Perhaps, the people of the Niger Delta never ever envisaged that there would come a time when the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, would be run and controlled by one man.
The commission was established with contemplation that it would be run and managed by a board. Section 2.(1) of the Act establishing the commission states inter alia: “There is hereby established for the Commission a governing Board (in this Act referred to as “the Board”), which shall consist of-(a) a chairman;(b)one person who shall be an indigene of an oil producing area to represent each of the following member states, that is,(i)Abia State,(ii)Akwa-lbom State (iii)Bayelsa State,(iv)Cross River State,(v)Delta State,(vi)Edo State,(vii)Imo State,(viii)Ondo State, and(ix)Rivers State;(c)three persons to represent non-Oil mineral producing States provided that such membership should be drawn from the remaining geo-political zones which are not represented in the Commission;(d)One representative of Oil producing companies in the Niger-Delta nominated by the Oil producing companies;(e)one person to represent the Federal Ministry of Finance;(f)one person to represent Federal Ministry of Environment(g)the managing director of the commission(h)two executive Directors….”
According to the law, all the nine states that make up the NDDC are supposed to be involved in the administration of the commission. But that has not been the case for sometime now. Things got worse from 2019 when the minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio fought hard to disconnect the commission from The Presidency and socket same to his ministry. That done, the minister was able to properly manipulate affairs of the commission the way he wanted, disregarding the provisions of the enabling law.
The minister has, since then, succeeded in running the NDDC as his personal estate. From an interim management which he put in place, the commission now has a sole administrator who has been in charge of affairs at the commission. From a three to six months initial period that he was expected to be in office, during which time the forensic audit which Akpabio introduced was expected to complete its work, the sole administrator has been in office for about a year now.
Each time stakeholders cry out, Akpabio would come up with fresh reasons why the board of the commission cannot be inaugurated. It is reported that Akpabio is the alpha and omega in NDDC and decides which contractor is paid and who cannot be paid. The sole administrator is reported in the media to be his boy-o-boy, whom he gives instructions that must be obeyed without any excuses.
Various people, including governors, ex-militants and freedom fighters and many critical stakeholders have all complained about the goings on at the NDDC. Just recently, Akpabio was reported to have said that a new board of the commission would come into existence by the end of June. That was after his visit to Government Ekpemupolo, popularly called Tompolo. But that has since changed. Now, the new song is that the new board will only be in place after the report of the forensic auditors must have been submitted and accepted.
What that means is that if the forensic audit is made ready in another one year, and it also takes another one year for it to be accepted, then the commission would continue to remain under the control of Akpabio.
We do not think this is right. The NDDC cannot and should not be allowed to remain under Akpabio’s whims and caprices. Allowing this to happen is to destroy the dreams of those who fought for and gave their lives for the region, leading to the establishment of the NDDC.
A forensic audit cannot be carried out forever. Also, a sole administrator cannot be allowed to perpetually control the NDDC, when the law had provided for how the commission should be administered.
We are of the strong view that the time has come for critical stakeholders to call Akpabio to order and put an end to the lawlessness in the NDDC. What’s more, the Nigerian senate has already confirmed the nominees made by the president. So, we agree with those who have proposed the inauguration of that team, so that life can return to the NDDC.