The Coalition for Transparency in Nigeria (CTN) has knocked the People Advocacy for Transparency and Accountability (PATAI) and Al-Mushaid Initiative for Transparency and Accountability (AITA) for raising false alarm on corrupt practices within the leadership of the North East Development Commission (NEDC).
Recall that PATAI and AITA last week accused the leadership of the North East Development Commission (NEDC) of mismanaging N146.19 billion, and threatened to report the commission to the anti-graft agency if it did not respond to the allegations by Wednesday, March 15, 2023.
But the Coalition for Transparency in Nigeria (CTN) at a press conference held in Abuja on Sunday, March 12, 2023, dismissed the allegations of the CSOs as “false and baseless”.
CTN Executive Director, Dr. Cecilia Ikechukwu who addressed the news conference said the anti-corruption coalition decided on conducting routine due diligence before commending the two organizations for uncovering the allegations.
She explained that the things that the coalition found out about “the entire matter” are, however, “saddening.”
The Executive Director lamented that it was now clear that “hustlers are hijacking the noble resolve of citizens to hold the government accountable.”
The coalition said, “The first absurdity we noticed is that the two groups gave the NEDC leadership until March 15, 2023 to answer to their funny posers failing which they will report to the EFCC. The anti-graft agencies and other law enforcement agencies conduct media scanning and the press briefing held by PATAI and AITA was already enough ground for the EFCC to step in. The fact that it has not stepped in meant that these two so-called “transparency NGOs” are merely engaged in the use of fictitious petitions, campaigns of calumny, and blackmail to intimidate the leadership of NEDC.
“A second absurdity is that the groups accused the NEDC leadership of mismanaging the sum of N146.19 billion being budgetary provisions made for it. It is absurd that they are not able to articulately pin down the amount within the context of budgetary and implementation processes. Was the amount a fraction of a larger budget? What is the timespan the money was meant to cover, one year, two years, or three years? Is the N146.19 billion budget for an entire year? How did the NEDC meet its overhead, recurrent, and personnel costs if the entire N146.19 billion was misappropriated as being claimed?
“Thirdly, it is odd that in spite of all the facts they claimed to possess, both groups opted for media mudslinging and name-calling when they could have simply tendered their petition to the EFCC. Or the Independent Corrupt Practices or Related Offences Commission (ICPC). They can only resort to this route because their allegations of corruption in the agency are non-existing, they are phantom lies in the imagination of these questionable elements.”
The coalition said the fact of the matter was that “in August 2020, the Senate Committee on Special Duties after a three-day oversight function to appraise the performance of the NEDC commended the Commission for its “outstanding performance” in the area of humanitarian intervention. The Chairman of Senate Committee on Special Duties, Senator Yusuf Yusuf, who led the delegation on the oversight visit gave the commendation. Please, note that the Senate has a Committee on Public Accounts, which would have flagged if anything was amiss in the finances of NEDC.
“In June 2022, a Coalition of Gombe Youths and Elders Progressive Forum (CGYEPF) commended NEDC for its laudable intervention initiatives in the North-East sub-region. This Coalition praised the Commission for its various projects in the region. They made their position known in a statement entitled “Gombe Elders and Youths are Happy with NEDC successes in the region,” signed by the coalition’s National Chairman, Alhaji Salihu Magaji. These are citizens that benefitted from the projects it implemented so we wonder where PATAI and AITA are sourcing their own facts from.
“Another fact ignored by the activists-for-hire is that there is a Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP), which must vet the award of contracts of all Federal Government Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAs). To the extent that our emergency “transparency NGOs” could not fault the NEDC leadership for bypassing the contract processes, they ought to have approached institutions that understand the processes to educate them.
“Furthermore, the Is shy four years old. The implication of this is that there is no project or contract awarded that is more than four years old. We are also aware that because of the paucity of funds, government projects are implemented in phases spanning upward of three years with budgetary provisions made for such projects in installments. Sometimes there are years when there would be no budgetary provisions for an ongoing project which would then be temporarily suspended and then resumed in subsequent years when funds are provided. The list of so-called “abandoned projects of NEDC” drawn up by PATAI and AITA, therefore, reeks of ignorance and is totally laughable,” it added.
CTN maintained that “NEDC stands out as one of the most transparent agencies in the country and we are tempted to rate it as the most transparent in the country until such a time that someone can bring up empirical evidence to prove that another agency has surpassed that record.”
While condemning the coordinators of the two organizations for being “insensitive to the dangers of plying their blackmail in a Commission that is strategic to long-term peace in the terrorism-impacted North-East geo-political zone”, the coalition called on the intelligence community and law enforcement agencies to grill the “operators of PATAI and AITA to prove that they are not on errands for Boko Haram/ISWAP.”
This, it said was necessary to ensure that things do not fester badly before destructive platforms like the duo are called to order.
The coalition urged the leadership of NEDC to “disregard the criminal ultimatum handed in by PATAI and AITA to focus on their mandate of returning the northeast to the commercial powerhouse it was before terrorism disrupted lives there.”
The anti-corruption group further urged the NEDC leadership to report the two organizations to law enforcement agencies to “investigate their possible link to terrorism because we fear that it is a matter of time before they begin to physically NEDC projects.”
While advising the public to disregard the two organizations, the coalition called on PATAI and AITA to retrace their steps and stop their resort to blackmail.