A coalition of Niger Delta activists have described the campaign to invalidate the board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and sack the Senate committee on Niger Delta as a calculated attempt to perpetuate the illegality at the commission.
The coalition was reacting to a protest by a handful of protesters at the National Assembly and the Federal Secretariat Abuja on Friday, December 6.
In a press statement signed by convener of the coalition, Comrade Ebi Torofaowei, it said: “the organised protest by the motley crowd did not mask its real intent and sponsors when it asked that the illegal interim management committee (IMC) set up by the Niger Delta minister be allowed to stay in office while the board duly presented by the president and confirmed by the Senate be dissolved. It is clear that their real intent is to procure the continuation of the illegality at the NDDC. It is a strange argument for illegality at the expense of the law and due process.”
It noted that the “sponsored group is clearly working at the behest of people who are threatened that the Senate resolution vowing to have nothing to do with the IMC will bring down their house of cards. For the avoidance of doubt, we support the Senate resolution that the IMC should not defend the NDDC 2019/2020 budget since there is a board in place. We urge the president to direct the inauguration of the board to end these acts of desperation by the illegal interim management committee.”
The group called on the Senate leadership to be steadfast on their resolution and asked President Muhammadu Buhari to ignore the protest because it is not backed by the leaders and people of the region.
“We call on Mr President to review the appointment of the illegal interim management committee, which seems to now play more politics to continue its stay in office.
On the demand of the protesters for the new board to be discarded, the coalition said, “Is it not a surprise that it is after the inordinate plan of some persons and the IMC to hijack the NDDC have been exposed to Nigerians in the last few weeks that they are faulting the board screening and casting aspersions on the integrity of the process.?”
“For clarity, the process that produced the 15-man board is in line with the law setting up the NDDC as against a 3-man committee that was handpicked by the minister?
“What the minister and his appointed interim management committee are trying to do is to distort the arguments and allow for the continued desecration of the NDDC Act 2000 as amended in order to compromise the forensic audit ordered by President Buhari.”
On the allegation that the opposition to the IMC is fired by opposition to the forensic audit ordered by the president, the coalition said: “let it be stated that our members were in the vanguard of the request for the forensic audit long before Akpabio joined the APC and became a minister.
“We have campaigned that the NDDC’s books be examined and stand on this, but our position is that the board is in the best position to supervise the audit because of its broad representation. It is not incompatible with its function as a board. To make the argument that a handpicked committee beholden to a minister who is an interested party in the past administrations of the NDDC is better placed to supervise the audit is dubious. Mr President should not permit such fraud under his watch.”
Continuing, it said that: “Niger Deltans are satisfied with the broad representation of the board, which is in conformity with the NDDC Act. We cannot allow a situation where a handpicked committee is allowed to superintend over the affairs of the commission and continue the culture of unaccountability that has dogged the NDDC.”
Commending the Senate for its principled stand on the NDDC Law and due process, the coalition asked: “President Buhari and the Senate to hearken to the demands of Nigerians for due process to be followed in the NDDC by the disbanding of the illegal interim management committee and inaugurating the duly confirmed board.”