…Asks Senate to Put on Hold the Already Confirmed Members
By Henry Umoru
PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari has reversed himself on the appointment of the board of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, saying that the Senate should wait for him for a new list of board members that he would send for Confirmation by the Upper Chamber.
In a letter sent to the Senate, President Muhammadu Buhari asked the senate to put on hold the earlier confirmed board members, pending the conclusion of work by the Interim Management Committee that is carrying out a forensic Audit of the Commission.
The letter from the President was dated 27th December, 2019 and received 11th January, 2020.
President Buhari’s letter read: “I write to intimate the Senate of the development concerning the appointment of the board of NDDC.
“The Senate may wish to note that after the dissolution of the board of NDDC,an interim management team was set up to manage the affairs of the commission before a new board was composed and sent for Senate confirmation.
“The Senate is invited to note that while the process of composition and senate confirmation of the appointment of the board was on-going.
“I had directed that the forensic audit of the commission be carried out which is being overseen by the constituted interim management team.
“Based in this and in order to allow for uninterrupted process of forensic investigation , the board appointment confirmed by the Senate has to be put on hold.
“This is to allow the interim team continue to manage the commission pending the outcome of the forensic audit.
“Thereafter, a new board of the commission will be re-composed for the confirmation by the Senate.
“Please accept, Distinguished Senate President, the Assurances of My highest consideration.”
The Senate had on 29th October read a letter from President Muhammadu Buhari requesting for the screening and subsequent confirmation of former Deputy Governor of Edo State, Dr. Pius Odubu as Chairman, Board of Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC.
Odubu was deputy to the National Chairman of All Progressives Congress, APC, Adams Oshiomhole when he was governor of Edo State.
In a letter read during plenary by the President of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Lawan, President Buhari had also requested for the confirmation of fifteen other members of the board.
The letter written by President Buhari was dated 18th October, 2019 and entitled, “Confirmation of the Appointments of the Board of Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC” and was received 22 October 2019 by the Office of the President of the Senate.
The letter had 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.
Senator Lawan then referred the names to the Senator Peter Nwaoboshi, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Delta North led Senate Committee on Niger Delta Affairs to carry out the screening and report back at Plenary in one week.
With the development, the Senator Nwaoboshi led Committee immediately swang into action to Screen and subsequently confirm the Nominees.
There was however no representative for South West as against the earlier list published by the President.
Also recall that the Senate had last year, November 5, confirmed President Muhammadu Buhari’s nominees for the board of NDDC.
The former Deputy Governor of Edo State, Dr. Pius Odubu, was confirmed by the Senate as Chairman of the NDDC Board, just as a nominee from Delta State, Chief Bernard Okumagba, was also confirmed as the NDDC 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 were Otobong Ndem as the Executive Director, Projects and Maxwell Oko as the Executive Director, Finance and Administration.
The Senate had also confirmed Prophet Jones Erue (Delta), Chief Victor Ekhator (Edo), Nwogu Nwogu (Abia), Theodore Allison (Bayelsa), Victor Antai (Akwa Ibom), Maurice Effiwatt (Cross River), Olugbenga Elema (Ondo), Hon. Uchegbu Chidiebere Kyrian (Imo), Aisha Murtala Muhammed (Kano), Ardo Zubairu (Adamawa) and Amb. Abdullahi Bage (Nasarawa).
Only a nominee from Rivers State, Dr. Joy Yimebe Nunieh was not confirmed by the Senate as she did not appear for screening.
Recall that the Interim Committee was set up by the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio and he currently manages the Commission.
Also recall that Akpabio had said that the three-man Committee will oversee the management of the commission to create an “enabling environment” for the audit.
He said Buhari approved the appointment of Dr. Gbene Joi Nunieh as the Acting Managing Director; Cairo Ojougboh, as acting executive director, projects; and Ibanga Bassey, as acting executive Director, Finance and Administration.
Akpabio had asked the interim committee to discharge their duties ”without fear or favour”.
He said the outcome of the committee’s work will go a long way in alleviating the suffering of the people of the Niger Delta region.
Also recall that the Senate had on Tuesday, 26th November, 2019, said that those it screened and subsequently confirmed as Chairman and board members of the NDDC are the only rightful people that will come and defend the budget of the Commission before its Committee on Niger Delta Affairs.
The Senate had also last year urged President Muhammadu Buhari to as a matter of urgency, swear in the Dr. Pius Odubu led NDDC Board.
Speaking shortly after reading the letter of President Muhammadu Buhari on the 2019 and 2020 budget estimates of NDDC last year, President of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Lawan had said that the onus was now on the President to do the needful by inaugurating the Dr. Pius Odubu led NDDC following the confirmation by the Upper Chamber in consonnance with the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The President of the Senate had said, ” I believe that the executive arm of government will attend to that quickly so that we have the right people to come and defend the Appropriation request of Mr. President.”
Lawan had read the President’s request at plenary which was contained in a letter dated November 21, 2019 and addressed to him on the approval of the budget proposals for the NDDC. .
The letter read : “Pursuant to Section 18(1) of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) (Establishment) Act, I forward herewith, the 2019 and 2020 Budget Estimates of the Niger Delta Development Commission, for the kind consideration and passage by the Senate.
“While I trust that the Senate will consider this request in the usual expeditious manner, Please accept, Distinguished Senate President, the assurances of my highest consideration.”
It would also be recalled that after reading the letter, Senate Minority leader, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Abia South raised a point of Order 43 of the Senate Standing Orders as Amended who reminded the Senate that members of the board of the NDDC were confirmed and yet to resume, warning that the Commission may run into a problem of delayed budget again against the backdrop that nobody will come to defend the budget.
Abaribe who drew the attention of his colleagues to the fact that members of the NDDC board duly confirmed by the Senate were yet to resume official duty, said that the failure of the executive to swear-in members of the board duly confirmed by the Senate sequel to a request from President Buhari, may threaten early consideration and quick passage of the 2019/2020 budget of the NDDC.
According to him, the Interim Committee of the NDDC, led by Joy Nunieh, is an “illegal contraption” that lacks the backing of law to defend the commission’s budget.
Abaribe said: “We just heard from you (Senate President) the communication from Mr President which relates to the presentation of the NDDC’s Budget for approval.
“Of course, what it will mean is that the budget will go to the relevant committee of Appropriation and the NDDC Committee and some persons will come to defend the budget.
“Having regard to the fact that this Senate has confirmed members of the board of the NDDC and they are yet to resume office, Mr. President I fear that we may run into a problem of delayed budget again since nobody will come to defend this budget.
“Because this August body having confirmed the board of NDDC, will not countenance any illegal contraption coming in front of us to say they are representing the NDDC.
“I know that this may be preemptive, but my people say that if we act quick we will prevent disaster from coming.
“So, to prevent a delayed budget for the NDDC, that is helping the region for development, it would be better for us to prevent this issue from coming and let the needful be done.”
Responding, Lawan who sustained Abaribe’s point of Order, said: “Thank you Minority Leader but because you have come under order 43, this motion is not subject to debate but let me sustain your point of order.
“As far as we are concerned this Senate knows that we have confirmed the request of Mr. President for the board membership of the NDDC and we have communicated that and the next logical thing to do by law is for the appointments of the members of the board to take immediate effect.
“I believe that the executive arm of government will attend to that quickly so that we have the right people to come and defend the Appropriation request of Mr. President.”