Buhari

By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South, Gabriel Enogholase, Chioma Onuegbu and Ozioruvwa Aliu

ACTIVISTS and other stakeholders in the Niger-Delta, weekend, bemoaned that the oil-rich region has been on a shock therapy for some time now, following what they described as outrageous policies and actions of the Federal Government that have plunged the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, into confusion.

Foremost environmentalist and architect, Rev. Dr. Nnimmo Bassey; Secretary, Western Zone of Ijaw Youth Council, IYC, Oluderimon Omabemi, and Executive Director, Nigeria Good Governance Research Center, Igbotako Nowinta, reacting to the Federal High Court, Yenagoa order overruling the use of sole administrator or interim administrator to run the agency, called on President Muhammadu Buhari to correct the anomaly by obeying the judgment of the court.

However, a former Deputy Governor of Akwa Ibom State and senator representing Ikot Ekpene, Christopher Ekpenyong, and a former Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice in the state, Uwemedimo Nwoko, SAN, absolved the Minister of Niger-Delta Affairs, who just joined the scramble for 2023 presidential ticket of All Progressives Congress, APC, Senator Godswill Akpabio, of blame in the delay of the inauguration of NDDC Board.

Appointee

Ekpenyong tackled those accusing Akpabio of being a stumbling block to the inauguration of the Board, saying the Minister not only accomplished the task of carrying out a forensic audit of the NDDC but also submitted the report to the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice.

“Akpabio is only an appointee of the President. The blame should be on the President. The President knows that he has acted contrary to the provisions of the NDDC Act”, the senator said.

“The President said he is committed to fighting corruption, but he should have known that his action regarding not making the forensic audit report which Akpabio submitted to him through the AGF public is an infraction on the provision of the Constitution that he swore to uphold. And that is corruption”.

‘Kill-and-divide’

On his part, Bassey, who maintained that Akpabio was guilty as others, stated: “The NDDC has been turned into a kill-and-divide contraption in which the microphone has literally been turned off at high levels and those who should see the malaise afflicting the institution are willfully blindfolded.

“It is absolutely reprehensible that the NDDC should be without a properly constituted Governing Board for such a long time.

“There is no acceptable reason for imposing a sole administrator structure on the NDDC even as the institution wallows in the mud.

“The court ruling offers a face-saving route for government to show a modicum of respect to the suffering people of the Niger Delta and all concerned Nigerians by urgently obeying the orders on this matter.

“The delay of the Attorney General in obeying the decisions of the court is consistent with what we have seen in other cases where communities have won court cases against government and oil companies and yet no one enforces such judgments.

“This sort of attitude continues to erode the respect the people ought to have for public officials and institutions. It also pushes people to seek self-help in ways that may not serve the common good.

“The context of this particular case may be different as it is not about oil pollution or gas flaring, but rather about the unsatisfactory running of a structure set up to ameliorate the utterly damaged socio-ecological environment in which the people have been forced to live in.

“The Attorney General should understand that the Niger Delta is currently on life support and risks remaining irredeemably destroyed if the resources meant to treat the malaise are not used for that purpose but are frittered away by a sole administrator and/or his cohorts.

“The Attorney General should obey the court orders to the letter, and put an end to having a clearly defective structure overseeing the sensitive body like the NDDC.

“It is not clear why the Minister in charge of the Ministry of the Niger Delta is sitting on the report of the forensic audit that he had ordered. Why he is doing so is not clear.

“Continued dithering over the release of the audit fuels the suspicion that government may be hiding some sacred cows while the people and the Niger Delta region remain sacrificial objects that are not worth any modicum of respect.

“If the Minister is one of the stumbling blocks to the inauguration of the Governing Board, he should be advised that beyond the court orders, posterity will pass a harsher judgment on all those who have exposed the people and environment of the region to extreme harm by failing to do the right thing when they had the opportunity to do so.

“It is a dishonor that it continues to appear like efforts made to deal with the ecocide inflicted on the Niger Delta have been halfhearted measures made merely to fool the people, feed fat cows, alienate and insult the people”.

‘Shortchanging region’

Omabemi, also speaking, said: “There is an NDDC Act and it does not give room for what has been happening in the Commission and how it is being run.

“The Federal Government should not hesitate to abide by the rulings; the already screened Board should be inaugurated, the NDDC should be returned to the Presidency which was overseeing its operations before this aberration and we believe that if these things are done, there would be corrections and the region would no longer be shortchanged because what is happening now is that the Niger Delta region is being shortchanged”.

‘Disband sole administrator structure’

Nowinta, on his part, said: “Malami and Senator Akpabio have constituted themselves as a terrible clog in the wheel of progress of the people of the Niger Delta as it relates to their demand for the urgent constitution of the Governing Board of the NDDC.

“It is clear that they have selfish interest in trying to force their will against the interests and aspirations of the people.

“Malami is known for flagrant disobedience of court orders and l hereby call on him, in the interest of his own sensitive position, not to delay in responding to this very one.

“If he does, he should expect the hottest form of protest/civil disobedience from the people of the Niger Delta.

“I expect Malami and Senator Akpabio to immediately dissolve the sole administrator structure of the NDDC and publish the forensic audit report on all the monies that have accrued to the organization since inception”.

‘Buhari can’t escape liability’

Defending Akpabio, however, Nwoko said: “NDDC was set up by a law enacted by the National Assembly.

“It has provisions as to its management and structure. And clearly there is no doubt about it that the NDDC Act makes a provision for the setting up of a legitimate Board that will serve for fixed tenure.

“It does not recognize any caretaker or sole administrator and so any demand for the setting up of a Board is based on law. It is not a matter of sentiment, it is not a matter of emotions.

“And I believe that an Attorney General who has respect for the rule of law; who has respect for the Constitution of the country; who is in a position to advise the President should have long before now advised the President to jettison this illegal, unconstitutional contraction called sole administrator and set up a Board in line with the provisions of NDDC Act. It is as simple as that”.

Asked what the AGF should do in respect of the court orders, the SAN stated: “I think the AGF somehow is too small to be given the credit for success or failure of the present administration.

“I place the responsibility squarely on the table of the President who is the Commander- in- Chief of Armed Forces of Nigeria.

“Whether he knows anything about what we are discussing or he does not know, he cannot run away from the responsibility of taking credit for successes and taking blames for failures of anything that happens under his watch as the president of Nigeria”.

‘Court action came late’

Also contributing, spokesperson for Akwa Ibom Leaders Vanguard, Senator Anietie Okon, asserted: “I think those who pursued that court action realized it very late.

“From the beginning, that is what should have been the action, they gave the Federal Government so much time.”

Disclaimer

Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.