created with several billions of naira allocated to the commission yearly, do you think development on the ground is commensurate to the monies that have been released. What can you really say is the cause especially when you juxtapose it with the recent probe that ended abruptly?
I think that, as far as the South-South of Nigeria is concerned, the NDDC epitomizes the worst that has happened to us. It is a great shame that we have an institution like the NDDC, so much is allocated to it and we have nothing to show for it. Therefore you have, I don’t know if to call it a moral problem, for you to come out and say, the majority of the resources of Nigeria is coming from the South-South, for instance, the Niger Delta, in particular and you are not getting anything for it. I will not bother myself about the Ministry of Niger Delta but the NDDC is the greatest shame. Like every other evil that is perpetrated in this country (it involves) just a few persons. Just a few! If you are here as a member of the National Assembly, whether in the House of Reps (representatives) or in the Senate, you get robbed off of that but mostly you are innocent. Just a few people inside and a few dirty people outside perpetuate this evil. You will not believe that in 2012 they asked me here in this House to nominate a project for the NDDC, I nominated a community hall. I nominated the Oro – Oko community hall on Abia road. The initial entry for the project was 180 million. I think that in awarding the contract eventually, NDDC awarded that contract for 150 million. When they said nominate a project for 180 million. That was it. But when they awarded that contract, my understanding is that, it was awarded for 150 million. It is not even what happened to the 30 million discrepancy, the question is has the NDDC commissioned that project as we speak? 2012 up till today, 17 November 2020, has NDDC commissioned that project? It is a question for the NDDC. NDDC couldn’t complete a community hall started in 2012. But how much did it spend recently, how much billions? I am not discussing NDDC! You don’t discuss something that will give you blood pressure. For us to start that project, we had to demolish an existing community hall that was there with a real estate. Do you know the pains, the agony, that I went through because of 150 million project from NDDC for how many years? 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020. Talking about 9 years? Have they completed it? A project that is inside Port Harcourt! It is on what we call Aba road, if you know that place. So you can imagine what is happening elsewhere! You don’t need to describe NDDC with many languages. It is a den of robbers. NDDC is a den of robbers!! Let me tell you what I think. I think that instead of doing #EndSARS for the whole Nigeria, we should start in piece meals and in the Niger Delta or South-South, we should start with institutions like the NDDC that is not performing. But you know if you come here today, say, abolish the NDDC, you will not go home tomorrow. That is the problem with Nigeria. NDDC is not performing. If we want to change, we would ask for its overhaul, what is forensic audit?
What is your take on the much talked about forensic audit?
In the whole of this country, when and where have you seen an audit, a probe, that has yielded results? Home and abroad as far as Nigeria is concerned? The reason is because monies allocated to the NDDC is shared among few persons who think that they own Nigeria. They come from the South, they come from the West, they come from the East and they come from the North. Nothing! Absolutely nothing would come from that so-called forensic audit.
Finally, the National Assembly, precisely the House of Representatives was investigating NDDC and some issues came up along the line and the acting MD of the NDDC fainted and it’s been months now, nothing has been heard of the probe again. In fact, not even the chairman of the committee or the then acting chairman, Honourable Thomas is ready to speak on that issue. What is the way forward? Should the probe just die a natural death or do you think the committee needs to come back and resume that probe? Finally do you have any hope in that committee and are you expecting anything positive?
Okonjo-Iweala, the former finance minister, wasn’t she the person who started this thing about corruption fighting back? Why should I repeat myself? I have already told you. As far as the probe is concern, corruption will fight back ten times. If you look at all the rot in the NDDC it is by a few people in the North, in the South, in the West and from the East. So without any desire to indict the legislature, It has to be free of the complexities at the NDDC. I think the South-South has sufficient representation in both the NDDC committee and the probe panel, so we leave it to them. Yes, because you ask a question. We have within us representatives, members of the National Assembly or members of the House of Representatives. There are people in that committee who are also from the South-South, they are representing the representatives of the people, we are representing the people. They are representing us in that committee. We have given them the mandate to pursue the issues arising there. It is not a boxing ground. So I will urge those of them who are in the committee there, who are from the South-South, who are presenting us, they are doing two representation, let them pursue the issues arising from that committee. But I am telling you for the umpteenth time that no committee, no panel in this country can come out with anything good from any probe or investigation so this one would not be an exception. It is a waste of time.
But don’t forget that you, lawmakers especially lawmakers from the Niger Delta, were accused by the Ministry or the Commission of being given contracts?
You can’t say so. We are not in America where “Trump is making accusation without proofs.” You can say there is a list of you giving a contract to me, whether I have a valid name, I have a corporate name or, you have a list of people you have awarded contract to. Publish it! If they are denying you as an institution, go to the Corporate Affairs Commission and unveil them. So this allegation is of no consequence. It holds no water. If the NDDC has ever awarded me contract, let them say so. And let me tell you, I have never entered their premises and I will not. What will I go to NDDC office to do? For what? There are some corrupt monies you will receive that will never be of benefit to you. If you go and do armed robbery and cheat people and you go and take money meant for hospital and schools and you use it to train your children. Be careful that they become useful children. So people don’t know that. Look at all the cars we buy. Those cars they bring here. We call them tokunbo. We go there, we buy a car, we drive it 10 to 12 years. You see here every four years, a government buys many cars, the governor for one person and so it is even as individuals, so the same thing happens, so why don’t we ask questions. We have individual and collective punishment. The first punishment is that these are cars driven on bad roads. The other punishment is that if you don’t take time the car for which you have deprived a community of a school or hospital. I am not a pastor but there are things happening that needs to change. If you tell, they say you know, ‘you are a gentleman.’ I tell them I am not gentle. If there is anything I am missing? I came this morning, I drove myself. I live in a clean house, I drive a car. So what am I missing? What am missing is stupid money, dollars. Because you have it, you don’t even know what to do with it. Is that what I am missing? I am not missing anything. What I am saying is that things should be properly done. Those of you who are doing civil society, are you starving. Don’t you like car. What we are saying is that they should be some decency. Let me tell you what is paining me about corruption in Nigeria. If they are doing the corruption and using the money to do things within our community, there will be no quarrel but when you carry the money, either you put it in the bank here, or put it in the bank abroad or you put it in the grave or in the tank. What is it doing there? People are doing civil society, people are doing anti-corruption, are they not human beings? Do they say because you are elected to come here, therefore you must be corrupt? Let me tell you why I hate this place, the people coming in are worse than the ones who left.