…accuse Akpabio of setting party back in Niger Delta
By Festus Ahon, ASABA
NIGER Deltans under the aegis of Committed members of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Tuesday, implored President Muhammadu Buhari and the leadership of the party to save Niger Delta region from its sorry state by inaugurating the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC Board of Dr Pius Odubu and Olorogun Bernard Okumagba, which was confirmed by the Senate since November 2019 so as to win back the trust of the people of the region.
The APC members in a letter to President Muhammadu Buhari and leadership of the APC sigbed by Ebibomo Akpoebide, Menegbo Nwinuamene and Itam Edem, urged President Muhammadu Buhari to comply with the law setting up the NDDC, insisting that inauguration of a substantive Board for the Commission would “ensure accountability, checks and balances, probity and equitable representation of the nine constituent states”.
The people in the letter, said; “Mr President, we implore you to now rise to the occasion to save the Niger Delta region from this sorry state, from those who have deliberately decided to exacerbate the palpable tension in the region.
“Kindly heed the call of Niger Delta leaders, governors, youths, women, traditional rulers, civil society organisations, and other stakeholders, comply with the law setting up NDDC, and also fulfill your own promise of June 24, 2021, and inaugurate the board of the Commission to ensure accountability, checks and balances, probity and equitable representation of the nine constituent states.
“This, Mr. President, is the minimum your government and the APC can do to win back the trust of the Niger Delta people. A first step, Mr. President, is to immediately reset the leadership at the NDDC to conform with the law by inaugurating the Governing Board of the Commission, which has been confirmed by the Senate and has been on standby since 2019 following Akpabio’s endless shenanigans.
“As Niger Deltans and committed members of the APC we write to express our disappointment with how the Niger Delta has been treated by our APC government since 2019 when Senator Godswill Akpabio was appointed as Minister of Niger Delta Affairs.
“We dare say that Chief Godswill Akpabio, a two-time governor of Akwa Ibom State and Senator until 2018 under the PDP, came to our party as a fifth columnist to destroy the APC and reverse the bold moves to cement the party in the Niger Delta states.
“He has set the party back in many respects but we are hopeful that with concerted efforts by stakeholders we can regain our footholds before the next general election, which is very crucial. This is why we are glad that his resignation offers a chance to correct the ills and win back the trust of our people.
“The resignation of the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Akpabio, offers your administration the opportunity to reboot and reclaim its connection with the Niger Delta people after three years of the former Minister’s disastrous manipulation of the NDDC, which has angered all stakeholders in the region.
“His tenure has been the most disastrous for the people of the oil producing states who make up the NDDC. He has been especially disagreeable even in advancing the interests of the people of our region, not to talk of the damage he has done to your reputation and the APC among the people, especially the voting population.
“Mr. President, please reboot and correct the ills committed by Chief Akpabio and make amends for the damage done to the APC in the region. As it stands, the APC cannot win an election in the region except these missteps are remedied.
“Matter of fact, a group, The Niger Delta Rescue Movement (NDRM) has already vowed not to back the APC in the 2023 elections following the delay to inaugurate a substantive board of the NDDC. The spokesman of NRDM, Jonathan Okwa, speaking in Yenagoa, Bayelsa state, stated that following the prolonged delay of President Buhari to give the Niger Delta people what is rightfully theirs, in accordance with the law, the NDDC Act, the group would ensure the mobilisation of the people of Niger Delta region to vote against the APC in the 2023 presidential and general elections if the board is not inaugurated. Chief Akpabio’s actions have indeed imperilled our party in the Niger Delta States.
“May we remind you of the trajectory of Akpabio’s mischief. In October 2019, in exercise of your powers as spelt out in the NDDC Act of 2000, you, President Buhari appointed a Board for the NDDC which was duly confirmed by the Nigerian Senate on November 5, 2019. Through subterfuge, before the board could be inaugurated, Akpabio came up with the idea of an audit to be supervised by an interim management, so the Board was asked to be on standby for inauguration after a forensic audit originally planned to last three months.
“Akpabio then ill-advised you and came up with a grand scheme to suspend the inauguration of the board which was confirmed by the Nigerian Senate on November 5, 2019 and instead employed some interim officials in breach of the NDDC Act, people he relied on to fleece the NDDC of its resources and the NDDC nine constituent states of their commonwealth through an orchestrated scheme to conjure an unending audit of the Commission.
“From three months, he extended the audit to last two years! After contrived delays over two years, the report of the forensic audit of the Niger Delta Development Commission was finally submitted to you, Mr. President on September 2, 2021, eight months ago, yet the substantive Board you unequivocally promised to inaugurate is yet to be inaugurated.
“We recall, Mr. President, that specifically on June 24, 2021, while receiving the leadership of Ijaw National Congress (INC) at the State House in Abuja, you promised that the NDDC Board would be inaugurated as soon as the forensic audit report is submitted.
“At that occasion, you said that ‘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.’
“Our dear President, not only have you not fulfilled your promise eight months after, the INC which you received in audience when you made the above promise to Nigerians has been compelled to describe the delay in the inauguration of the NDDC Board as a ‘clear betrayal of trust and display of state insensitivity on the Ijaw nation and Niger Delta region.’
“Despite further assurances that the submission of the report would see to the inauguration of the board, it has not ended the delays, manipulations and hijacking of the NDDC by vested interests. This foremost federal government agency set up to right the wrongs in the Niger Delta over the years is still being run by a sole administrator appointed in breach of the NDDC Act.
“Sadly, for a government that prides itself for adherence to rule of law, this administration conversely continues to administer the NDDC in flagrant violation of the NDDC Act. As a Commission established in 2000 by an Act of Parliament, the ongoing national embarrassment at NDDC should be of grave concern to you, Mr. President, about your legacy when you leave office in 2023 and thereby should persuade you to put an end to the illegality of further administering NDDC with a Sole Administrator that is not known to the law setting-up the Commission.
“It may also interest you to know that there has been a pattern of illegalities instituted by the current administration to undermine accountability at the NDDC in a way that no other federal agency has been so treated in the last seven years of the Buhari Presidency. In the 15-year history of the NDDC, prior to your administration coming in 2015, an interim appointment had never been made outside of the law, even when the Governing Boards were dissolved.
“Prior to your coming to power in 2015, in the absence of a Board duly constituted in line with the NDDC Act, the most senior Civil servant in the NDDC took over as Managing Director in acting capacity for a brief period until a Board was constituted in line with the NDDC Act. The NDDC Act does not permit the appointment of any external persons from outside the Commission to act as Managing Director or Sole Administrator without compliance with the Act which requires nomination by the President and Confirmation by the Senate.
“This is the same requirement for Ministers of the Federal Republic. The Law does not permit for anyone to be appointed as Acting Minister in any Ministry. If there is no Minister in a Ministry, the most senior civil servant – i.e. the Permanent Secretary holds forth until a Minister is appointed by the President and duly confirmed by the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“The orderly succession in NDDC was only breached in 2015 when your Administration dissolved the Bassey Henshaw led Board with Dan Abia as Managing Director, and appointed Mrs. Ibim Semenitari as Sole Administrator, a position she held illegally for over one year. The illegality in NDDC continued in January 2019 when the two-year old Victor Ndoma-Egba led Board was dissolved and replaced with an Interim Management team led by Professor Nelson Brambaifa.
“It was not until August of 2019 that your government ended the illegal Brambaifa interim management team and then, in accordance with the law establishing NDDC, forwarded the list of nominees for the NDDC Governing Board to the Senate for confirmation, and then dutifully appointed the most senior civil servant at that time in NDDC, Mrs. Akwaghagha Enyia, as Acting Managing Director pending the Senate confirmation of the President’s nominees as NDDC Board members, which list you, Mr. President personally signed and forwarded to the Senate on October 18, 2019.
“But unfortunately again this administration relapsed to its recourse to illegality in administering NDDC, because as the Senate dutifully screened and confirmed the nominees sent by you in exercise of your powers, as Board and Management of NDDC on November 5, 2019, this same government under the obvious manipulation of Chief Akpabio who has previously boasted that the NDDC was his ‘settlement’ for joining the APC, embarked on another spree of interim managements/sole administrator contraptions, while the Board confirmed by the Senate has been on hold since November 2019.
“Since October 2019 this government has appointed two interim management teams led by Joi Nunieh and Professor Keme Pondei, respectively, and presently the Commission is led by a Sole Administrator, Effiong Akwa.
“It may interest you to know, Mr. President, that under the illegal interim managements/sole administrator contraptions, the combined two-year budgets for 2019 and 2020, as approved by the National Assembly was N799 Billion. Yet, as pointed out by Professor Benjamin Okaba, President of INC, under the interim management/sole administrator contraptions, “over N600bn payments have been made for emergency contracts without due process; the 2020 budget was passed in December and N400bn was voted for the NDDC but the commission had spent over N190bn before the budget was passed, thereby violating the Procurement Act.”
“Yet, for all the big money spent by the interim managements under Akpabio’s control not one naira has been spent on critical infrastructure in the Niger Delta states. Federal roads and other facilities are in terrible shape.
“We also recall the Senate probe of NDDC in June/July of 2020 which revealed how the NDDC Interim Management Committee (IMC) appointed by Chief Godswill Akpabio blew N81.5 billion in just a couple of months in breach of extant financial and public procurement laws for which the Senate passed a resolution recommending that the IMC should refund the sum of N4.923 Billion to the Federation Account, and that the IMC should be disbanded, while the substantive board should be inaugurated to manage the Commission in accordance with the law.
“We recount the November 2021 protest by the Association of Contractors of the Niger Delta Development Commission (ACNDDC) when the Chairman of ACNDDC, Joe Adia stated that the Commission ‘pays N800 million each for so-called desilting jobs and yet contractors being owed N5 million you have refused to pay?’ in addition to the doubly-restated scandal, earlier this year, involving the illegal sole administrator contraption in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) when the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) alleged that ‘illegal N20bn payment was made to ghost contractors over phantom jobs for phony distilling contracts purportedly awarded by the NDDC.’
“The Federal Government, by its numerous illegal actions in the NDDC in the last three years has been de-marketing the APC in the Niger Delta region. In an article, ‘NDDC: Buhari’s Legacy of Illegality and Contempt,’ by Godspower Tamunosusi, published in a national daily on December 13, 2021 and in many other national newspapers, he stated that ‘Niger Deltans are very upset with the disdainful manner the region has been treated.’ He also noted that there is increasing anger against the APC in the Niger Delta region ‘as a result of the very poor, biased, illegal and provocative actions of the Federal Government in the handling of matters concerning the NDDC and the Niger Delta region.’
“We want to draw the attention of the President, the federal government and the APC to the danger in continuing with this interim contraption as this administration winds down. The NDDC Act, provides that each of the nine oil producing states have a representative on the board. In addition, there is one representative for all oil producing companies in the country and one person each from non-oil-producing geopolitical zones.
“All the members of the Board listed above are on part time basis as clearly stated in Section 2(3) of the NDDC Act. The only full time members of the Board as clearly stipulated in the NDDC Act are three – the Managing Director and two Executive Directors – who are responsible for the day-to-day administration of the Commission. However, for close to three years this has been ignored by the Buhari Administration. This has given rise to tension in the Niger Delta region.
“Against the relentless legitimate demands of stakeholders, it is in our best interest to keep a good legacy by abiding by the law establishing NDDC, especially as we are in a contest to select your successor. The government’s breach of the laws guiding the establishment of an agency created to develop an impoverished region is not in good taste, especially when it looks like the audit was a smokescreen for Akpabio and the cabal backing him to fleece the resources meant for our people”.