Critical stakeholders from the Niger Delta are spoiling for war over the inauguration of a new board for the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC. The deadline given by Government Ekpemopulo, popularly known as Tompolo is expected to expire at the end of June.
The Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio is currently at the receiving end of threats by some agitators from the region who have insisted that the board nominees that were screened and cleared last November should be the team to be inaugurated.
Those who were cleared by the senate and still waiting for their inauguration were the chairman, Pius Odubu (Edo); Managing Director, Bernard Okumagba (Delta); Executive Director Projects, Otobong Ndem (Akwa Ibom); Executive Director Finance and Admin, Maxwell Okoh (Bayelsa); Delta State representative, Jones Erue; Victor Ekhatar (Edo) and Nwogu Nwogu (Abia).
Others were Theodore Allison (Bayelsa); Victor Antai (Akwa Ibom); Maurice Effiwatt (Cross River); Olugbenga Elema Ondo); Uchegbu Kyrian (Imo); Northwest Rep, Aisha Muhammed (Kano); Northeast Rep, Ardo Zubairu (Adamawa) and Southwest Rep, Badmus Mutalib (Lagos). The Senate had however, rejected the nomination of Joy Nunieh (Rivers).
From the list of cleared nominees, there were observed errors. For example, if the NDDC Act were to be followed, the managing director ought to have been nominated from Bayelsa State, while the chairman ought to come from Delta.
Those who are clamouring for the inauguration of the nominees that were cleared are therefore asking the president, Muhammadu Buhari to swap the positions appropriately and inaugurate the team as cleared by the senate.
TNN however learnt that various interests are pushing for the inclusion of the names of the candidates on the list. The minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, in partnership with the wife of the president, Aisha and the Kaduna State governor, Mallam El-Rufai are said to be pushing for a certain retired major General from Kolokuma, in Bayelsa State.
Also, the names of Senator Heineken Lokpobi and a former governorship candidate of the APC, David Lyon, are also coming up for the position of MD. It was not clear who was sponsoring them.
But Akpabio and some other interested persons are pushing for Chief Samuel Ogbuku. The stiff opposition to Oagbuku’s candidacy is also said to have contributed to the delay in announcing the board members.
Already, petitions have been sent to the president to halt moves by Akpabio to scuttle the approval of the list which the president sent and which was endorsed by the senate. The South South Youth Initiative urged Buhari to take action on the NDDC board based on the list that he sent to the senate for confirmation.
The petition was jointly signed by Imeabe Saviour Oscar, Aniekan Akpan, Efe Onumakwe and Young Kigbara and George Tantua, all of them officials of the group. In it, they thanked Buhari “for all he has done to keep the Niger Delta region safe for Nigeria and for directing the Hon. Minister of Niger Delta Affairs to meet with the stakeholders over the seven day’s ultimatum issued on the protracted inauguration of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) Board.
“Despite the efforts of Mr. President to better the lives of the people of the Niger Delta, unfortunately the NDDC has been in the news lately for all the wrong reasons. This is most especially stemming from, but not limited to, the inability of the supervising Minister to inaugurate a substantive Board of the NDDC. The Hon. Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Sen. Godswill Akpabio, seems to be wilfully negating the extant rules and by-passing established protocols in ensuring the inauguration of a substantive Board of the NDDC for pecuniary reasons.
“We are aware that Sen. Godswill Akpabio has by-passed established protocols as directed by Mr. President relating to matters of the state. He has circumvented the Office of the Chief of Staff to the President in trying to present a new list of nominees other than the already screened and confirmed list through an underhand.
“In August 2019, Mr. President approved the inauguration of the Board of the NDDC that was vetted by the mandatory security agencies, screened and confirmed by the National Assembly of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“Arising from the stakeholders meeting with the Hon. Minister of the Niger Delta Affairs on the 3rd day of June 2021, in the creek of the Niger Delta, Sen. Godswill Akpabio committed to inaugurating the Board in line with the NDDC Act.
“It is only proper that those already screened and confirmed by the appropriate government organ be inaugurated, and be implemented accordingly to the member state making up the NDDC. Those screened and confirmed should be made and occupy the positions due their various states as enshrined in the NDDC Act.
“Any attempt by the Hon. Minister of Niger Delta Affairs to replace the already screened and confirmed list is against the spirit of our understanding and agreement reached on the 3rd of June 2021 and anything outside that is a recipe for crisis in the Niger Delta.
“It is on this basis that we urge you to use your good office to intervene so as to avoid unrest in the Niger Delta by upholding the already screened and confirmed NDDC Board.”
About the same time, a body of rural chiefs in Bayelsa State, led by a renowned activist and one of the leaders of the Ijaw National Congress, INC, Alabo Nengi James also wrote to Buhari, demanding that the board nominees that were cleared by the senate should be inaugurated without further delay.
In the letter, they said “we are the Association of the Rural Chiefs for Peace and Development. Critical stakeholders in the Niger Delta Development project and we are committed to the peace and development of the Niger Delta.
“We seek to lend our voice in the lingering crisis in the Niger Delta Development Commission pertaining to the setting up of the Interim Management Team of the NDDC which has generated uproar and criticism from various sectors of the polity.
“It should be noted that the NDDC is critical sector to the peace and development of the Niger Delta which as brought relative peace to the region.
“The Niger Delta Development Commission was established by the NDDC Act 2000 which repealed the Oil Mineral Producing Areas Commission Decree 1998 among other things, establish a new commission with a re-organized management administrative structure for more effectiveness.
“We are not unaware of the powers of the President under the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to delegate his power to any ministry to carry out any function. As contained in section 170 of the 1999 Constitution as amended.
“The NDDC is created by an Act of the National Assembly; Section 2 Subsection 1 of the Act makes provision for the governing Board of the commission.
“It should be noted that the board has the powers to carry out the day today running of the commission and to formulate policies and guidelines for the development of the Niger Delta Area.
“The Act establishing the NDDC did not contemplate the setting up of an interim management committee to take over the management of the commission thus it will be an aberration and an illegality for an interim committee to oversee the affairs of the commission.
“The tenure of the last board having elapsed by effluxion of time it is expedient upon Your Excellency to appoint and swear in a board pursuant to the provisions of the clear, sacrosanct and unambiguous provisions of the NDDC Act.
“We make bold to say that the Interim Caretaker committee set up by the Minister of Niger Delta affairs is not a legal entity as same is not recognized by law. There is no confusion in the NDDC that will warrant the setting up of an interim Management committee.
“We therefore demand for the immediate dissolution of the Interim caretaker committee in the interest of the peace and development of the Niger Delta Area which we stand for, as Your Excellency may have been iii advised by some self seeking persons contrary to the spirit and intendment of the Act setting up the Niger Delta Development Commission.
“As persons interested in the development of the Niger Delta region, where this illegality is not corrected timeously we shall not hesitate to commence public interest litigation in a court of competent jurisdiction for redress to correct this wrong.
“We do hope that the needful shall be done expeditiously to correct this anomaly/illegality.”