Our attention has been drawn to news reports in the Tuesday, August 3, 2021 editions of Thisday and The Vanguard newspapers, among others, wherein Chief Rita Lori-Ogbebor claimed to have filed a court action to restrain the President from inaugurating the Governing Board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), pending the submission of the forensic audit report.
This is without question one more instance of Lori-Ogbebor’s meddlesomeness taken too far. Her position is against the spirit and aspiration of Niger Deltans who have asked why a Board cannot be put in place while the audit of a previous period is ongoing. It is clearly the handiwork of a clique designed to perpetuate the illegal interim management contraptions that has been in place running the NDDC and utilising its funds totalling about N700 billion since October 2019 to date, with no developmental projects in any of the constituent states to show for it.
Rita Lori-Ogbebor’s action is frivolous, attention-seeking, and quite in character. She is clearly acting for interests whose sole aim to introduce some confusion into the legitimate process of Government. Her aim is to frustrate the proper functioning of the NDDC in line with its Act, which provides for the full representation of constituent states to ensure accountability, because there is no law or precedence that debars a Governing Board from functioning when an audit of a previous period is ongoing. Certainly, not at this time when the July 31 deadline given by Mr. President for the submission of the forensic audit by the Minister of Niger Delta has expired.
Niger Delta Governors, ethnic nationalities, statesmen and civil society organisations have been calling for the inauguration of the Governing Board in compliance with the NDDC Act and to ensure full representation of the constituent states since 2019, with the Honourable Minister of Niger Delta, Chief Godswill Akpabio, finally promising to have the Board in place by the end of July 2021, by which time he said the forensic audit report would have been submitted to Mr President after several postponements. Rita Lori-Ogbebor’s proposal cannot be accepted at this point in time, almost two years after the forensic audit started.
Rita Lori Ogbegbor is clearly acting for interests whose sole aim is to continue to foster the illegal and illegitimate interim contraptions that have held sway in the NDDC utilising its funds for close to two years now. It is very clear that Lori-Ogbebor is working for persons who want to perpetuate the interim management contraption at the NDDC, in opposition to the clearly-stated demands and expectations of Niger Deltans from across the ethnic nationalities and the nine constituent states.
Her strategy is to throw up inaccurate, unfounded, claims with the aim of distracting the public and institutions.
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 following the expiration of the July 31st deadline given by Mr. President for the submission of the Forensic Audit report by the Minister of Niger Delta.
Rita Lori-Ogbebor is not speaking for our people in the Niger Delta and is merely playing a script being directed by forces who do not wish us well in our region. We therefore urge the general public and all stakeholders 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.
Signed: President, Akpoebide Okotiene, and the Secretary, Edet Ekpenyong on behalf of Niger Delta Integrity Group