By Onuche Odoma
The Managing Director (MD) of the North East Development Commission (NEDC) Alhaji Mohammed Goni Alkali is a rare breed. His honesty, transparency and uprightness in the discharge of his responsibilities at the NEDC are seldom in most Nigerians. His public actions in the management of people and resources are unlike the general known character of Nigerians.
Months back, the House of Representatives bowed to pressures and conducted investigation into the alleged misappropriation of N100 billion at the NEDC by the management, headed by Mohammed Alkali. Some NGOs blew the alarm and the Nigerian media amplified the message.
A motion raised in plenary by Minority Leader, Ndudi Elumelu accused the NEDC boss of multiple corrupt acts and financial infractions at the commission, which was created to jumpstart massive infrastructural developments in the Northeast ravaged by years of Boko Haram insurgency. The House of Reps conducted a scrupulous investigation into the allegations against Alkali, but only found an empty bag of accusations.
Its submitted and adopted report on the probe indicated that the allegations against Mohammed Goni Alkali were spurious, frivolous, fabricated and baseless. Pleasantly too, the Reps committee also commended the Alkali-led management of the NEDC for its impressive and credible performance in projects execution in the communities covered by the mandate of the commission.
This is an uncommon applause for a public servant in Nigeria who came under the investigative searchlight of national parliamentarians. Most Nigerians who find themselves in such probes hardly escape, without a scratch on the skin, like in the case of Alkali. They are found complicit in many ways and handed over to anti-graft agencies for prosecution.
Those conversant with this country, cannot argue that Nigerians are variously very ingenious. Test a Nigerian on anything, he excels exceedingly. Nigeria parades many best world class recognized professionals in virtually every disciplines. Nigerians are industrious and productive. The never-dying spirit in a Nigerian has opened rare doors for him and in strange climes globally.
However, like established by social scientists, every being is a blend of the contents of good and evil. The evil side of some Nigerians is also strappingly amazing. Nigerians have a high content of corruption. It’s nearly impossible to demand from many Nigerians holding public offices to adhere to the doctrinal tripod of transparency, accountability and probity in service.
Therefore, looting, embezzlement, diversion, pilfering, plundering, siphoning of the nation’s commonwealth and other financial crimes generally are the cherished pastime of most public office holders or Politically Exposed Persons (PEP) in the country. Financial crimes are very commonplace and the ingenuity it is executed, sometimes, marvel anti-graft agencies in the course of investigations.
There is hardly any day, one picks a copy of daily newspaper in Nigeria, without the headlines screaming with words like “Billions of naira missing in NPA;” “Probe spending of N881bn by 367 MDAs without appropriation, SERAP tells Buhari;” “Multi-billion-naira fraud rocks NDDC management;” “Over $ 2 billion arms procurement funds looted” and so forth.
Nigerians with the proclivity of corruption hardly ruminate while committing these crimes. But once the whistle blows, they indulge in all manner of subterfuge to subvert justice to the Nigerian state and the people. Courts trials of suspected fraudsters and parliamentary sessions digging into allegations of frauds have experienced some humorous scenes.
Some fraud suspects under trial or probe turn the courtrooms or venues into drama theatres. They play the thespian to invoke pity from the same public they shortchanged for personal enrichment, merely to evade justice. Some even feign illness.
There are notable examples! Of course, Nigerians have not forgotten how ex-PDP national publicity secretary who was standing trial for alleged money laundering collapsed in court in one of his trial sessions. He was accused of partaking in the diversion of N400 million from the $2.1 billion arms procurement fund. Former Bayelsa State Governor, Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha had to redefine gender fashion by disguising as a woman and escaped the shores of Nigeria when he faced alleged corruption charges.
Likewise, the Acting Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) Prof. Kemebradikumo Pondei, dramatically slumped and fainted during a financial sleaze investigative hearing at the National Assembly (NASS). He was drilled by NASS committee over his alleged mismanagement of N40 billion funds of the commission. The riddle is yet to be resolved.
It was at the heat of the national uproar generated by Prof. Pondei’s battling with the hammer of parliament investigation that the allegations against the NEDC management sprouted. But as an upright and incorruptible public servant, Alhaji Mohammed Goni Alkali was not panicked by it. He calmly told reporters of his willingness to appear before the Reps Committee anytime he was invited to render accounts of his stewardship.
From the outset, Alkali trusted his clean records. Strikingly, the case of the management of the NEDC is however different. The parliament did its investigation and gave Alkali a pat on the back for his flawless handling of public accounts and projects. But the charges against him were multiple. His accusers alleged corrupt practices such as high handedness, over inflation of contracts, awards of non-existent contracts, massive contract splitting and brazen abuse of procurement laws in the award of contracts.
Quite honestly, the dragnet was expansive. But none of the allegations had any worthwhile substance to nail Alkali or implicate his leadership of the NEDC. This is an apt indication of a genuine and accountable public leadership by Alkali. Those close to the NEDC boss have attested to his personage as a stickler to personal positive morality. He combines it with the dictates of the law, anywhere he dispenses public leadership.
Today, if Nigerians are amazed at the rapid infrastructural rejuvenation of the Northeast, which was devastated and ruined by terrorists, the shadows of the NEDC under Alkali’s leadership reflects conspicuously everywhere. Through Alkali’s focused and honest leadership, the NEDC has strongly waded into the humanitarian crisis and infrastructural deficit caused by by Boko Haram insurgency.
The NEDC-MD has adopted the Multisectoral Crisis Recovery Project (MCRP) approach, as supported by the World Bank in tackling the disparate problems in the Northeast. The commission is into sensitization of the locals on the reality of fleeing remnants of Boko Haram insurgents and the dangers of sheltering escapee insurgents. And Alkali has trained select natives on techniques of dismantling unexploded landmines in communities for a more protective environment.
The commission has launched and is aggressively pursuing the Education Endowment Fund, agenda in the region. The scholarship benefits over 20,000 youths at the cost of N6 billion yearly. It has enabled the beneficiaries to access academic or professional capacity training and development in different fields of studies.
The NEDC is implementing the rehabilitation of drinking water and sanitation facilities in the states of the Northeast. Within his short duration in office, Alkali has implemented various humanitarian reliefs projects numbering 1, 310 under the broad scheme of “Rapid Response Intervention” (RRI) in all the 112 local governments of the Northeast region.
The commission also provide farmers with agricultural machinery and equipment, seeds, fertilizers, agrochemicals and extension services logistics vehicles annually under a programme tagged; “Integrated Agriculture Programme” (IAP). It covers the whole 112 LGAs in the Northeast. The NEDC is also into skills acquisition, training and provision of starter packs to Information Communication Technology (ICT), trainees.
Alkali has given entrepreneurship, and vocational skills a boast. Each of the 1,028 wards of the Northeast region, The NEDC has empowered women and youths in order to divert attention from the attractions of conscription into Boko Haram. The NEDC’s ambitious project of the construction of 10,000 housing units spread across 10 Borno LGAs for the resettlement of the internally displaced persons (IDPs) are the many signposts of the Alkali-led management of the NEDC.
Therefore, a public administrator engaged in such lofty and populist programmes as exemplified by Alkali’s leadership of the NEDC will not see the extra public funds to embezzle, even if he is tempted. Consequently, it was a heart-warming external blend with the reality in the management of NEDC, when the House of Reps applauded the NEDC for due diligence in the execution of projects, after the probe of alleged looted N100 billion.
Certainly, NEDC’s initiatives, operations and its impact on the communities in the Northeast region are speeding up the recovery process of the traumatized people and recovery of the entire devastated region. Mohammed Goni Alkali is accordingly encouraged to sustain and possibly, accelerate the tempo, as funds keep coming into the coffers of the commission.
Odoma wrote this piece from Abuja.