There has been a growing clamour for the inauguration of a new board for the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC. Various stakeholders from the Niger Delta have spoken in the recent past, urging the federal government to consider an end to the illegal reign of an interim administrator in the NDDC.
It started shortly after the president, Muhammadu Buhari, announced in December 2019, that an interim caretaker committee was to take over the control and running of the commission. This came at a time that the senate had already screened and cleared the nominees sent to the National Assembly, in line with the provisions of the Act establishing the NDDC.
While the agitations continued, the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio came with a shocker: a forensic audit would be in place, a sole administrator brought in to oversee the affairs of the commission, while a board would only be brought in after the forensic audit had been completed and the report accepted.
So, the people of the Niger Delta waited impatiently for the forensic audit to come to an end. And it eventually came to an end some months ago. But till date, apart from Akpabio and perhaps the nation’s attorney-general, nobody else seems to know the contents of the report.
But the agitations have not ended. Either on the streets or in the media, the people are shouting, calling on the president to allow a board to take over the running of the NDDC in line with the provisions of the law.
A few weeks ago, some youths who go by the name of south south youths initiative took over the head office of the NDDC for a few days as they protested the delay in the inauguration of the NDDC board. Their protest meant nothing to Akpabio and the president.
But a few days ago, some Niger Delta women under the aegis of the Wailing Women of the Niger Delta (WWND) barricaded the entrance to the NDDC headquarters to launch their protest and draw the government’s attention to their agitation for an NDDC board.
Coordinator of the group, Adienbo Odighonu, a lawyer, was quoted in the media as saying that the women decided to take to the streets and disrupt activities at the NDDC because it was time for the government to act and bring on board, a board for the commission.
She demanded the immediate sack of the NDDC’s sole administrator, noting that his continued stay in office contravenes the Act that set up the NDDC. The media quoted her as saying that “I am here because Akpabio thinks he has compromised and bought over all the people of Niger Delta. The NDDC Acts states there is nothing like interim administration that they should constitute a board to bring development to our grassroots.
“I come from the grassroots, I know what our men, women, and children are passing through. We are here to change the narrative. We are here to tell the people of Nigeria, that Akpabio, Malami, and Buhari should constitute the board.
“We are here to tell them that the illegal sole administrator should be dissolved, and if they do not listen to our calls, we promise them that we are going to protest naked. This is just the beginning.”
With the turn of events, we are of the opinion that the time has come for the federal government, and particularly Akpabio, to urgently sack the sole administrator and bring on board, the board members of the NDDC that had been screened and cleared by the senate.
It would not be in the interest of the country or the Niger Delta, to allow those women to hit the streets of Port Harcourt naked. Akpabio was born of a woman. He has a wife. The president was born of a woman and also has a wife. Both the president and the minister have female children and sisters. To allow the world to watch the Niger Delta women go naked would mean to disrespect all Nigerian women, including their wives, mothers and daughters. We do not think the president and Akpabio are really prepared to see the nakedness of the Niger Delta women on the streets of Port Harcourt.
What’s more, the NDDC Act provides that the commission must only be run by a board. Which is why we do not understand why it has become a prayer point to do the right thing. Akpabio as a lawyer, knows what the law says about the NDDC board. It is wrong for him to continue to support the running of the NDDC by a single individual.
Akpabio should not allow tension to heighten in the Niger Delta. A new board of the NDDC must be in place now.