…Cabal behind chaos – Kokori
…Buhari boosting Akpabio- Annkio Briggs, activist
…Govt shouldn’t envision stop gap arrangement – Bishop Egbebo
By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South, Sam Oyadongha, Jimitota Onoyume, Gabriel Enogholase, Festus Ahon, Egufe Yafugborhi, Emmanuel Una, Ike Uchechukwu, Chioma Onuegbu, Emem Idio, Perez Brisibe, Ozioruva Aliu, Chancel Sunday and Paul Olayemi
SOME leaders of the South-South are dissatisfied with the state of affairs at the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, urging President Muhammadu to inaugurate the governing Board of the interventionist agency vetted and ratified by the Senate, since last year.
They said they were flabbergasted at the tomfooleries put on show at NDDC.
The stakeholders maintained that the way out was for Buhari and Minister of the Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, to conform their actions on NDDC to the law establishing the organization.
However, some leaders from Akwa Ibom State took sides with their kinsman, Mr. Effiong Akwa, who is the newest interim administrator of the beleaguered commission.
Senate dumbfounded – Senator Ekpenyong
Senator Christopher Ekpenyong representing Ikot Ekpene, who spoke to Sunday Vanguard at Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, said the Senate was stunned when the President jettisoned the names of members of board of the NDDC he sent to it in 2019 after the nominees were screened and confirmed, and decided to inaugurate an Interim Management Committee, IMC, instead, which later allegedly mismanaged funds of the commission.
His words: “I think what should be done about the NDDC is that Niger Deltans should not fight Effiong Akwa because the young man did not appoint himself as sole administrator, they should rather ask the President to conform with the provision of the law that set up the NDDC by constituting the governing Board of the commission.
“Most of his actions are at variance with the provision of the Constitution. So the people of the Niger Delta should ask him the President to conform to the provision of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which he swore to uphold”.
NDDC commandeered by one man – Kokori
A former Secretary – General, Nigerian Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG, and All Progressives Congress, APC, chieftain, Chief Frank Kokori, practically wept as he spoke: “That is one of the failures of the President Muhammadu Buhari. It seems the President is not in charge and I have always said it that it is a cabal that is in charge. As far as I am concerned, the President has let a lot of us, Nigerians, down because we expected more from him.
“Talking about the NDDC, how can you leave that big commission which is supposed to be the saviour of the Niger Delta region and is in charge of several states to be in the hands of one man despite the whole corruption allegations, yet he is still there.
“The NDDC has no real impact on the lives of the people of the region despite being in place to cushion their lives. Everybody cries to Buhari but he does not listen.
“A good government should be responsive and that is one of the legacies he is going to leave behind which I believe is not good for him”.
Buhari encouraging Akpabio – Annkio Briggs
On her part, Niger Delta activist, AnnKio Briggs, warned that the NDDC would continue to be enmeshed in wrangling as long as managerial appointments for the commission are done along political lines.
She also lamented what she described as moves by politicians to hijack the commission, saying: “We did not agitate for NDDC for it to be hijacked by politicians. It was the cries of the people that led to the creation of the NDDC and not politicians.
“It is really a sad situation that the people of the region find themselves.
“Why will a government official or a serving senator be the one to recommend a person from his own ethnic group to head the commission?
“Akpabio cannot make those decisions without Buhari’s approval. As far as I am concerned, it is Buhari that is making those decisions.
“The NDDC was created for us the people of the region and yet, there is nothing to show for it.
“Personally speaking, it does not matter under whose nose the commission is because as long as those appointments are done along political lines, we will continue to be in this mess.
“Corruption (allegations) in the NDDC started with the creation of the agency and it has been on till date coupled with the mismanagement that has trailed the commission.
“The forensic audit must take place if this government is sincere. If done only by bodies nominated by the government, then I have no hope on it because the people really want independent audit firm for the exercise.
“The people are in a mess because of the way and manner the commission was structured right from the onset. No matter who is there as a board, IMC or sole administrator, the persons who appointed these individuals will be manipulated to do their biddings, hence they all need to be investigated because we need to know where all these monies have gone to”.
Essien, ex-minister defends Akwa
However, a former Minister of Lands and Housing and Ata of Ekid, Akwa Ibom State, Chief Nduese Essien, threw his weight behind his kinsman, Mr. Akwa, who is the new interim administrator, rationalizing: “The appointment of interim administrator is to enable the President have time to compose a Board and swear it in at the end of the forensic audit. And Effiong Akwa is not the first interim administrator at the NDDC. Mrs. Ibim Semenitari was equally appointed sole administrator from outside.
“What should be done about the NDDC is to allow some period for the forensic audit to be completed under the interim administrator by which time the president would have composed a board to be sworn in.
“They allowed other interim arrangements when the board was not sworn in, why are they so bitter about Effiong Akwa? Is it because he is not an Ijaw person? Other Ijaws have held positions without this sort of challenge that is coming up now”.
Reacting to agroup in court to challenge the appointment, Essien said: “It is a waste of time, it is an academic exercise. Before they finish in court, the forensic audit would have been completed and the President would have sworn in a new board. The court process is going to be a long turn out as usual.”
Buhari knows what to do — Rev Egbebo, Bishop, Bomadi Catholic Diocese
Bishop, Catholic Diocese of Bomadi, Delta state, Most. Rev. Hyacinth Egbebo told Sunday Vanguard: “Buhari knows exactly what to do, which is to set up the board as it is constitutionally prescribed.
“Despite the ongoing forensic audit, it is possible for a new board to be put in place. We are talking of the way forward for NDDC and constitution of the board is the way forward, put in credible people and that is all we need”.
Interim administrator is to cause confusion – Rev Ugolor, ANEEJ
Executive Director, Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice, ANEEJ, Rev David Ugolor opined: “The appointment of a sole administrator is surprising to me, it is an agenda that will continue to deny the region of development but the question is who is denying the region development, is it the northerners or southerners? This is a question that we cannot answer but what comes to the mind is they have continued to undermine the legal framework that sets up the NDDC”.
Way forward, by Eboreme-Nwosu, SESSPN
Publicity Secretary, South- South and South East Professionals of Nigeria, SESSPN, Edo State branch, Mrs Clara Eboreme-Nwosu , stated: “Sole administrator is an antithetical appointment to the spirit and letter of the NDCC Act, a sole administrator only reminds us of dictatorship, it is undemocratic and it does not reflect the standard practice of democratic administration anywhere in the world , so we condemn the appointment of a sole administrator and we call on Mr President to rise above board regardless of misleading advice that may have been dispatched to him by relevant authorities, particularly the Minister of the Niger Delta who ought to be the chief adviser of the president.”
Time Buhari took responsibility — Mba, Mudiaga-Odje
Speaking to our reporter in Cross River State, Mba Ukweni, SAN noted: “The NDDC by the law establishing it and operation should have been a welcome development , the objectives of the commission is for the development of Niger Delta but human tendencies and frailty have completely derailed it.”
“The tenure is not everlasting, it is sad that even with a son of the soil, NDDC can still not achieve its aim and objectives which is to develop the region. The people and the president are both to blame but it is a big shame .The president must sit down and know the right persons to be saddled with certain responsibilities”.
Human rights activist and constitutional lawyer, Dr Akpor Mudiaga-Odje, said: “The NDDC debacle has unfortunately become a hydra headed economic monster to our people; ab initio the NDDC Act has no place for a sole administrator.
“The appendage and nomenclature is unconstitutional and ultra vires the powers of the President and the Minister for Niger Delta Affairs.
“So two wrongs cannot, as in this instance, make a right. We have been waiting with bated breath for the so called forensic audit which mandate ought to have terminated on the New Year Eve.
“After the audit report Mr President should almost immediately swear in the board that was screened and endorsed by the Senate to start to function and clear all the mess before embarking on a holistic development programme for our people”.
I see no reason for interim administrator — Okorotie, PANDEF leader
Deputy National Chairman, Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, Chief Thompson Okorotie said:
“As for sole administrator, I see no reason why there should be one now. What is stopping him (Buhari) from constituting the proper board?
“And they sometimes deliberately do these things to make the people of South-South fight each other. There have been several Akwa Ibom heads of the NDDC. In fact, as of right, it is the turn of Bayelsa to produce, yes it has the unfortunate cases of two previous Bayelsans, the two professors that were there but for a short period.”
Blame Mr. President not Akpabio- Gbemre, NDPO coordinator
Coordinator, Niger Delta Peace Coalition, NDPC, Zik Gbemre, said, “President Muhammadu Buhari was voted President and Commander-In-Chief of Nigeria and not Godswill Akpabio.
“When something is not right with any institution of the Federal Government, the buck stops at the table of the President.
“Godswill Akpabio is only but a Minister appointed by President Buhari. If Akpabio is not performing as expected, regardless of whether he is son of the soil or not, it is expected of President Buhari to immediately sack him or have him transferred to another Ministry/Department”.
Don’t crucify Akpabio- Clarkson, MOSIEND
On the other hand, former spokesman, Movement for the Survival of Ijaw Ethnic Nationality in the Niger Delta, MOSIEND, Barrister Amaebi Clarkson, said: “The NDDC is a creation of law and specific stipulations of the law should be strictly adhered to.
“I do not think Akpabio should be blamed for the imposition of a sole administrator on the commission. The Attorney General of the Federation knows the position of the Act establishing the NDDC and I believe he probably advised the Presidency of implications of the appointment of a sole administrator. As usual, I think is political consideration that stimulated the appointment and I commend those who are challenging it in court.”
Extension of impunity- Effiong, activist
An activist, Inibehe Effiong, pointed out: “The illegal appointment of a sole administrator for the NDDC is just a continuation of the impunity and lawlessness of the Buhari regime in the administration of the NDDC”.
Ekong raises dust
Also speaking, a professor of economics, University of Uyo, Chris Ekong, said: “Let us look at the NDDC issue from a rational point of view and not from the Akpabio’s spectrum, which is garnished with conspiracy theories.
“When Akpabio facilitated the IMC for the Commission with the Federal Government suspending the earlier approved Board nominated by the President and approved by the National Assembly, hell was not let loose because Rivers, Bayelsa and Delta States (the core Ijaw States) of the Niger Delta were well positioned.
“When the only representative on the IMC from Akwa Ibom State died, there were no protests by the acclaimed owners of the Niger Delta.
“When a competent and experienced hand in Mr. Akwa (lawyer and chartered accountant), a former SA Finance at the same Commission was appointed by the President to oversee the forensic audit process of the Commission, which may not last for more than the next six months, states and tribes that derive origin from ‘god’ started shouting, protesting and invoking help storm, even to the extent of dismissing Akwa Ibom as being part of the Niger Delta as well as an oil producing state.
Usiayo, Ebareotu, Ighoavwota, Iwetan call for re-think
Chairman, Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, Bomadi local government chapter, Apostle Liberty Usiayo, in his reaction, said: “Let us call a spade, spade; NDDC sole administratorship is unconstitutional and we do not support it, neither do we support youths overrunning NDDC”.
Similarly, secretary, Izon Movement for Positive Change and Youth Development, IMPCYD, Comrade Clement Ebareotu, said: “We do not need a sole administrator for NDDC because it is illegal. Akwa should be removed and a substantive board constituted as stipulated in the act establishing the commission.”
Social crusader and opinion leader, Chief Goddy Ighoavwota, said: “NDDC as an agency of government that has lost her focus, credibility, and leadership. It requires a total overhaul to meet its aim and aspirations. From the civil servants to the political class of the commission needs reorientation.
“Who heads the commission can no longer be based on party sentiments or empowerment to party loyalist, it should be given to a credible son or daughter of Niger Delta without party affiliations”.
Former Chairman, Host Communities, HOSTCOM (Oil and Gas), Delta State, Mr Benjamin Iwetan, said: First, I do not think appointing a sole administrator is the best thing to do when it comes to the day to day running of the NDDC because the commission is for the Niger Delta region, everyone should be involved in the management of our resources we cannot leave our destiny in the hands of a sole administrator.
“The commission is ours I will advise the youths not to overrun the commission it, it will amount to destroying your own property by yourself because you do not agree with the occupant(s). We should rather create a forum to table the issues surrounding Akwa’s appointment and make our position known to Mr. President”.
Akpabio is the problem- Nwauju, NDRA spokesman
Meanwhile, spokesman, Niger Delta Rights Advocates, NDRA, Darlington Nwauju, stated: “Truth is Mr President does not live in or come from the region. He only acts on information from his advisors who include the Minister. So, we all know where our problem is coming from.
“The appointment of Effiong Akwa was done in bad faith. He is not the only professional in the region. It was clannish and, most importantly, morally wrong to nominate a man who is expected to probe his own time in office (2013-2015 when he served then Managing Director, Dan Abia as SA Finance).”`