Civil Society group, Niger Delta United Congress (NDUC) has flayed President Muhammadu Buhari for his long-toleration of the ongoing illegality of sole administrator contraption at NDDC, which it described as a “breach of the law governing the operation of the commission.”
According to President of the group, Ebizomor Brisibe, the President’s action has emboldened “certain officials of this government to divert attention from the collective legitimate demands of authentic Niger Delta stakeholders for the inauguration of the NDDC Governing Board, in compliance with NDDC Enabling Act, to ensure proper corporate governance, and equitable representation of the nine constituent states.”
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The attention of Niger Delta United Congress (NDUC) has been drawn to a story in ThisDay on January 9, 2022, with the headline “NDDC to complete more abandoned projects in 2022.” In the report, the NDDC Sole Administrator, Effiong Akwa, was reported to have made the statement at a supposed “virtual meeting with stakeholders from the nine states of the Niger Delta.”
It is unfortunate that in what now appears to be a pattern of well-orchestrated subterfuge, President Muhammadu Buhari has long-tolerated the ongoing illegality of sole administrator contraption at NDDC, a breach of the law governing the operation of the commission and thereby enabling certain officials of this government to divert attention from the collective legitimate demands of authentic Niger Delta stakeholders for the inauguration of the NDDC Governing Board, in compliance with NDDC Enabling Act, to ensure proper corporate governance, and equitable representation of the nine constituent states.
In furtherance of the ongoing illegality in NDDC, Effiong Akwa assembled some amorphous stakeholders for an apparently contrived “virtual meeting” to announce plans to complete projects, which will enable him to further administer the funds of the Commission illegally.
President Buhari should put a stop to this illegality because it is also an affront on the entire Niger Delta region that has been made to painfully endure two years of illegal interim managements/sole administrator contraptions that are unknown to the NDDC Establishment Act. It is in breach of the NDDC Act for the current Sole Administrator or anyone else to administer the NDDC and utilise the huge funds accruing to it on a monthly basis without passing through the legal requirement as stipulated in the NDDC Act. Niger Delta authentic stakeholders therefore frown at the suggestion by Akwa of his intention to continue to administer the funds that accrue monthly to NDDC when his position is unknown to the law setting up NDDC.
The continued illegality of the sole administrator contraption currently foisted on NDDC since October 2019 is in breach of the law – NDDC Act which clearly requires that the Board and management (comprising the MD and two EDs) shall be appointed by the President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, subject to the confirmation of the Senate. Presently, the illegal NDDC Sole Administrator singularly acts as the Managing Director, the Executive Director of Finance and Administration, and Executive Director of Projects, with no checks and balances, proper corporate governance, and probity in administering the Commission.
The NDDC Act has no provision for this illegality. 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. In effect, 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. To the detriment of the entire region, these illegal interim contraptions/sole administrator contraptions have been fleecing the NDDC of its funds in the last two years.
As pointed out by no less a person than the President of Ijaw National Congress (INC), Professor Benjamin Okaba, in an interview with a national daily on October 17, 2021, there has been unceasing irregularities and lack of due process in NDDC since October 2019 when the illegal interim management/sole administrator contraptions have been in place, administering a combined two-year budget of N799 Billion for 2019 and 2020, as approved by the National Assembly.
Prof. Okaba pointed out that “we are not particularly happy about the silence on the over N600bn payments made for emergency contracts; the over 1,000 persons who were allegedly employed in the NDDC between January and July, 2020 without due process. We are also aware that the 2020 budget was passed in December 2020 and N400bn was voted for the NDDC but the commission had spent over N190bn before the budget was passed. So, what happened to the Procurement Act?”
Rather than allow officials of this government to dissipate energy on diversionary antics that are anti-Niger Delta and do not represent the legitimate demands for the inauguration of NDDC’s substantive governing board, President Buhari should follow the NDDC Act and inaugurate the board in compliance with the law, the NDDC Establishment Act.
For the avoidance of doubt, the authentic leadership of the Niger Delta ethnic nationalities have spoken clearly on these matters and they align with the central position of Conference of Presidents-General of Niger Delta Ethnic Nationalities (CPGNDEN), which membership cuts across Ijaw National Congress; Ogoni Nation; Oron Nationality; Isoko Development Union; Urhobo Progressive Union; Ndokwa Nation; Itsekiri Nation; amongst others; Niger Delta Governors, statesmen, and people, that the ongoing sole administrator contraption in NDDC is an illegality, a breach of the NDDC Establishment Act, and is therefore retarding the development of the Niger Delta.
The non-inauguration of the board negates a promise by the President to inaugurate the board after the forensic audit.
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.
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.”
Regrettably, the report of the forensic audit of NDDC has since been submitted by Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, to President Buhari on September 2, 2021, but more than four months after submission of the forensic audit report, there is increasing tension in the Niger Delta region over the delay in inaugurating members of the board of the Commission. In fact the Ijaw National Congress (INC) had earlier cautioned in a statement issued on September 10, 2021 that “any further delay in the inauguration of the NDDC board is a clear betrayal of trust and display of State insensitivity on ljaw nation and Niger Delta region.”
The continued illegality of the interim management committees/sole administrator contraptions in 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. It is also an action that is de-marketing the APC in the Niger Delta region as the people are very upset that the law is flagrantly being flouted under APC/President Buhari’s watch. This has the potential of working against the APC in the Niger Delta as we approach the 2023 general elections. 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, the beginning of his last full year as President, 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.
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.
Ebizomor Brisibe is President of Niger Delta United Congress