By Opatola Victor

In a recent development that ought to spark public outcry, the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) held a retreat for its Board and Management in Ikot Ekpene, Akwa Ibom State. What caught the attention of many was the decision to broadcast the event live on AriseTv, thereby incurring significant expenses to broadcast the event live. The logistics involved in transporting live broadcast equipment and personnel to Ikot Ekpene would have incurred additional expenses, further exacerbating the overall cost of the retreat.  This ostentatious display raises serious questions about the commission’s priorities and its commitment to serving the people of the Niger Delta.

The decision to televise the retreat has raised eyebrows and prompted questions about the responsible use of public funds. A gathering ostensibly meant for board members and management been televised live on private national television begs for scrutiny. Why would such an event, which should focus on strategic planning and addressing the region’s pressing issues, be broadcasted to the public? The exorbitant cost incurred for this unnecessary spectacle could have been directed towards tangible initiatives aimed at alleviating the suffering of Niger Delta residents.

With the current economic and social realities of this Country, when the Niger Delta is grappling with a myriad of challenges including environmental degradation, lack of infrastructure, and economic stagnation, every Naira spent by the NDDC should be judiciously allocated to initiatives that directly benefit the region’s inhabitants. Instead, public funds are squandered on frivolous endeavors that do little to address the root causes of poverty and underdevelopment. It’s important for the commission to explain to Niger-Deltans and Nigerians the rationale behind such a decision to broadcast live and incure deep expenses that ought to be directed towards its core mandate. Why would a retreat, typically an internal affair aimed at strategic planning and team-building, be broadcasted to the public? What public service or purpose does it serve to televise an event that is primarily meant for Board members and management personnel?

I believe that this move represents a misallocation of resources, diverting funds away from projects and initiatives that could directly benefit the people of the Niger Delta. The millions spent on televising the retreat could have been channeled towards addressing the region’s pressing issues, such as infrastructure development, healthcare, education, and poverty alleviation.

With the current level of severe hardship in this Country, any reckless spending by Government agencies is inexcusable. The approval of such expenses ought to be questioned by a serious National Assembly with its oversight functions.

The ultimate question remains that how does the live telecast and the millions of naira wasted, how does it serve the mandate, function and true purpose of the Commission.   How does it truly help the people of Niger-Delta.  Tax payers should just imagine the cost of live broadcast for hours on a private National Tv, just imagine, then you can probably picture the cost and how it ought to have been effectively used to better the Niger-Delta region.  The true mandate of the NDDC is to facilitate the sustainable development of the Niger Delta region, addressing the socio-economic challenges faced by its inhabitants. By broadcasting a retreat that offers little tangible benefit to the region’s residents, the Commission risks losing sight of its core mission. The live telecast of the retreat serves as a stark reminder of the misplaced priorities that plague Nigeria’s public institutions. While the elite convene in opulent settings to engage in discussions that will be little forgotten by the participants, ordinary citizens continue to endure hardship and neglect, and the government intruns tell the ordinary citizens to endure. The disconnect between government officials and the people they are meant to serve could not be more apparent.

It is time for prudence, accountability and objectivity to reign supreme within the NDDC and other government agencies. Taxpayers deserve to know how their hard-earned money is being utilized and should not tolerate wasteful spending on extravagant retreats and unnecessary broadcasts. Public funds must be spent with prudence.  The NDDC must refocus its efforts on delivering tangible results that improve the lives of Niger Delta residents.

In light of these concerns, it is imperative for the NDDC, and other Government agencies, to reevaluate their priorities and ensure that every Naira spent aligns with the Commission’s mandate and serves the best interests of the Niger Delta community. This includes exercising prudence and fiscal responsibility in all aspects of its operations, including the organization of retreats and other internal events. More important is the fact that there is a need for greater prudence and objectivity mechanisms to prevent wasteful spending and ensure that public funds are used judiciously. This may involve instituting stricter guidelines for public spending strictly inline with the functions of the commission.  Ultimately, the NDDC must demonstrate a commitment to serving the people of the Niger Delta region effectively and responsibly. This requires prioritizing tangible development projects and initiatives that directly impact the lives of the region’s residents, rather than indulging in unnecessary expenditures that serve little purpose beyond optics and image laundry.

As Nigerians continue to grapple with  biting economic challenges, sky-rocket inflation and social disparities, it is incumbent upon government agencies like the NDDC to lead by example and uphold the highest standards of accountability, prudence, objectivity and stewardship of public resources. Anything short of this undermines the trust and confidence of the people and detracts from the Commission’s noble mission of fostering sustainable development in the Niger Delta.

Opatola Victor is a Legal Practitioner and Policy Advocate and can be reached through Victor@legalifyattorneys.com

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