By Eric Teniola
…continued from last week
(g) To consult to the Federal Government through the President, the State, Local Governments and oil mineral producing communities regarding projects, services and all other requirements relating to the special fund; (h) to render annual returns to the President, Commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces and copy the State and Local Governments on all matters relating to the special fund; (i) to advise the Federal, State and Local Governments on all matters relating to the special fund; (i) to liaise with the oil producing companies regarding the proper number, location and other relevant data regarding oil mineral producing areas; and (j) to execute other works and perform such other functions which in the opinion of the Commission is geared towards the development of the oil mineral producing areas.
General Babangida appointed Mr. Albert Korubo Horsfall from Buguma in Rivers State as the Chairman of OMPADEC. Mr. Horsfall was the former founding Director of the Nigeria Intelligence Agency and Director General of the State Security Service. He also appointed six commissioners to work with Chief Horsfall among whom is my friend, Dr. Juniad S. Mohammed. Between 1979 and 1983, Dr. Mohammed represented Kano West ward in the House of Representatives.
During the tenure of Chief Horsfall, OMPADEC received N11.48 billion approximately $133,488,372 from government through monthly disbursements from the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN. During the tenure of Chief Horsfall, all the six states were allowed to appoint directors in the commission. Mr. Ajose Ikudehinbo represented Ondo State and he was made Director of Research and Planning. Dr. Goodluck Jonathan during that time served as Assistant Director in the Fisheries section under Mr. M.C. Kanu who was then Director of Environment. Other directors were Mr. Princewill Iwueze; Mr. Essien, Director in charge of Finance and Mr. A.I. Nnamani, Director in charge of General Administration.
General Sani Abacha came to power on November 17, 1993. On October 1, 1996, he created Bayelsa State out of Rivers State thereby increasing the membership of OMPADEC from six to seven. On February 22, 1996, General Abacha dissolved the board of OMPADEC and its commissioners were removed based on claims of non-performance. The government claimed that the contractors performed below expectations.
General Sani Abacha then appointed Professor Eric Agume Opia as the Sole Administrator of OMPADEC. Professor Opia is from Kwale, which is the headquarters of Ndokwa West Local Government Area of Delta State. Kwale has produced eminent citizens, including Rear Admiral Mike Onah, Senator Patrick Osakwe, Brigadier Godwin Alabi Isama (although his mum is from Ilorin), Rear Admiral Sunday Uguna; the Minister of Finance in the old Mid-Western Region, Chief Ogoegbuname Idise Dafe, among others.
When General Abdusalam Abubakar came to power on June 9, 1998, one of the first things he did was to fire Professor Opia. He then set up a five man panel headed by the Chief of Air Staff, Air Vice Marshall Nsikak Eduok, to probe the tenure of Professor Opia. On November 11, 1998, General Abubakar appointed the former Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Adm. Dan Preston Omatsola to run the affairs of OMPADEC.
At the time President Olusegun Obasanjo took over on May 29, 1999, he handed the affairs of OMPADEC to his special adviser on utilities, Mr. Liyel Imoke (58). Mr. Imoke hails from Agbo tribe in Abi Local Government Area of Cross River State. His father, Dr. Samuel Imoke, was a medical doctor who became a cabinet minister and leader of parliament in the former Eastern Region. Mr. Imoke’s mum, Comfort Imoke (nee Imoukhhuode) is from Sabon Gida Ora in Edo State while his dad, Dr. Imoke, was a good friend of Chief Obasanjo.
In addition, Mr. Imoke was given the schedule of running the then NEPA by President Obasanjo. Mr. Imoke was later elected Governor of Cross River State in 2007. He served for eight years. Chief Opia was later declared wanted by the police following a petition by Ambassador Patrick Dele Cole requesting that N38.4 million allegedly taken from OMPADEC coffers by Chief Opia to buy some equipment for a Port Harcourt-based construction company be investigated. The destination of Chief Opia till to date is still unknown, but it was learned that not less than N6 billion was released to him for the implementation of certain projects mapped out for the Niger Delta region.
In December 1999, President Obasanjo sent a bill as an Act changing the status of OMPADEC to Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC. On June 6, 2000, the Act was passed into Law by the Senate while the Act was passed earlier into Law on June 1, 2000 by the House of Representatives. Alhaji Ghali Umar Na’Abba, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, signed the Act into Law on July 11, 2000, while my late friend, Dr. Chuba Okadigbo, the then Senate President endorsed the Act on July 12, 2000. The then Clerk of the National Assembly, Alhaji Ibrahim Sali, endorsed the Act as a bill on August 15, 2000 and was signed into law by President Obasanjo on that day.
The bill states that (1) There is hereby established a body to be known as Niger Delta Development Commission (in this Act referred to as “the Commission”). (2) The Commission-(a) shall be a body corporate with perpetual succession and a common seal; (b) may sue and be sued in its corporate name. (3) The Commission shall have its head office in Port Harcourt, Rivers State and shall establish an office in each member state of the Commission.
To be concluded