Niger Delta Peoples Forum, Wednesday, advised President Muhammadu Buhari to inaugurate the governing board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), noting that the region would does not need to be thrown into crisis before he acts.
Disclosing this in a statement obtained by Vanguard, Chief Boma Ebiakpo, the National Chairman of the forum, said: “The recent demand by the Ijaw Youth Council for the inauguration of the Governing Board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) to run the agency in line with the NDDC Act is in order and we support it fully. Other Stakeholders including the South-South Governors, Traditional Rulers and Youth Groups have been requesting for a Governing Board to be immediately inaugurated for the NDDC in line with the NDDC Act without any further delay.
“It is important that the peace of the Niger Delta is not troubled at this time when Nigeria is facing multiple conflicts across the country. The IYC, various socio political groups in the region, and indeed the Governors of the constituent states and stakeholders have demanded an end to the appointment of illegal Interim Managements for the NDDC by the Niger Delta Minister.
“We call on the president to heed the counsel of stakeholders of the region who have demanded the speedy inauguration of a substantive Governing Board for the Commission and an immediate end to the appointment of illegal Interim Managements since October 2019. It is inconceivable that under any guise the NDDC is being run by illegal Interim Sole Administrators for almost two years now.
“The minister has employed the mention of a so called “forensic audit” of previous managements as a weapon to hijack the NDDC claiming, rather strangely, that a substantive Board should not be inaugurated for the NDDC in line with the NDDC Act until his so called unending “forensic audit” of a previous period is concluded.
“Several groups, professionals and stakeholders have stated very clearly that there is no reason why the Governing Board of the NDDC should not be inaugurated to manage the affairs of the Commission while the audit of a previous period is on, as has been the standard practice in all other Government Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDAs) that have been audited.
“It is important to recall that President Muhamnadu Buhari had in exercise of his constitutional powers forwarded to the Senate for confirmation, the appointment of a 16 – member board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) via a letter dated 18th October, 2019, personally signed by him.
The president’s letter read: “In accordance with the provision 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.” President Buhari, in the letter, expressed hope that “the Senate will consider and confirm the nominees in the usual expeditious manner”.
Accordingly, the written request, which was read on the floor of the Senate on Tuesday, October 22, 2019 by its President, Dr Ahmad Lawan, was given expeditious consideration by the upper legislative chamber, which directed its Standing Committee on Niger Delta, to screen all the nominees and report back within a week.
“The Senate screened and confirmed the appointments of 15 out of the 16 nominees on Tuesday, November 5, 2019, based on the report tabled before it by the Committee on Niger Delta. The inauguration of that Board has been put on hold now for about 18 months. President Muhammadu Buhari should do the needful to put in place the board of the NDDC in line with the NDDC Act to manage the Commission for the benefit of the people of 9 (nine) Niger Delta states.
Akpabio has appointed 3 (three) interim heads of the NDDC over the last 18 months in breach of the NDDC Act. The first was Ms Joi Nunieh, the second was Prof Daniel Pondei (his former classmate at Federal Government College Portharcourt and the third is the current Interim Sole Administrator in the person of Effiong Okon Akwa, a former personal aide of Akpabio when he was Governor of Akwa Ibom State between 2007 and 2015.
Effiong Okon Akwa was also Special Assistant on Finance to a former NDDC MD (Bassey Dan-Abia). If, indeed, the idea is to supervise a credible forensic audit from its inception to 2019, which also covers the period of the Dan-Abia regime in NDDC (2013-2015), then Mr Effiong Akwa clearly cannot be a fit and proper person to supervise the “forensic audit” of the NDDC which covers a period of his previous service at the NDDC.
“Yet, as has been stated severally, there is nowhere that a Governing Board of a public agency (as mandated by the Law) put on hold and interim managements imposed for the purpose of conducting the audit of a previous period. Even when the current Buhari Administration audited all revenue earning agencies including the NNPC and the NPA between 2016 and 2017, the Boards and Managements of these agencies were in place in line with the Law.
“Under Akpabio and his Interim Managements, money has been squandered without a visible project to show for it in any of the Niger Delta states. Now, there is increased agitation and anger that this fraudulent interim administrator contraption must end, which is raising tension in the Niger Delta states.
“The current tension in the Niger Delta has come about because of how Akpabio has monopolised the running of the NDDC and frittered away its resources. The Niger Delta people deserve better. Mr President should heed the call of the people, terminate this interim administrator contraption and put in place the substantive Governing Board of the NDDC, to return the agency to the path of law, broad representation, checks and balances, probity, equity and accountability for the Niger Delta people.
“Mr President should save Nigeria from serious crisis erupting in the Niger Delta as a result missteps at the NDDC. He should restore the full representation of the nine constituent states in the Board and Management of the NDDC, as provided for in the NDDC Act to return the agency to the path of law, fair representation, checks and balances, probity, equity and accountability to the Niger Delta people.”