Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Unhelpful escapism

The Nation
17 September 2011

And so has the removal by President Goodluck Jonathan of the Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Mr. Chibuzor Ugwoha, as well as all the commission’s Executive Directors, and the dissolution of its Board effectively and definitively addressed the protracted crisis that had plagued the organisation and obstructed the fulfilment of its statutory obligations? The answer is an unambiguous no. What the President has done is indeed a characteristically Nigerian response that neither addresses the root causes of a deep-seated problem nor lays a basis for avoiding a recurrence.

For the past eight months, the NDDC had been practically paralysed by a crisis of confidence and authority between the managing director and the dissolved Board headed by retired Air Vice Marshal Larry Koinyan. The dispute revolved essentially around the management of projects worth over N69 billion being executed by the commission. Also in contention was the alleged transfer of $20 million from the NDDC’s Union Bank account in the United Kingdom to First Bank (UK) Plc. While the managing director claimed to have acted on the authority of the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation to protect the commission’s funds from Nigeria’s banking crisis, the Board maintained it did not approve the movement of the funds.

President Jonathan had set up the Presidential Committee on NDDC headed by a former Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Mr. Steve Oransanye, to investigate the crisis and make recommendations. The chairman of the Traditional Rulers of Oil Mineral Producing Communities of Nigeria (TROMPCON), Oba (Dr.) Lawrence Adetemi Omowole 111, the Amapetu of Mahin Kingdom, had echoed the popular view when he expressed the optimism that the Oransanye panel would “identify areas of rifts with a view to proffering solutions that will enhance institutional potency as well as strengthen the values and virtues of the commission”.

That hope has clearly been dashed.

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