When the National Assembly enacted the law establishing the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, in the year 2000, there was no contemplation for a caretaker leadership structure. What the board provided for was a governing board.
In fact, Part 1, section 2(1) clearly provides for the governing board of the NDDC while Part 11, section 8 of the NDDC Act provides that the board shall have power to:-
(a) manage and supervise affairs of the Commission;
(b) make rules and regulations for carrying out the functions of the Commission
(c) enter and inspect premises, projects and such places as may be necessary for the purposes of carrying out its functions under this Act.
(d) pay the staff of the Commission such remuneration and allowances as appropriate.
(e) enter into such contracts as may be necessary or expedient for the discharge of its functions and ensure the efficient performance of the functions of the Commission,
(f) do such other things as are necessary and expedient for the efficient performance of the functions of the Commission.
However, there have been times when the provisions of the Act had been ignored and certain people appointed to run the commission in acting capacities. But at such times, there have been appointment of a few persons to occupy executive directorship positions, including executive director projects and then executive director finance/administration. These two officers would always assist the acting managing director in running the commission.
Niger Delta people have always been uncomfortable with this situation, as it goes against the law. If they were angry and dissatisfied that the law was ignored and a caretaker team put in place, most people in the Niger Delta, including governors are even much more angry, that a sole administrator has been on the saddle for about a year now, taking decisions and running the place without recourse to anybody apart from the minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio who nominated the sole administrator for the job.
This is what a lot of stakeholders in the region have opposed for a while now. From governors to repentant agitators, there have been stiff opposition against and a consistent clamour for the inauguration of a board for the commission.
Towards the end of 2019, the Nigerian senate screened and confirmed nominees from the president. They have been awaiting inauguration since then, even though there have been reports of plans to nominate fresh people for Mr President’s appointment into the governing board.
There have been opposition to this also. One of the youth groups in the region, the South South Youths Initiative have maintained their position on this. They have urged the president to ensure that the team that was confirmed by the senate should be inaugurated and empowered to resume work in the commission.
A few days ago, they launched a protest at the corporate head office of the commission, as they insisted that they would not suspend their protest until a new board is inaugurated by the president.
Apart from these youths, a lot of other critical stakeholders have urged the federal government to inaugurate a board for the commission so as to end the era of one man controlling the finances of the commission and pushing aside, the provisions of the NDDC Act.
We agree with those who have continued to push for the inauguration of the board. To continue to do otherwise means that we are a lawless people; it means the president does not care about the laws of the land and how they should be obeyed and implanted.
What’s more! The National Assembly who enacted the law needs to wake up in defence of its law. What is the point making laws that are not being implemented?
It is also our firm belief that the nominees who were confirmed by the senate was an act of law making. The question to ask is this: Can that action of the senate be rubbished by other officers of the federal government? Can the confirmation the senate made be rubbished by the executive arm of the government just like that?
The excuse that has long been given, that a new board for the NDDC will not be in place until the report of the forensic audit undertaken at the commission has been submitted and accepted is neither here nor there. This is also not known to the law establishing the NDDC.
We urge those who are working against the inauguration of a board for the NDDC to apply the brakes and take immediate steps to give life to the governing board so that life can return to the Niger Delta in line with the contemplation of the law. The NDDC should not and cannot continuously be run by a sole administrator. The law does not recognise that office and in the real sense, any action taken by that officer is deemed illegal. A new chapter should open for the NDDC.