By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South

THERE are fresh maneuverings over the move to review the Act setting up Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, as sources said, yesterday, that some powerful senators and stakeholders from  Niger Delta have erected a wall against the planned evaluation.

Though Senator Christopher Ekpenyong representing Akwa Ibom North West senatorial district and Preye Iseke representing Southern Ijaw federal constituency in the House of Representatives, had said  there was no bill to review the Act before the National Assembly, Vanguard gathered the bill was passed for second reading last November.

The bill to amend the NDDC Act 2000 was sponsored by Senator Solomon Olamilekan representing Lagos West senatorial district. Nothing has been heard about the bill since last year after it passed second reading.

Stakeholders insinuated that the amendment was part of the influences by some top officials to cause confusion in order to continue their stranglehold on the commission with interim management.

However, influential lawmakers and stakeholders opposed to the amendment stalled further progress on the modification, insisting what was required was implementation of the act, not amendment.

Debating the bill, Senator Olamilekan had opined that following the discovery of oil in Bauchi, Lagos and Ogun, the states had officially joined the league of oil-producing states.

But Deputy Senate President, Senator Ovie Omo Agege, representing Delta Central senatorial district, who was also strongly against the bill, accused Olamilekan of being a meddlesome interloper.

Senator George Sekibo from Rivers State also questioned the quantity of oil discovered in the states to be included in the NDDC, wondering if the quantity was enough to be refined and sold to benefit the country.

Similarly, Senator Matthew Urhogide from Edo State argued that the name of the commission was specific in identifying the states which should be under the commission.

In the House of Representatives, Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on  NDDC, Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, who proposed amendment of the commission’s act, last year, said it was to make it more development oriented in the service of the region.

But reacting to the plan, Vanguard, Transparency and Accountability Advancement in a statement by national chairman,  Ebi Arogbofa, said: “Our attention has been drawn to comments credited to Mr Olubunmni Tunji-Ojo, Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on the Niger Delta, which oversights the NDDC, that he was proposing a bill for the NDDC Act to be repealed and replaced with a new law.

 “Tunji-Ojo’s new proposal to repeal the NDDC Act won’t be welcomed, especially given that the current legislation is very clear on the qualifications for the executive positions.

“Tunji-Ojo and his colleagues should first answer for their failure to defend the NDDC Act as it is now when the minister allegedly ignored the law, disregarded the governing board appointed by the president and cleared by the National Assembly in line with the NDDC Act, and, instead, appointed interim managements since October 2019.

“The NDDC has been operating outside the ambit of the NDDC Act since October 2019, yet Tunji-Ojo and his colleagues did nothing to ensure that the provisions of the NDDC Act are followed.”

Also reacting,  Ijaw youths under the auspices of Ijaw Youth Council, IYC,  rejected the  planned amendment of NDDC Act to include Bauchi, Lagos and Ogun states.

Spokesman of the group, Ebilade Ekerefe, in a statement called on ex-militant leaders in Niger Delta agitation, including Government Ekpemukpolo (also known as Tompolo), Ebikabowei Victor Ben (also known as Boyloaf), King Ateke Tom,   Bibopere Ajube (alias Shoot-at-Sight) and other agitators from the region to speak up against the plan.

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