Following his statement on why the National Assembly, NASS, is repealing the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, Act, a group known as Transparency and Accountability Advancement group, Thursday, disagreed with the Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on NDDC, Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, insisting that the commission has no problem that would warrant amendment of its Act.
Yesterday, Tunji-Ojo said that the need to amend the commission’s Act was to make it more development orientated in the service of the region. He equally stated that many deficiencies inherent in the extant laws regulating the affairs of the commission were stifling efficiency and transparency in the commission.
But reacting in a statement signed by Comrade Ebi Arogbofa, the groups National Chairman, sent to Vanguard, Transparency and Accountability Advancement opined: “Our attention has been drawn to comments credited to Mr Olubunmni Tunji-Ojo, Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on the Niger Delta, which oversights the Niger Delta Development Commission, that he is proposing a bill for the NDDC Act to be repealed and replaced with a new law.
“As reported by a national newspaper of March 3rd, 2021, Tunji-Ojo said the bill he is proposing will stipulate minimum qualifications for the offices of the MD and the EDs.
“Tunji-Ojo’s new proposal to repeal the NDDC Act won’t be welcomed, especially given that the current legislation is very clear on the qualifications for the executive positions.
“Under Part V, Section 12(1) and (1a), the NDDC Act provides that: “There shall be for the Commission, a Managing Director, and two Executive Directors who shall be indigenes of oil producing areas starting with the member states of the Commission with the highest production quantum of oil and shall rotate amongst member states in the order of production; (a) have such qualification and experience as are appropriate for a person required to perform the functions of those offices under this Act.”
“According to the newspaper, Tunji-Ojo “said it was an irony that the law establishing the commission does not provide any punishment for any infraction committed within the commission.” This is not true as there are more than enough provisions in the EFCC Act, the ICPC Act and the criminal code to punish those who commit infractions in any public institution, the NDDC inclusive. There is no need for this Tunji-Ojo merry go round proposal to replace the NDDC Act, except it is clearly what it is, an agenda to prolong the Interim arrangement.
“Tunji-Ojo and his colleagues should first answer for their failure to defend the NDDC Act as it is now when the minister allegedly ignored the law, disregarded the Governing Board appointed by the president and cleared by the National Assembly in line with the NDDC Act, and, instead, appointed interim managements since October 2019. The NDDC has been operating outside the ambit of the NDDC Act since October 2019, yet Tunji-Ojo and his colleagues did nothing to ensure that the provisions of the NDDC Act are followed.
“We recall that Tunji-Ojo presided over the House of Representatives Committee that probed the last NDDC Interim Management Committee but failed to present the report of the committee to the House of Representatives for adoption.
“How can a committee chairman who compromises an oversight investigation talk now of amending the NDDC Act as if that was what made him inert in presenting the report of his committee’s investigation? It is clear that Tunji-Ojo is compromised in this whole matter of the NDDC. Our people in the Niger Delta reject this. We will not accept Tunji Ojo’s position.
“We had stated previously that the appointment of Mr Effiong Okon Akwa, a member of the previous Interim Management Committee, as Interim Sole Administrator of the Commission with a mandate to head the agency is illegal as it contravenes the NDDC Act. We are bothered at the continuation of this brazen behaviour of the Niger Delta Minister in making appointments of heads of the NDDC, despite sound legal counsel that it is not only unlawful but disenfranchises the nine constituent states of the NDDC to fair representation in the development agency.
“It is sad that the desecration and disregard for the NDDC Act is taking place under the nose of the National Assembly, which must sit up and insist that the proper thing be done. The peace in the Niger Delta region should not be taken for granted as many nationalities, groups and stakeholders have continued to question the propriety of appointing illegal interim administrators for the NDDC.
“The concern of every Niger Deltan and indigenes of the NDDC states at the moment is to put in place the Governing Board in line with the NDDC Act without any further delay. The forensic audit has been used as an excuse to put the Governing Board on hold. After undertaking that audit for over 15 months now, there can be no further excuse for not concluding the audit and putting the Board in place.
“We want to remind the Presidency that in response to the condemnation of Akwa’s appointment last December, Akpabio had pleaded that the Governing Board of the NDDC will be put in place in April this year. We cannot have another delay. The Interim Sole Administrator arrangement will not be tolerated any further. We won’t allow any politician or group to ride roughshod with the resources of the Niger Delta people and mess with the NDDC Act for their selfish political and corrupt interests forthwith. The current illegality in the NDDC should be ended now. The NDDC Governing Board should be put in place without any delay.”