In tandem with the legitimate demands of Niger Delta authentic stakeholders, civil society organisation, Niger Delta Peoples’ Forum has again urged President Muhammadu Buhari to comply with the law setting up NDDC, fulfill his own promise of June 24, 2021, and inaugurate the substantive board to manage the Commission for the benefit of the people of the nine Niger Delta states.
According to Chief Boma Ebiakpo, National Chairman of the group, the most salient issue that the authentic stakeholders of the Niger Delta have consistently demanded, and which even the President had promised and made commitments on is to end the illegal Interim Management / sole administratorship at the NDDC and inaugurate the Board of the Commission upon receipt of the forensic audit, in compliance with the law, and which promise he made to the nation on June 24, 2021 when he received the leadership of Ijaw National Congress (INC) in Aso Rock, Abuja.
According to NDPF, President Buhari’s silence on his commitment to inaugurate the NDDC Board in accordance with the law, and in fulfillment of his own promise of June 24, 2021, is of grave concern to Niger Deltans as it indicates a continued disregard by this government for the region as well as unwillingness to submit to transparency in administering NDDC.
Recall that President Buhari promised the nation on the 24th day of June 2021, while receiving the Ijaw National Congress (INC) at the State House in Abuja that the NDDC Board would be inaugurated as soon as the forensic audit report is submitted and accepted.
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The President said: ‘‘Based on the mismanagement that had previously bedeviled 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.”
According to Ebiakpo, the Forensic audit report has been submitted to President Muhammadu Buhari since September 2, 2021 prompting the Ijaw National Congress to caution that “any further delay in the inauguration of the NDDC Board is a clear betrayal of trust and display of state insensitivity on Ijaw nation and Niger Delta region.”
NDPF noted that the situation currently in NDDC which has subsisted for over two years is that there is an illegal sole administrator who is both Managing Director, Executive Director of Finance, and Executive Director Projects, in clear breach of NDDC Act which ensures separation of these duties to ensure checks and balances.
The Niger Delta Peoples’ Forum observed that the continued administration of the NDDC by Interim management committee / sole administrator is illegal because the NDDC Act has no provision for this illegality as the NDDC Act only provides that the Board and Management of the NDDC at any point in time should follow the provisions of the law which states that the Board and management is to be appointed by the President, subject to confirmation by the Senate. According to the group, nobody is supposed to begin to administer the NDDC and utilise the huge funds accruing to it on a monthly basis without passing through this legal requirement as stipulated in the NDDC Act.
Ebiakpo reiterated that presently, across the length and breadth of the Niger Delta region there are unending calls, demands and peaceful agitations of youths, men and women, political and traditional leaders and civil society organisations that the inauguration of the board of NDDC will ensure compliance with the NDDC Act, promote and sustain peace, equity and fairness, transparency and accountability, good governance and rapid development and transformation of the Niger Delta Region.
NDPF also drew attention that renowned Ijaw group, the Ijaw Interest Advocates (IIA), also known as Izanzan Intellectual Camp has also urged President Buhari to remember to keep good legacies by abiding to the law establishing NDDC. It quoted its leader, Arerebo Salaco Yerinmene Snr as stating that “the Presidency and the President’s family should remember to keep good legacies even after office. The government’s flagrant disobedience of the laws guiding the establishment of an agency created to develop an impoverished region is unacceptable.”
NDPF cautioned that the continued illegality of the interim management committees/sole administrator contraptions administering NDDC since October 2019 in breach of the law, NDDC Act, is a national embarrassment that should be of grave concern to President Buhari, most especially for his legacy when he leaves office in May 2023.
According to Ebiakpo, for a President who stated in October 2019 when he received in audience the governors of the nine constituent states of the NDDC that “I try to follow the Act setting up these institutions,” there is no better time than now to end the illegality of further administering NDDC with a Sole Administrator which is in breach of NDDC Act – the law setting-up the Commission.
NDPF emphasized that President Buhari should be concerned about the disdain of the Niger Delta people over the manner he has handled the NDDC, most especially administering the Commission with illegal interim management/sole administrator contraptions for four and a half years in his six and a half year in office, and therefore needs to end the ongoing illegality in NDDC if he is to be remembered for good in the Niger Delta.
The group observed that whereas the North East Development Commission (NEDC) has been allowed to function with its duly constituted Board in place in line with its NEDC Act thereby ensuring proper corporate governance, accountability, checks and balances and fair representation of its constituent states, the NDDC on the other hand has been run arbitrarily in the last two years by Interim committees/sole administrator in breach of the NDDC Act.
The Niger Delta Peoples’ Forum therefore affirmed that it aligns with the demands of authentic Niger Delta stakeholders – ending the illegal Interim Management/sole administratorship at the NDDC; Inauguration of the NDDC Governing Board in line with the NDDC Act to represent the nine constituent states, and thereby ensure proper corporate governance, accountability, transparency, and probity in managing the Commission.