.Publish reports of NDDC forensic audit now, IYC challenges FG, NDDC

…Fire Rita Lori Ogiebor again

By Festus Ahon, ASABA

NIGER Delta Integrity Group, NDIG, Monday, said there was no court order or judgment against the inauguration of the Dr Pius Odubu and Chief Bernard Okumagba led Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, Board appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari since it was confirmed by the Senate on November 5, 2019.

NDIG in a statement by its President and Secretary, Akpoebide Okotiene and Edet Ekpenyong respectively, insisted that there was no dissolution or “disbandment” of the Senate confirmed NDDC Board, as falsely claimed by Rita Lori Ogbebor, as it had not been inaugurated. 

The group in the statement said: “Our attention has been drawn to an interview granted by Rita Lori Ogbebor in the media on Sunday, August 15, 2021, wherein several false and dubious claims were made by her that the substantive Board of the NDDC, which was appointed by President Buhari in October 2019 and confirmed by the Nigerian Senate on November 5, 2019, and is currently awaiting inauguration, was disbanded in 2019 based on a court case instituted by her against its inauguration. 

“People like Rita Lori Ogbebor have deployed falsehood to build a nest of unearned and undeserved privileges over the years by feasting in falsehood, acrimony and ethnic division. A decent society cannot allow her to continue to spew lies to deliberately interfere with the legitimate process of governance.

“Rita Lori Ogbebor allegedly claimed that the Governing Board of the NDDC which was appointed by the President in October 2019 and confirmed by the Nigerian Senate on November 5, 2019, was stood down on account of the false claims made by her clique following lawsuits launched by them. This is capital falsehood. 

“The truth is that the so-called claims made by her and her cohorts have not been upheld anywhere because they are false claims. All her claims do not hold water and are intended to fraudulently ambush the legitimate process. Her strategy is to throw up inaccurate and unfounded claims with the aim of misleading the public and institutions.

“The facts are very clear and indisputable. What happened in the case of the NDDC Governing Board, which was appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari in October 2019 is that after the nominees were screened and confirmed by the Nigerian Senate on the 5th of November 2019, Mr President asked that the inauguration of the Board should be put on hold pending the completion of the forensic audit, for which an Interim Management Committee was appointed for the NDDC. 

“The Federal Government announced during the inauguration ceremony of the IMC that the Senate-confirmed NDDC Board will be inaugurated after the forensic audit. The decision to step down the inauguration of the Senate confirmed Board was not due to any court case. There was no dissolution of the Senate Confirmed Board as it had not been inaugurated, nor was it disbanded.

“Rita Lori Ogbebor is labouring and propagating the exclusion of legally qualified Deltans from appointment into the NDDC Board by proposing that any appointment into the leadership of the NDDC Board should only come from her Itsekiri tribe. This open act of subterfuge, callousness and clannishness viciously violates the enabling law of the  NDDC. It is shameful and indeed despicable.

“The NDDC Act is the law that governs appointments into the NDDC Board. The NDDC Act in Part 1, Section 2(1) B requires a member of the NDDC Governing Board 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. All indigenes of Oil Producing Local Government Areas in Delta State (whether they are Urhobo, Ijaw, Isoko, Itsekiri or Ndokwa) are eligible. 

“Nobody can be excluded on the basis of the tribe as long as he or she is from an oil-producing local government area in Delta State. Similarly, all indigenes of Oil Producing Local Government Areas in the Niger Delta are eligible for appointment into the NDDC Board.

“President Muhammadu Buhari has already nominated a Board for the NDDC in October 2019 whose members were vetted by all relevant agencies of the federal government following which they were screened and confirmed by the Nigerian Senate on November 5 2019. They are only now waiting to be inaugurated. Mr President has restated his intention to inaugurate the Board on the completion of the forensic audit by the end of July 2021.

“On the 24th day of June 2021, while receiving the Ijaw National Congress at the State House in Abuja, President Buhari said that the NDDC Board would be INAUGURATED as soon as the forensic audit report is submitted and accepted. 

“The president said: ‘Based on the mismanagement that had previously bedevilled the NDDC, a forensic audit was set up and the result is expected by the end of July 2021. I want to assure you that as soon as the forensic audit report is submitted and accepted, the NDDC Board will be inaugurated.

“On Monday, August 9, 2021, the Minister of Niger Delta, Senator Godswill Akpabio stated that the Forensic Audit Report is now ready for submission to President Buhari.

“It is therefore very clear from the above that Rita Lori-Ogbebor is telling lies and not speaking for the Niger Delta people nor acting in our best interest. 

“We, therefore, urge the general public, stakeholders and Niger Deltans to ignore her ignominious deception, anti-people statements and meddlesome outbursts as we await the earnest inauguration of the NDDC Board to ensure fair representation of the nine constituent states, accountability in the utilisation of the NDDC funds, checks and balances and due process in the Commission in compliance with the NDDC Act.”

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