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Social Action Calls for Transparency, Accountability over NDDC’s N1.9 Trillion 2024 Budget, Shell’s $ 142.5 Million Contribution

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Social Action Calls for Transparency, Accountability over NDDC’s N1.9 Trillion 2024 Budget, Shell’s $ 142.5 Million Contribution

By Ekemini Simon

Social Development Integrated Centre ( Social Action) has called on the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) to be more transparent, accountable and inclusive in the implementation of its 2024 budget.

This is coming on the heels of the NDDC presentation of a total budget of N1.9trillion to the Senate for approval for 2024, a sum representing a 100% increase from the 2023 approved budget coupled with NDDC recent confirmation that Shell Petroleum Development of Nigeria Ltd (SPDC) and Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company Limited (SNEPCo) contributed the total sum the $142.5 million to the Commission to support social investments and interventions in the Niger Delta.

In a press release signed by the Communications Coordinator of Social Action and made available to newsmen on Tuesday, Social Action commended NDDC for embracing transparency regarding the details of its receipt from Shell but urged the commission’s management to be more open and provide more details of how Shell’s contribution will be expended.

The Organisation said it is not enough to mention that money was received, but it is equally important to tell the public how the fund has or will be utilized.

The release referenced the Programmes Coordinator of Social Action, Isaac Botti, as noting that the call is borne out of the fact that NDDC has, over the years, developed a culture of budget secrecy.

He noted that access to the NDDC budget by members of the public is a severe challenge, and when requests are made, NDDC will either not respond or ask one to make your request to the Clark of the National Assembly.

Botti said keeping budget documents away from the public is a disservice to NDDC itself. It will continue to lose public trust and confidence, which can lead to serious misinformation and a lack of support for the agency’s work.

He recalled that in 2021, former President Buhari inaugurated a forensic audit of the NDDC account, which showed that some six trillion Naira were wasted on 13,777 projects.

The Programmes Coordinator added, “This was due to a lack of public knowledge of the agency’s yearly budget and citizens’ lack of involvement in the budget implementation process. This accounted for why projects are either poorly executed, mismanaged or abandoned.”

He said that to forestall the wrong trend, the management of NDDC must be proactive in making its capital budget accessible and developing a more community approach to citizens’ engagement and involvement in implementing projects situated in their communities.

He said, “We do not want this situation to continue, nor do we want this money to go in the way of the other funds. The need for probity and the instilling of public trust informed our demands to NDDC. We, therefore, want NDDC to be open, inclusive, and accountable in its approach to utilizing allocated or contributed funds.

“We demand that NDDC engage more grassroots citizens to effectively implement its projects. We use this opportunity to call on Shell and its partners to prioritize environmental remediation and sustainability of their operations in the region; we also want to commend the current leadership of the NDDC under the leadership of Dr. Samuel Ogbuku for making efforts to work more with the stakeholders but urge him to do more in engaging community people for better service delivery.

“This can be achieved by making the budget and spending of the commission available to the public, engaging the public in the course of implementation, and avoiding the influence of unscrupulous politicians who see NDDC as their cash cow.”

Social Action called on the NDDC’s Managing Director to do more by making his office more open and in responding to citizens’ demands or calls.

The Organisation recommended that he not allow some elements within his agency to continue to distance him from the people by keeping away from vital letters from the citizens, such as invitations for engagement and advocacy visits.

Social Action assured that it will continue to work with communities and other relevant stakeholders to ensure transparency, accountability, and inclusive service delivery.

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