IN Nigeria, probe panels have become the classic means of covering up crimes and corruption in government, rather than the means of exposing them and punishing culprits.
Even the military panels for the recovery of government funds and property set up by the Muhammadu Buhari military regime in 1984 turned out a mere witch hunt of targeted political foes.
The panels set up by the Senate and House of Representatives to probe allegations of massive misappropriation of funds in the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, in July this year appear to have gone the way of the others even after a cloud of thespian displays on live television.
President Muhammadu Buhari had ordered a “forensic audit” of the Commission in October 2019 when a delegation led by former Bayelsa State Governor, Seriake Dickson, visited him in Aso Villa.
Till date, there are no indications as to what the audit has uncovered. The nation remains in the dark about the affairs of the interventionist body that has left thousands of jobs abandoned by contractors after collecting fees up front.
Also, following allegations that the Interim Management Committee, IMC, of the Commission led by Prof. Kemebradikumo Daniel Pondei had misappropriated over N81bn within the seven months of its tenure, the House of Representatives empanelled the committee headed by Olatunbosun Tunji Ojo to probe the allegations. Following pressures from IMC officials who accused Ojo of selfish interests, he recused himself and gave way to his deputy, Thomas Eremienyo. Eremienyo, in turn, desperately tried to stop the Niger Delta Affairs Minister, Senator Godswill Akpabio, from proceeding when the latter alleged that most lawmakers were beneficiaries of NDDC contracts.
There was also the dramatic episode where the Rivers State Police Command tried to arrest former Chairman of the NDDC IMC, Joy Nunieh, who was billed to testify against Akpabio. It took the personal intervention of the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, to prevent that. The climax of the dramatic series was the sudden slumping of Prof. Pondei on July 20, 2020 while waiting to testify. That appeared to be the end of the probes.
Even the Senate’s investigation of the N40bn “illegal payments” by the IMC appears to have died a natural death.
In all these, the true situation of things in the Commission remains obfuscated. Nothing has been heard of Buhari’s over one-year-long forensic audit. Nobody has been brought to book, and the two chambers of the National Assembly have not disclosed to the public the outcomes of their investigations.
We need to remind the President, the Senate and House of Representatives that the public has the right to know the outcomes of their probes, and the law must be visited on offenders.
Otherwise, the NDDC will remain a cesspit of corruption.