By BELEMA OPUKIRI

AS far back as the third century B.C., the “Legist” school of philosophy in China had made a case for the existence of law in society. The underlying idea, around which this case is built, is that man is by nature evil and the law is needed to keep his evil inclination in check. It concluded that only the restraint of penal law would bring good back to the society. The school was reacting to the decadence and chaos that then characterised the Chinese society.

Interestingly, at about the same time, the “Shastra coriters” of India were making a similar argument. According to this school, man by nature is greedy and if left to operate without law, life itself would become a sort of “devil’s workshop” operating on the “logic of the fish”.  The big fish will feed on the smaller ones. In the words of Thomas Hobbes, “a society without law is a veritable recipe for disaster”. His arguments are copiously and eloquently outlined in his book Leviathan, published in 1661.

The Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, was statutorily set up by an Act and charged with various responsibilities with a view to bringing development to member states and, by implication, Nigeria as a country. Recently, the tenure of its Board expired and an acting managing director has been appointed to steer the ship of the commission pending the constitution of a new board by the President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. What has become obvious are the incessant challenges that seem to arise every time a new Board has to be constituted. This situation arises in relation to which of the member states will produce the three key executive positions namely, Managing Director, Executive Director (Finance) and Administration, and the Executive Director (Projects).

However, from recent publications, it appears that this persistent horse-trading and manoeuvring has reared its ugly head again. It will not be out of place to imagine that it may already be playing out in the corridors of power as to which state gets what position among member states in terms of appointment of executives for the in-coming board. This situation, which has become repetitive every time the tenure of a board expires, tends to create the impression that there is no law in place to guide the process for appointing the executive team. It has become pertinent, therefore, that there be some new thinking to remove this cog in the wheel of progress of the commission.

The NDDC Act upon which the commission was established is explicit regarding the appointments of members of the board and other relevant issues. Part I Section 4 of the Act is clear on the rotational process (based on alphabetical order) for the appointment of its Chairman among the nine member states. And Part IV Section 12 equally states how the Managing Director and two Executive Directors shall be appointed. With current emphasis on applying the rule of law to address societal harmony, it is, therefore, of paramount importance that appointments into the in-coming board take into cognisance the letter and intent of the NDDC Act to avoid altercation or misapplication.

In addition to applying the rule of law, there are other critical stakeholders recognized as relevant to assuring the continued growth and sustenance of the commission. The Act also makes provision for these important organs of government who should play a crucial role in guiding the progress of the commission, clarifying uncertainties or resolving controversies that may arise from time to time, including such issues as appointments into the board.

In fact, Part III, Section 11 of the NDDC Act defines a specific role for the State Governors of the member states, composed as part of an Advisory Committee, and it says: ”There is hereby established for the Commission, a Niger-Delta Development Advisory Committee (in this Act referred to as “the Advisory Committee”) which shall consist of  (a). The Governors of the member states of the commission.

(b) Two other persons as may be determined, from time to time by the President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces.

(c) The Advisory committee shall be charged with the responsibility of advising the board, and monitoring the activities of the commission, with a view to achieving the objective of the commission.

(d) The Advisory committee may make rules regulating its own proceedings.”

The undercurrents and on-going power-play relating to the composition of the in-coming NDDC Board is ludicrous and certainly calls for the Advisory Committee to do the needful and the lawful at this critical time.

Potential for misinterpretation
This should be able to stave off the potential for misinterpretation or misapplication of the law, which ordinarily ought to be rather evident even to the lay reader.

From the foregoing, therefore, it would be a welcome development for all the governors of the member states (as contained in Part 1 section 2 of the Act) to mull over and harmonise positions in compliance with the intent of the Act, and thereafter they may be in a position to advise on the current uncertainties regarding appointments into the board.

Therefore, this is a clarion call on Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan (Governor of Delta State) who is understood to be the current chairman of this Advisory Committee to call an emergency meeting where he and other governors of member states, together with other primary stakeholders, would resolve the current uncertainties and advice the President accordingly. Besides, we suggest that such meetings be held before the expiration of an existing board to minimize the time for transition to a new one. A stitch in time

•Opukiri is a Port-Harcourt-based public affairs analyst

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