The Governors of nine oil producing states in the country, Thursday, met with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, in a closed-door meeting.
This as even the President ordered a forensic audit to the money released so far to the the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) in its 19 years of existence.
Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa, who spoke with State House correspondents after the meeting, said a major issue discussed with the President was the NDDC.
He expressed optimism that the President would address the concerns raised by the governors about developments in the commission.
“Today, I came here with my colleagues, Governors of the oil producing states; states that make up the Niger Delta.
“We came to have interactions with the president and senior officials of his government on our concerns about developments in the Niger Delta.
“We also discussed fears and what we know is going on in the NDDC which is a critical agency,” he said.
He said the Governors were delighted with the President’s understanding of the challenges and the issues in the commission and had promised to address them.
Dickson said the concerns had to do with stability, security and development.
“That is a broad spectrum; we had a robust discussion and the president fully understands, from his experience, the cost of development and the peculiar challenges that come with being an oil producing region.
“He has promised to look into it and take steps regarding some of the observations that we came to make which he and his team, the Niger Delta Ministry, are on top of.
“So, more or less, we had a meeting of minds; we compared notes and all agreed on the challenges we all need to work together to address,” he added.
The nine oil producing states are Rivers, Bayelsa, Cross River, Akwa Ibom, Delta, Edo, Abia, Imo and Ondo.
Meanwhile, worried by the persistent criticisms of the operations of the NDDC, Buhari Thursday ordered a forensic audit of the operations of the organisation from 2001 to 2019.
President Buhari said what is presently on the ground in the South South region does not justify the huge resources that have been made available to the commission.
“I try to follow the Act setting up these institutions especially the NDDC. With the amount of money that the Federal Government has religiously allocated to the NDDC, we will like to see the results on the ground; those that are responsible for that have to explain certain issues.
“The projects said to have been done must be verifiable. You just cannot say you spent so much billions and when the place is visited, one cannot see the structures that have been done. The consultants must also prove that they are competent, the President said.
President Buhari admitted that developing the Niger Delta area required enormous resources compared to other parts of the country with firmer lands.
“I am acutely aware, with my experience, that projects in your area are very expensive; that is why if any job is given, we must make sure that the company is competent and has the capacity to do it well with experienced consultants,” the president added.
He however said that he would wait for the report of the audit before deciding on the next line of action regarding the organisation.
Governor Dickson had earlier expressed the disappointment of other governors with the operations of the NDDC, which they said was characterised by poor choice of projects, shoddy handling, uncompleted jobs and lack of the required support for the efforts of the states and local government administration in the region covered by the organisation.
He, therefore, called for the repositioning of the NDDC in order to achieve the objectives for which it was set up.
The NDDC was created by the Obasanjo administration as an interventionist agency, in response to decades of complaints of neglect by the oil-rich region. The government gave the agency the mandate to develop the region.
Former President Umaru Yar’adua in 2008 created the Ministry of Niger Delta and made the NDDC an agency under the ministry.
The agency has little to show for the billions of naira it has received in the last 19 years.
Many Nigerians believe the NDDC has largely failed in its mandate and has since become a platform for compensating loyal politicians. Former heads of the agency have gone on to contest for political offices amid allegations they used the agency to raise political war chest.