By Henry Umoru
Strong Indications have emerged that fresh crisis looms at the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC as the President of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Lawan on Tuesday gave a matching order to the just confirmed board to immediately take over the affairs of the Commission.
Speaking on Tuesday in Abuja after the Senate confirmed the appointment of the nominees for the board of the Intervention agency forwarded to the Senate last week, said the law setting up the NDDC does not recognise any interim arrangement once a board was put in place.
Recall that the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, had inaugurated a three-man Interim Management Committee to oversee the affairs of NDDC for a period of six months and to also oversee a forensic audit of the agency.
Lawan who mandated the Dr. Pius Odubu led new board members to take over immediately in line with the law setting up the NDDC, said that inaugurating the new board would not affect the works of the forensic auditors.
The President of the Senate also asked the Senate Committee on the Niger Delta Affairs to be alive to its responsibility by carrying out its oversight functions to ensure that every Kobo counts.
Lawan said, ” there is no ambiguity in this matter, President Buhari forwarded to us nominees for appointments into the board and as soon as we finish with the process, any other structure is vitiated.
“With the completion of this process now (the confirmation), I am sure that any other structure that exists now (in the NDDC) is vitiated. I don’t think we have anything to worry about because this is one thing that is clearly established by the law.
“I want to urge the committee on Niger Delta Development Commission that after this new management takes over the management of the NDDC, we need to do proper oversight this goes to other committees but Niger Delta is a special case.
“We will recall that the President had course to ask for a total probe of what happened to the finances of the NDDC. This I think, is not an indictment of us, but I think we are supposed to worry because we are supposed to continuously oversight wherever public funds are put for the development of our people.
“So, the committee on the NDDC has a lot of work to do. You must make sure that whatever is budgeted is prudently, effectively and efficiently put in to use.
“I believe that in the next few days, we will communicate to Mr. President the result of our confirmation.
“What we pray for is that the nominees that were entrusted with the management of the NDDC to keep the trust and discharge the responsibilities bestowed on them by the NDDC act to ensure that the people of Niger Delta get value for money by ensuring that all the development projects are those that would change the lives of the people for the better.
“We have to do our own oversight and we must ensure that every kobo counts. Unfortunately, the NDDC has established for itself, an undesirable reputation and that is why the President had to call for the probe of what has happened in the past. Going forward, we must ensure that we remain at alert as a legislature because it is our responsibilities to ensure that public funds are properly put to use.
“While we wish this very good team the best in their endeavour, they should be committed to the ideals for which the NDDC was set up in the first place.”
The Senate confirmed President Muhammadu Buhari’s nominees for the board of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC.
The former Deputy Governor of Edo State, Dr. Pius Odubu was approved by the Senate for the position of Chairman, Board of NDDC.
Odubu was deputy to the National Chairman of All Progressives Congress, APC, Adams Oshiomhole when he was governor of Edo State.
Also confirmed by the Senate is Chief Bernard Okumagba from Delta State for the position of Managing Director.
The confirmation followed the presentation and consideration of the report of the Senate Committee on Niger Delta Affairs by its Chairman, Senator Peter Nwaoboshi, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Delta North.
Also confirmed by the Upper Chamber are Otobong Ndem from Akwa Ibom for the position of Executive Director, Projects and Maxwell Oko from Bayelsa as Executive Director, Finance and Administration.
With Odubu; Okumagba; Ndem; and Oko, Edo, Delta, Akwa Ibom and Bayelsa is having members each on the board.
Also confirmed are Delta State representative, Prophet Jones Erue; Chief Victor Ekhator (Edo); Nwogu Nwogu (Abia); Theodore Allison, representing Bayelsa State, Victor Antai (Akwa Ibom); Maurice Effiwatt (Cross River); Olugbenga Elema (Ondo); Hon. Uchegbu Chidiebere Kyrian (Imo); Aisha Murtala Muhammed from Kano, representing North West; NorthEast representative, Ardo Zubairu from Adamawa state and Ambassador Abdullahi Bage from Nasarawa State representing the North Central geopolitical zone.
Dr. Joy Yimebe Nunieh from Rivers State to represent the State was the only one not confirmed because according to Senator Nwaoboshi, the nominee failed to appear before the Committee for screening.
According to Nwaoboshi, the nominee from Rivers State refused to appear for screening despite several communications made to her to that effect.
According to him, the committee at the close of screening of the 15 other nominees who appeared before it last week Thursday, resolved to recommend non confirmation of appointment for the nominee from Rivers State.
He said, “We made all the required efforts to get across to her and reliably gathered that information sent to that effect was received by her without honouring it with her appearance.”
The Senate at the Committee of the whole confirmed the other nominees but rejected her.
The question of a parallel NDDC management team constituted by Senator Godswill Akpabio was raised by some of the Senators who described it as sabotage.
In his contribution, the Senate Minority Leader, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, PDP, Abia South who accused the executive of playing ‘basketball ball’ with the whole process, said, “While the President forwarded to the Senate for confirmation , appointments of Chairman, Managing Director, Executive Directors and members for the NDDC Board, somebody somewhere, is setting up an interim management committee not captured by the Act establishing the Commission.
“Anything outside the provisions of the Act should be considered as an Act of sabotage and it is unacceptable. We should abide by the laws we made for the country.”
Also in his contribution, former Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, PDP Enugu West said the idea of setting up another management team outside the approved board by the Senate is unlawful and must not be allowed to stand.
He said, “anything outside the provisions of the Act is illegal and should remain so.
Allowing such to stand will create unnecessary ambiguity in the entire process.”
On his part, Senator Bassey Akpan, PDP Akwa Ibom North East, said that there was no ambiguity in the process since it is the Senate recognise by the Act to approve the NDDC board.
Recall that the President of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Lawan, had on Tuesday read a letter from President Buhari, requesting for the confirmation of Odubu and fifteen other members of the board.
A letter written by President Buhari dated 18th October 2019 and entitled, “Confirmation of the Appointments of the Board of Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC”, was received 22 October 2019 by the Office of the President of the Senate.
The letter read, “In accordance with the provisions of Section 2(2)(a) of the Niger Delta Development Commission, (NDDC) (Establishment ) Act, 2000, I write to forward for confirmation by the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the under listed nominees for appointment into the NDDC Board, to occupy the positions indicated against their names. The nominees’ CVs are attached herewith.
” While hoping that the Senate will consider and confirm the Nominees in the usual expeditious manner, please accept, Distinguished Senate President, the assurances of my highest consideration.”
According to the letter, the board members are Bernard Okumagba from Delta State, who will serve as Managing Director; Otobong Ndem from Akwa Ibom, who was appointed the Executive Director, Projects and Maxwell Oko from Bayelsa as Executive Director, Finance and Administration.
Others are Prophet Jones Erue Delta State Representative; Chief Victor Ekhatar to represent Edo State; Dr. Joy Yimebe Nunieh for Rivers State; Nwogu Nwogu, representing Abia State; Theodore Allison from Bayelsa State; Victor Antai from Akwa Ibom State; Maurice Effiwatt from Cross River State; Olugbenga Edema from Ondo State; Hon. Uchegbu Chidiebere Kyrian from Imo State; and Aisha Murtala Muhammed from Kano State representing North-West area on the board.
From Adamawa State to represent North- East on the NDDC board is Shuaibu Ardo Zubairu and Ambassador Abdullahi Bage from Nasarawa State representing North- Central.
Recall that the President of the Senate, Senator Lawan immediately referred the names to the Senator Peter Nwaoboshi, PDP, Delta North led Senate Committee on Niger Delta Affairs to carry out the screening and report back at Plenary in one week.
There was however no representative for South West as against the earlier list published by the President.