By Seun Awogbenle
Just last week, I wrote that under President Buhari, Nigeria has not just become a cesspool of corruption, it has become the Next Level of it. Although at the time I wrote the op-ed last week, I did not have a grasp of the skill and deft that has come with this new scale of corruption!
The investigative hearing of the House Committee on the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) on Monday which will rank as of Nigeria’s most infamous moment on all front, was a demonstration of the deft that has come with our new brand of corruption. Although, while we have seen similar showmanship in the past, Monday’s plot twist is not just legendary in its scripting, the roles were also well played.
Before all the characters involved decided to wear their roles like a badge of honour and action was pronounced on the tragicomedy, at the commencement of the public hearing when there was pretense to normalcy, I observed keenly that the Acting MD of the NDDC Prof Daniel Pondei was largely incoherent and could barely defend almost all the allegations of misappropriation, financial impropriety and extra budgetary spending leveled against the the management of the NDDC which he is the head.
But while I am unable to declare with emphasis, that Prof Daniel Pondei was only putting up a show, but having watched the public hearing over again, it may not be inaccurate to see what happened on Monday as a classic Nollywood scene in Nigeria’s hallowed chamber!
Two things point at this fact, Prof Pondei had last week walked out of the committee hearing accusing the House Committee Chairman Hon. Olubunmi Ojo of corruption, Pondei declined to make presentation and also queried Ojo’s integrity to preside over the committee. Similarly, I am particularly yet to reconcile how Prof Pondei passed out at the point he was asked to make further clarification on how the Agency spent N1.5 billion which he claimed is N1.32 billion on “ourselves” that is the about 1400 NDDC staff as COVID-19 palliative!
The N1.32 billion he claimed is not anywhere in the 2019 approved budget of the commission, the House committee members quipped, where then did Prof Pondei derive the powers to make such approval and spending, he was asked, but to my surprise the only response I saw from Prof Pondei was that he slumped. In a country where public trust has been badly eroded and abused, I can not blame Nigerians including myself who have failed to show empathy for the poor prof! Like I told someone yesterday, while he was dining with the devil, he forgot to use a long spoon!
Trust Nigerians, we have not only made series of joke out of it on social media, infact pictures have also been recycled of politicians who have in the past put up a similar show and contrived bad health as a way to evade justice and court hearing over one corruption allegation or criminal charge! Ayo Fayose, Olisa Metuh, Dino Melaye examples abound of such showmanship!
In the midst of all the reaction from Social Media, I find the one from one twitter user @tkb417 quite instructive, I have decided to reproduce the reaction here with minor edit “NDDC is the focus today, If they throw shovel at NIMASA, same will happen, Throw shovel at CUSTOMS same outcome, NNPC? FAAN? No way Nigeria is developing when 75% of the resources are stolen by less than 10,000 people”.
One thing that is clear from yesterday’s showmanship is that Nigerian politicians have decided to loot this country until there is nothing in sight. The revelation by the Minister of Niger Delta Godswill Akpabiow whom by the way is at the centre of all of this, that 60% of the contracts in NDDC were awarded to members of the National Assembly did not come as a surprise to me, the truth is that there is only one ruling class family in Nigeria, they are not joined by any ideology or principle only interest!
While Akpabio was playing away his time at the National Assembly with his contractor friends, sorry I mean legislators, Nigerian Scholars from the Niger Delta, who had been promised to be sponsored by the NDDC for their academic Programme were protesting in London. This is not just sad, what is most troubling is that the monies meant for the scholars is alleged to have been pocketed by individuals within the management, leaving the scholars to their fate!
It appears there is no end in sight regarding the NDDC probe, it has simply become the case of the more you look the less you see. At this point, I align with all those who have demanded that an independent commission of inquiry and a reputable auditing firm be appointed to scrutinize and carry out thorough investigation of all those involved including their accomplice in the National Assembly, all those who are found to be complicit must be prosecuted accordingly.
President Buhari should also as a matter of urgency immediately dissolve the current interim management committee appointed by Akpabio and replace them with a new executive committee in acting capacity until we can steady the ship of that commission.
Surely, Monday, July 20 2020, will remain in our history as the day Nigerians were treated to a classic Nollywood in Nigeria’s hallowed chamber at no cost!