Nigeria's oil agency is investigating the disappearance of billions

Investigators are searching for billions of dollars in lost or stolen funds from an Nigerian agency set up to develop the oil-rich but impoverished Niger Delta.

Nigeria's oil agency is investigating the disappearance of billions

Like the rest of the country's murky oil sector, officials say the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), based in the southern oil city of Port Harcourt, has been a hotbed of corruption and mismanagement since its inception 20 years ago. ۔

Nine states in the oil region make trillions of naira (billions of dollars) a year, thanks to huge payments from the government and oil companies in the central region.

So far, more than 12,000 projects have been approved’ for the commission, but a recent parliamentary inquiry has revealed that only a fraction has been, implemented.

This year alone, more than 81 billion Naira (215 million, 180 million euros) have been allegedly misused by officials and contractors, some of whom believe it was spent on international flights and training while The country's airspace was closed due to the corona virus epidemic.

Last month, the government approved auditors headed by Ernst & Young to examine the agency's financial audit.

Niger Delta Affairs Minister God Will Akpabio said President Muhammadu Buhari order was investigated’ in October following the appointment of a team of auditors.

The auditors will review NDDC-approved projects over the past 19 years, said Akpibio, which is itself conducting a parliamentary review of the alleged graft.

"Through this exercise, we will know whether the amount of money that has flowed into the region over the last 19 years and whether the value we have received so far is commensurate with the money that has flowed into NDDC," he said. Have happened. "

At a public hearing last month, NDDC chief Kemebradikumo Pondei fainted while being questioned by lawmakers.

Despite Nigeria's multibillion-dollar oil and gas wealth, the Niger Delta is poor and developed, which sparked militant unrest in the early 2000s.

At the time, attacks on oil facilities reduced Nigeria's oil production by a third, hurting revenue.

Africa's largest crude producer and exporter relies heavily on the oil sector for a large share of government revenue and 90% of its foreign exchange earnings.

- Abandoned projects -

In the southern state of Balsa, it is clear to see broken promises as NDDC contractors have abandoned landscaping waste.

Partially developed projects that protect coastal areas and remote areas to make link roads are deserted.

The eight-kilometer (five-mile) route was to Ogbia, the hometown of former President Good luck Jonathan.

The project was awarded to a company owned by the former president's cousin in 2013, but was never completed.

Community leaders are angry that well-connected contractors, mostly from the region, are leaving after collecting large sums of money.

"I can't tell you about any project that NDDC has completed in this community, although we have a series of such projects," Duateki Oriango-Oruwari  told AFP.

"For those of us who live in riverine areas, we face daily coastal erosion."

Another community leader, Alex Aquier, complained that people in the region who get jobs are not doing so.

"The most depressing and sad fact is that when the government awards our own sons for these projects, they leave them."

Several contractors denied abandoning the sites, saying they had not been’ paid by NDDC.

Former President Jonathan's cousin Azizola Roberts said his firm owed about $ 1.5 million.

"Once the money is paid, we will start work on the site and the plans will be implemented," he insisted.

He blamed unrest by angry locals for blocking projects in the Niger Delta.

"While digging sand from a stream in a nearby community for the project, locals in the community confiscated our machines, insisting that we hire them or give them a certain amount of money," he said. You have to pay. "

Industry observers say that in order to make the ongoing investigation meaningful, the government should stop appointing politicians and cronies to the NDDC.

"They see such appointments as compensation, not a demand for service." Columnist Shaka Momodu recently wrote for the Independent Daily.

"Such appointments look at the wallet and start working again."

He wants the oil companies to present 3% of their annual budget to NDDC on its board.

"It is shocking that international oil companies have found a different way, despite all the looting and corruption in the commission," Momondo said.


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