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Senate lacks power to ask Odubu board to take over NDDC — Oweilaemi

•Pereotubo Oweilaemi

PRESIDENT of Ijaw Youth Council, IYC, Mr Pereotubo Oweilaemi, in this interview, faults the directive of Senate President Ahmed Lawan to the newly confirmed Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, board to take over the affairs of the interventionist agency from the Interim Management Committee, IMC, saying the order was suspicious and amounts to usurpation of executive powers. Excerpts:

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Why is Niger Delta split over the Interim Management Committee (IMC) set up for NDDC?

I do not see any division in the Niger Delta. But on the issue of the Interim Management Committee of the NDDC, I am sure people are getting it wrong. People are unnecessarily making a mountain out of a molehill. The so-called IMC is a presidential directive. We should stop blaming one another here because the facts are clear that President Buhari constituted the Committee.

IYC, under your leadership, and some other youth groups in N’Delta visited the Minister of Niger Delta, Senator Akpabio. What did you find out about his reasons for IMC and are you satisfied?

I led Ijaw and other Niger Delta youths leaders as well as some other critical stakeholders in the region to pay a courtesy call on Akpabio. Our visit was to intimate him with how underdeveloped the Niger Delta is after close to a decade since the establishment of the NDDC, the MNDA and the Amnesty Programme. We presented to him the issues of the now abandoned East- West Road, the Coastal Highway proposed by the late President Yar’Adua and which feasibility test was successfully carried out among other very important issues pertaining to the development of the region.

We believe that our visit has opened a new vista for the development of the region because we are certain that Akpabio can do well as Minister of Niger Delta Affairs. Of course, his uncommon transformation agenda in Akwa Ibom for eight years as governor are a pointer to our belief. We also used the opportunity to call on ministers from the region to work together for the good and development of the Niger Delta. We stand to gain more if they work together even if they are in different ministries

On your own, what have you come to know is the grouse of those against IMC and are they not justified?

On the IMC issue, what we should know is that it is the President’s prerogative to appoint people into the NDDC no matter the nomenclature. Whatever they call it, be it sole administrator, caretaker or interim is just a matter of name-calling. After the Nsima Ekere board, this is about the third Interim Management Board the President has appointed. I see nothing new about this latest one notwithstanding the substantive board already in place. No minister can inaugurate an Interim Committee for the Commission without presidential approval. I am sure Akpabio only carried out the instructions of Mr. President. After all, Garba Shehu, SSA to the President on Media, confirmed this on TV. I am not oblivious of the fact that the substantive board has gone through all parliamentary requirements, waiting for inauguration. They can resume duties once Mr. President inaugurates them. Nobody, including Akpabio, is against resumption of the new board.

But why should the IMC operate while the new Board had been confirmed by the Senate?

What I do think about is that Mr. President wants them to steer the Commission pending when the forensic audit report is concluded. That I think will give the substantive board a clear policy framework to pilot the affairs of the Commission.

So why do some people in Niger Delta not wait to get their facts right before fighting over the issue?

That is my concern. We should study the President’s mind. He told the governors from the region when they visited him on the NDDC issue that his concern now was not to inaugurate a new board, but to order forensic audit of the Commission because the agency is underperforming given the funds at its disposal. If they inaugurate the new board before carrying out the audit, the purpose may be defeated because there would be undue interference by power players.

The battle has shifted to the National Assembly where a motion to sack the IMC was tactically referred to the relevant House Committee by Mr Speaker. Any advice to the lawmakers?

When people say corruption is fighting back, you should not be surprised. Already, the Committee said a particular senator in their findings got over 300 contracts that he did not execute but money completely paid. This is the reason we support the IMC to supervise the forensic audit. The lawmakers usurped executive powers. For Senator Lawan to direct the newly confirmed board to resume duties immediately after their confirmation is an exercise of executive functions. He has no such power to direct the new board to resume work even if they have confirmed them. That is an executive function. The lawmakers should guide themselves by the clear provisions of separation of powers provided in the Constitution.

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They should not use their legislative weapons to thwart the efforts of the executive in ridding the country of corruption. Their call for the disbandment of the IMC is suspicious, especially on the heels of revelations.

Some people see IMC as Akpabio’s and the board as Buhari’s. Is that the correct way to view it?

That is not correct. From my findings, Akpabio did not appoint the IMC. Mr. President used his power under the Act to appoint them. Of course, you know that it is Buhari’s discretion to constitute the management board. I think that what might have informed the President’s decision as I have said before was because of the forensic audit he is carrying out in the Commission. Maybe he just wanted people of unquestionable character to steer the Commission pending when they complete the audit so that the substantive board will have clear direction. I do not think the President intends to cause legal crisis in the agency.

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