The Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, (PACAC) Prof. Itse Sagay has suggested a clean sweep of the embattled management of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, amidst the multi-billion naira scandal rocking the interventionist agency. Sagay, senior advocate of Nigeria, SAN, who described the interim management committee, IMC, as an “anomaly”, said he did not see why a forensic audit could not take place under a regular board.
Speaking Tuesday night as guest on Channels Television programme, Politics Today, monitored by TELL, Sagay regretted that the reservations he expressed about some members of the committee before their appointments were ignored. “I think the first thing the president has to do is to clear all of them out of the place – all the people involved. The way some appointments are made; when some of these appointments were going to be made, I spoke in my private capacity because we were not consulted as PACAC; that one or two of them were not suitable, were not fit for the responsibilities that they were about to be given, but they were still given. And now we are seeing the results. The whole place is in a total mess; accusations and counter-accusations. And they are talking of billions; it’s mind-bugling; very frightening”.
According to the PACAC Chairman who is also from the Niger Delta, “What worries me is that the rest of the country will say well, we had sympathy for your condition, we made provisions for you but your own people have gone there and despoil everything. It gives a very bad name to the Niger Delta and its peoples. So, I would suggest that everybody there should be cleared out and that the president should now appoint a new set of people, very quickly, under temporary conditions, so that a permanent board and management can be established in the place which would then be monitored.
“I do not see why forensic auditing cannot take place when you have a regular board. I don’t see the point of having this temporary board which is an anomaly which has proved to be such a disaster. So my view is that everybody should be removed right now, clear the place; sweep it clean and start afresh with a new set of people”.
Sagay would not agree that the massive corruption uncovered in the NDDC in the Buhari administration is a dent on his anti-corruption war because according to him, “this is not a new thing. It’s been going on; it’s just that it has come to a head. And any fight against corruption would be affected in this manner in the sense that whilst you are fighting against corruption, there will still be corrupt people who would want to challenge that fight. And as long as you deal with them when you come across them, it’s not a dent. As long as you do not accept what is happening, you do not encourage it, you do not see it and allow it to continue, it cannot be a dent. Anyone doing what these people are doing ought to be taking a risk for which they should pay heavily; and I am sure that the government will ensure that that happens”.
He attributed the corruption in the NDDC to lack of supervision, which he noted is part of the sloppiness particularly in agencies that are not directly part of ministries. “Normally, you have your budget, it is approved by the National Assembly; you spend it in executing projects. At the end of the year, you have an auditor; and that auditor will audit it. The auditor-general will go through it, and then the National Assembly will see it as part of its oversight responsibilities. But obviously, this has not been happening because it has been an open Sesame to these people year in year out; looting everything there and nobody is saying anything. They do it and you get away with it. And then someone else would come, have his own turn, and gets away with it and the Niger Delta continues to settle in its rot”.
On the face-off between the NDDC interim management team and the National Assembly on the ongoing probe, Sagay said “What is happening is that we have people who are predators who have simply descended on their own people and despoiled them of funds that are meant for their development. And obviously there is going to be a clash because they will not be able to explain what they have done with the money; they cannot show projects and developments. The state of the Niger Delta remains the same – no power, no water, no roads; suffering and misery in the midst of plenty whereas these people are simply pilfering all the huge funds that ought to have really turned the Niger Delta into an Abuja type of area if all the money had been spent in developing the Niger Delta. But what do we see? Total underdevelopment, total misery, and total wretchedness; I don’t see how the National Assembly can be comfortable with these people”.