For stating that “people should reduce the agitation on board and work with the current management of the NDDC,” foremost group, Niger Delta United Congress (NDUC) has come down hard on Effiong Akwa, Sole Administrator of NDDC, describing his utterances as “disrespect, and affront on President Muhammadu Buhari who personally promised to inaugurate the substantive Board of NDDC on completion of the NDDC forensic audit.”

The group also remarked that the “current management” Akwa is referring to is just him administering the Commission as Sole Administrator and thereby combining all the roles of Managing Director; Executive Director of Finance and Administration; and Executive Director of Projects; respectively, which are meant to be separated to ensure the required checks and balances as stipulated in the NDDC Act.

In a statement by Ebizomor Brisibe, President, and Edem Archibong, Secretary, of NDUC, the group also flayed Akwa for what it described as his “well-orchestrated subterfuge of strenuously striving to try and perpetuate the ongoing illegality that he represents by impetuously dropping the name and revered office of President Buhari to speak on matters of government policy that are clearly beyond him.”

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For the umpteenth time, Effiong Akwa, who was appointed NDDC Sole Administrator in violation of the NDDC Act, has upped his impunity antics of well-orchestrated subterfuge of strenuously striving to try and perpetuate the ongoing illegality that he represents by impetuously dropping the name and revered office of President Buhari to speak on matters of government policy that are clearly beyond him. Worse still, in an apparent act of desperation he equally contrived a phantom “webinar” with non-existent youths to arrogate to himself an illusory authority to speak for the Niger Delta, a region he and his masters have consistently denigrated, deprived of much-needed development and equitable representation in NDDC in the past three years of illegality in the Commission.

As was reported in many national dailies on Monday, June 6, 2022, under the headline “Trust Buhari On Niger Delta Devt, NDDC Boss Urges Stakeholders,” in an unrestrained show of disregard for the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Effiong Akwa had the effrontery to state that “the Act establishing the commission was undergoing required reviews, we can no longer rely on the existing Act,” and that “people should reduce the agitation on board and work with the current management of the NDDC.”

This is the height of impunity, disrespect, and affront on President Muhammadu Buhari who personally promised to inaugurate the substantive Board of NDDC on completion of the NDDC forensic audit, which report has been submitted to President Buhari since nine months ago on September 2, 2021.

President Buhari, on June 24, 2021, while receiving the leadership of Ijaw National Congress (INC) at the State House in Abuja, promised that the NDDC Board would be inaugurated as soon as the forensic audit report is submitted.

At that occasion, President Buhari 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.” 

The President has not only not fulfilled his promise nine months after, the Ijaw National Congress (INC), an authentic stakeholder in Niger Delta, which he received in audience when he 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.” This represents the collective position of Niger Deltans, not the subterfuge from a puppet and beneficiary of the current illegality in NDDC who unabashedly sings the deleterious tunes of his paymasters to suppress Niger Deltans and deprive them of the benefits accruing from their God-given natural resources.

To be clear, NDDC is regulated by its establishment Act which clearly stipulates how the agency should be governed. The ongoing contraption of administering the Commission by a Sole Administrator is a violation of the NDDC Act. 

What the NDDC Act provides is that the Board and Management (Managing Director and two Executive Directors) 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, the current Sole Administrator (Effiong Akwa), who is not recognized by the law setting up NDDC, the NDDC Act, therefore lacks the authority, and even moral standing to begin to pontificate on the “required reviews” of a subsisting law which he currently violates by administering the NDDC as a Sole Administrator. So, on whose authority and permission is he, an illegal occupier of an office, making such a policy statement affecting an entire region of nine constituent states? 

What has subsisted in NDDC for the past 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 continued administration of the NDDC by an Interim Sole administrator (Effiong Akwa) is illegal because the NDDC Act has no provision for this illegality as the NDDC Act only provides that the Board and Management (Managing Director and two Executive Directors) 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. 

The continued illegality of the Sole administrator contraption administering NDDC in breach of the law, NDDC Act, is a national embarrassment that should be of grave concern to President Buhari, who should also not condone the arbitrary use of his name and office to justify the ongoing illegality in NDDC, most especially for his legacy when he leaves office in May 2023.

 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,” the Niger Delta region, the country and indeed the world expects him 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. 

President Buhari should also 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 five years in his seven years in office, and therefore needs to end the ongoing illegality in NDDC if he is to be remembered for good in the Niger Delta. 

Worse still, 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 three years by Interim committees/sole administrator in breach of the NDDC Act. 

More alarming but an equally ludicrous effrontery in the despicable desecration of the sanctity of our laws is Akwa Effiong’s inordinate request that “people should reduce the agitation on board and work with the current management of the NDDC.” The “current management” Akwa is referring to is just him administering the Commission as Sole Administrator and thereby combining all the roles of Managing Director; Executive Director of Finance and Administration; and Executive Director of Projects; respectively, which are meant to be separated to ensure the required checks and balances as stipulated in the NDDC Act.

Beyond the well-established case by authentic stakeholders for inauguration of the Board in compliance with the law, the ongoing sole administrator contraption in NDDC has been enmeshed in unending scandals of immense proportions.

Recently the media was awash with the doubly-restated scandal involving the sole administrator contraption. According to national newspapers, in a story entitled “NDDC: IYC Alleges Illegal N20bn Payment To Ghost Contractors Over Phantom Job,” the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) alleged that illegal N20bn payment was made to ghost contractors over phantom jobs. IYC alleged that the former Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, “in connivance with some persons, paid the sum of N20 billion to ghost contractors for phony distilling contracts purportedly awarded by the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).”

But nothing more poignantly illustrates the sleaze ongoing in NDDC under the illegal sole administrator contraption than the scathing editorial of ThisDay Newspaper, “NDDC AND THE ANTI-GRAFT HOAX” published on Wednesday, February 23, 2022. The newspaper categorically stated that the “disrepute into which the commission (NDDC) has fallen in the last seven years is a sad commentary on the avowed commitment of President Muhammadu Buhari to fight corruption as a cardinal undertaking. Despite the agitations of critical stakeholders, the commission also remains without a substantive board. The minister of Niger Delta, Godswill Akpabio prefers to treat affairs of the NDDC more like a private estate by saddling the commission with cronies.”

Other allegations of scandal against the current illegal sole administrator contraption at NDDC include the allegation in December 2021 by The Association of Contractors of the Niger Delta Development Commission (ACNDDC) who picketed the NDDC Head Office in Port Harcourt. In a report in ThisDay on December 8, 2021, entitled “NDDC Contractors Decry Mismanagement, Demand Board Inauguration,” the Chairman of ACNDDC, Joe Adia stated that “we hear money comes in, the next thing we hear the money is finished. Who are you paying? Give us a record of the people you are paying. How can you pay N800 million each and above for desilting yet contractors’ ticket of N5 million you can’t even pay?” 

Also as reported by The Nation newspaper on February 1, 2022 under the headline “Niger Delta women threaten to name, shame persons diverting NDDC funds,” the Wailing Women of the Niger Delta (WWND) decried the “ongoing embezzlement of funds allocated to the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) under the illegal sole administrator.”

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.

As a Commission established in 2000 by an Act of Parliament, the ongoing national embarrassment at NDDC should be of grave concern to the President, about his legacy when he leaves office in 2023 and thereby should persuade him 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.

While we condemn in its entirety the unwarranted and unauthorized use of President Buhari’s name and office to try and justify the ongoing illegality in NDDC, we align with the demands of authentic Niger Delta stakeholders and urge President Buhari to end the illegal sole administratorship at the NDDC; inaugurate the NDDC Governing Board in line with the NDDC Act to represent the nine constituent states, and thereby ensure proper corporate governance, checks and balances, accountability, transparency, and probity in managing the Commission.

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