Speaker of House of Reps, Femi Gbajabiamila
*refers the motion to House c’mte for further investigation, advise
By Levinus Nwabughiogu
But for his shrewd intervention, the 3-man interim Committee inaugurated by the Minister of Niger Delta, Godswill Akpabio to oversee the affairs of Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, would have been dissolved by now.
The dissolution would have emanated from the legislative powers of the House of Representatives at Wednesday’s plenary.
But a motion to that effect refused to fly because of the parliamentary sagacity of Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila who obviously foresaw a lot of fireworks in the offing if he had allowed the motion to be debated.
Hardly had Rep. Ossai Nicholas Ossai from Delta State (PDP) moved the motion titled “Urgent Need to Stop the Illegality in the Niger Delta Development Commission”, then the Speaker tactically advised that it would be better to refer the motion to the appropriate committee (s) to investigate the matter and report back to the House for further legislative action.
“I think it is proper for the committee on NDDC to investigate the matter and report to us within one week “, Gbajabiamila said simply.
Whoever knows Ossai would attest to the eloquence, vigour, persuasion and conviction with which he speaks to bills and motions during debates.
But the Speaker calmed him and indeed, a seemingly agitated House down.
The matter was the first to be entertained by the House under Matters of Urgent Public Importance.
While moving earlier, Ossai said the appointment of the 3-man committee by Akpabio was an aberration in the light of the confirmation of the NDDC board members by the Senate.
He asked the House to prevail on the minister to withdraw the appointment of the panel and their activities, praying that should he fail to do so, the House and the Senate should discontinue with the 2020 Appropriation and budget process of the ministry of Niger Delta.
He said: “The House notes that one of the core mandates for the establishment of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) is the implementation of the set rules and regulations, projects and programmes for the sustainable development of the Niger-Delta areas.
“Also notes that the law establishing the Commission provides in section 8 of the NDDC Act that, its management and administrative instructive shall be the responsibility of its Governing Board.
“Further notes that the Governing Board of the Commission includes the Chairman, the Managing Director, the Executive Directors and the other members with power to manage and supervise the affairs of the Commission and make rules and regulations for effective functioning of the Commission.
“Aware that in the Month of October. 2019, Mr President ordered a forensic audit of the operations and activities of NDDC from 2001 to 2019, which is in line with what the House of Representatives has done.
“Also aware that in the latter part of October 2019, precisely on the 29th, Mr. President through the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation announced the appointment of 15 new NDDC Board Members, whose names were thereafter sent to the Senate for confirmation.
“Disturbed that, in the evening of same 29th October, 2019 and to the utter consternation of all Nigerians, the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, brazenly announced in channels Television the sacking of the Acting Managing Director of NDDC and the appointments of a three-man NDDC Interim Management Committee, which he directed to manage and run the affairs of NDDC for the next six months.
“Further aware that, shortly after the appointment of the three-man Interim Management Committee, the Senate confirmed the 15 NDDC Board Members sent to it by Mr President in fulfilment of NDDC Act.
“Worried that, the speed and curiosity with which the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs hurriedly set up a three-man Interim Management Committee is stunning and suspicious.
“Acknowledges the fact that in practice, any existing vacancy in the office of the Managing Director of NDDC is usually filled temporary by the highest director in the order of seniority and ranking,
“Suffice to say that by the confirmation of the NDDC Governing Board Members by the Senate, the three-man Interim Management Committee of the NDDC recently set up by the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs becomes vitiated, null and void and of no legal effect”.
The motion was eventually referred to the House Committee on NDDC and Legislative Compliance for investigation and advise on the next line of action.
It was given one week to report back to the House.