By Felix Ekwu
President Muhammadu Buhari has been urged to inaugurate the already screened members of the board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
The Niger Delta Integrity Group made the call on Thursday, August 4, 2022, in a press statement following recent media reports quoting the president as saying that he would soon inaugurate the board while declaring open a retreat for management of the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs and the oil commission at the State House Banquet Hall, Presidential Villa, Aso Rock, Abuja, on Thursday, July 28, 2022.
Recall President Buhari had via a letter dated October 18, 2022, forwarded to the Nigerian Senate for screening and confirmation of sixteen eminent Nigerians for appointment as substantive members of the board of the NDDC.
Topping the list of the nominees were, Dr Pius Odubu (Edo) as chairman, Chief Bernard Okumagba (Delta) as Managing Director, Engr Otobong Ndem (Akwa Ibom) as Executive Director, Projects, and Maxwell Oko (Bayelsa) as Executive Director, Finance and Administration.
Others include Prophet Jones Erue, representing Delta State, Chief Victor Ekhalor (Edo), Nwogu N Nwogu (Abia), Theodore A Allison (Bayelsa), Victor Antai (Akwa Ibom), Maurice Effiwatt (Cross River), Olugbenga Edema (Ondo), Hon Uchegbu Chidiebere Kyrian representing Imo state.
Also on the list were Aisha Murtala Mohammed (Kano state) representing North West, Shuaib Ardo Zubairu (Adamawa state) representing North East and Ambassador Abdullahi M Bage from Nasarawa state representing North Central.
The Niger Delta Integrity Group in the statement signed by the President, Akpoebide Okotiene and Secretary, Edet Ekpenyong, said parts that: “President Muhammadu Buhari has already nominated a Board for the NDDC in October 2019 whose members were vetted by all relevant agencies of the federal government following which they were screened and confirmed by the Nigerian Senate on November 5 2019. They are only now waiting to be inaugurated. Mr President has restated his intention to inaugurate the Board on the completion of the forensic audit, which commitment he restated on Thursday, July 28, 2022, while declaring open a retreat for management of the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs and NDDC at the state house banquet hall, Presidential villa, Aso Rock, Abuja.
“We, therefore, urge President Buhari to inaugurate the board and management of the Commission, in compliance with the law to ensure that the nine constituent states of the region will have fair and equitable representation in the Commission in line with the Act of the National Assembly 2000 which brought the interventionist agency into existence and made it mandatory for the President to appoint a board and management for the Commission, subject to confirmation by the Senate.
“We align with other authentic stakeholders to restate that the preservation of a sole administrator or an interim administration in the management of the Commission is not only a breach of the NDDC Act 2000 but an affront to the long-deprived people of the region who have had to endure three years of the foremost agency being arbitrarily run in breach of the law – the NDDC Act and in utter disregard of their need and the region’s development.
“We also wish to remind President Buhari, the Federal Government, and indeed the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) that the continued administration of the NDDC by a sole administrator is illegal because the NDDC Act has no provision for this illegality as the NDDC Act only provides that the Board and Management of the NDDC at any point in time should follow the provisions of the law which states that the Board and management is to be appointed by the President, subject to confirmation by the Senate. In effect, nobody is supposed to begin to administer the NDDC and utilise the huge funds accruing to it on a monthly basis without passing through this legal requirement as stipulated in the NDDC Act.
“We also remind President Buhari and the Federal Government that the North East Development Commission (NEDC) has been allowed to function with its duly inaugurated board (since May 2019) in line with the NEDC Act, thereby guaranteeing proper corporate governance, accountability, checks and balances, and fair representation of its constituent states, the NDDC, on the other hand, has been arbitrarily managed in the past three years by interim administrations/sole administrator, in flagrant violation of the law establishing the Commission.
“As stakeholders in the Niger Delta region we align with other credible voices in the region to emphasise that the Federal Government, President Buhari, and indeed the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), should be concerned about the disdain of the Niger Delta people over the manner the NDDC has been handled, most especially administering the Commission with illegal interim managements/sole administrator contraptions for five years in this administration’s seven years in office, and therefore needs to end the ongoing illegality in NDDC if this government is to be remembered for good in the Niger Delta.
“All stakeholders are now awaiting the earnest inauguration of the NDDC Board appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate since November 2019 in line with the NDDC Act to ensure fair representation of the nine constituent states, accountability in the utilisation of the NDDC funds, checks and balances and due process in the administration of the Commission.”