By Festus Ahon, ASABA
Urhobo People Congress, UPC, Monday, said those opposed to the nomination and confirmation of Chief Bernard Okumagba as the Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC as enemies of the region.
The group which stated this in a statement while reacting to a media report credited to Itsekiri Interest Group, IIG, called on President Buhari to inaugurate the NDDC Board already screened and confirmed by the Nigerian Senate since November 2019.
UPC in the statement issued by its President, Otobrise Efetabore, and Secretary, Ufuoma Akpofure, said: “We are aware of the provisions of the NDDC Act on the qualifications of persons for appointment into the Board, for which Chief Bernard Okumagba is fully qualified.
“Chief Bernard Okumagba hails paternally from Warri South Local Government Area of Delta State which is an oil-producing area and maternally from Udu Local Government Area of Delta State which is also an oil-producing area. The attempt by the IIG to mislead the public on the issue of the lineage of Chief Bernard Okumagba is vexatious, mischievous and highly provocative.
“The NDDC Act in Part 1, Section 2 (1) B requires one to come from an oil-producing area. An area is a definite geographical space bound by its recognition in the constitution as administrative space. Thus, an area is a state, a local government area or a senatorial district. In the context of the NDDC act, an oil-producing area is coterminous with an oil-producing local government area. Both Warri South Local Government Area and Udu Local Government Area are Oil Producing Areas of Delta State.
“Urhobo Nation is a legitimate oil and gas producers in the Niger Delta and hosts to some of the biggest oil and gas facilities in the Niger Delta such as the Otorogun Gas Plant in Chief Bernard Okumagba’s maternal homestead and thereby their lands and waters have been impacted by the operations of the oil and gas industry.
“Udu kingdom where Chief Bernard Okumagba hails from maternally is a major Oil and Gas producing Local Government Area. Udu is host to OMLs 34, 65 and the Otorogun Gas plant, the biggest Gas plant in the whole of West Africa.
“The Oil and Gas facilities are managed by Nigeria Petroleum Development Company, NPDC. Udu has been contributing hugely to the economy of this country without much to show for it in terms of infrastructural amenities. Presently the construction of the 3rd phase of the Mega gas plant in Udu land is ongoing.
“When President Muhammadu Buhari eventually nominated our son Chief Bernard Okumagba as Managing Director of the NDDC in October 2019, we did thank President Buhari and the National Assembly members for the subsequent confirmation of the Board members now awaiting swearing-in by President Buhari.
“We wish to state here categorically that anyone from the Niger Delta region who goes against the generally accepted appointment of Chief Bernard Okumagba is an enemy of the Niger Delta region.
“We do not want a resurgence of ethnic hate and disharmony in the Niger Delta which the Itsekiri Interest Group (IIG) seems to be promoting by its inaccurate, misleading, vexatious and provocative statement.
“Chief Bernard Okumagba is known to all across Delta State and the Niger Delta as a detribalised person, a committed and patriotic Niger Deltan. Nobody can point to him as an ethnic jingoist or a discriminator. By his education, training, pedigree and origin, Chief Bernard Okumagba is eminently qualified to lead the NDDC whether as Chairman or Managing Director.”
Recall that Chief Bernard Okumagba was nominated by President Muhammadu Buhari as Managing Director of the NDDC in October 2019 and was subsequently screened by the various agencies of government including the Nigerian Senate, which confirmed him on November 5, 2019.