•Ask Buhari to release white paper on forensic audit, contracts’ scam
•Insist they want to know who stole our money; inauguration of governing board
•Communities crammed with abandoned projects
By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South, Gabriel Enogholase, Egufe Yafugborhi, Ike Uchechukwu, Davies Iheamnachor, Chioma Onuegbu and Ochuko Akuopha
PAN Niger -Delta Forum, PANDEF, monarchs and stakeholders of oil-rich Niger-Delta, weekend, said what the people require from President Muhammadu Buhari was not cosmetic changes on the Niger-Delta Development Commission, NDDC, but drastic solution to the man-made barriers.
Leaders and citizens who spoke to our reporters, stated that the interventionist agency as presently organized, was not no more facilitating development of Niger-Delta.
Though they commended Buhari government’s revocation of contracts awarded between 2000 and 2019 by NDDC, which contractors did not execute and refund of monies collected thereto, they counseled the Federal Government to make public its white paper on the up-to-the-minute forensic audit of the interventionist agency to expose the persons who stole billions allocated to the commission.
They reiterated that superficial attempt to cleanse the Augean stables without complying with the Federal High Court, Bayelsa ruling that pronounced as unlawful the sole administrator contraption in the commission and inaugurating the governing board, screened and cleared by the Senate, since 2019, aggregates to window dressing.
Not helping N’Delta – HRM Dakolo
Chairman, Bayelsa State Traditional Rulers Council and the Ibenanaowei of Ekpetiama Kingdom, , HRM King Bubaraye Dakolo, Agada IV, said: “The long and short of what we want is that the NDDC should be allowed to do its job constitutionally. If the law says do this, do so. We cannot continue to have illegality, it will serve us.”
“As far as I am concerned in the past several months, NDDC has been violating the law and so not serving the Niger Delta, so the federal government should quickly constitute the board properly so that the NDDC will do its statutory job.”
Residents losing patience – HRM Whiskey
Paramount ruler of Idjerhe kingdom in Delta state, HRM King Obukowho Whiskey, avowed: ”The continuous running of NDDC in the past three years without a statutory board is the height of illegalities that the President must stop because illegalities can only bread lawlessness and huge financial recklessness as it is today in the NDDC.
“Billions of naira budget/allocated for development have been diverted and mismanaged by few selfish appointees to the detriment of the people and government of the day.
“The federal government’s decision to cancel all previously awarded contracts is a welcome development but Mr. President has to take urgent steps to inaugurate the already screened and confirmed board of the NDDC under the chairmanship of Dr. Pius Odubu and Olorogun Bernard Okumagba as managing director.
“Anything short of this now will be taking illegalities beyond human understanding. The cartel running NDDC should be made to return all monies mismanaged to the coffers of commission. The patience of our people is fast running out,” he said.
Publish white paper – Senator Essien, PANDEF chair
National Chairman, PANDEF, mouthpiece of monarchs, leaders and stakeholders of coastal states of Niger-Delta, Senator Emmanuel Essien, who bared his mind to Saturday Vanguard at Uyo, Akwa Ibom state, said: ”We demand the constitution of NDDC board, the publication of the Forensic Audit that was done. Those are the key things that we demand from the President.”
“Also President Buhari should immediately appoint a credible Niger-Delta sone as Minister of Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs to replace Akpabio. We are praying that the president should constitute NDDC board immediately”.
Commission failed the people – Hon Egbodor
Former lawmaker, Hon. Peter Egbodor, who represented Ogoja / Yala Federal Constituency, Cross River state, in the House of Representatives, voiced out: “Our people are suffering and smiling that the commission was set up to alleviate their sufferings but as it is , I do not think it is fulfilling the reason why it established.”
Communities distressed – Chief Etti, village council leader
Former Chairman, Village Council, Afaha Atai, in Eket local government area, Akwa- Ibom State, Chief Sam Etti, lamented: “So many Niger Delta communities have suffered as a result of abandoned projects. Mr. President should immediately reconstitute the board of NDDC. For some years now that the governing board was not inaugurated, the problem of the communities have not been addressed.
“It is only a commissioner on the board of NDDC that can properly channel the problems of each of the states under the NDDC to the Port-Harcourt headquarters for deliberation”.
“We need a minister to be appointed into the Niger Delta Affairs Ministry, who will come and look into this issue of abandoned projects and who can see that those projects are completed.”
We want to know the thieves- Chief Sara-Igbe, elder
In Rivers state, Coordinator, South-South Elders Forum, Chief Anabs Sara-Igbe, bellowed: “Former Minister of Niger-Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, could not give us the white paper on what happened in NDDC, which made some of us begin to doubt his credibility. We want to really know what transpired, whether he is still there or not, whether he resigned or not.
He will be accountable to what happened in the NDDC. We will continue to hold him accountable with all his cronies, all the persons he appointed in the interim management must account for what happened in NDDC.
“This is where we hold President Buhari to task, unless the white paper is published and we know those who are implicated and who impoverished the region. The region wants to know all those who embezzled all the monies for them. That is what we stand and everybody wants to know in the region.
“Let us see the anti-corruption crusade of President Buhari in NDDC, otherwise we will doubt his credibility in the fight against corruption”.
NDDC not operated in people’s interest – Abolo, media expert
Edo state-based media veteran and political commentator, Mr. Tony Abolo, said: “One hopes that the presidency can go back to the basis, go back and reformat the NDDC because it has not worked in anybody’s interest.”
”I think it is time that the board is either reformed, that is, all those who were appointed sworn in, let them perform their constitutional duties or create another fresh invitation to create a new board, give them orders to get works done, pay for contracts that were executed and recover money that was paid for contracts not executed.
“Let us go back to the master plan of the NDDC so that perhaps, development can start. I hope that a trust worthy Niger Deltan is located and appointed to handle the Ministry, someone who would see the development of the region as his focus.”
Appoint Keyamo N’Delta minister- Ofoni, UYLA
President of Urhobo Youth Leaders’ Association, UYLA, in Delta state, Chief Anthony Ofoni, in a statement, urged President Buhari to promote the Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo, SAN, to substantive Minister of Niger Delta Affairs and urgently constitute the substantive board with Benard Okumagba as managing director for development, peace, fairness, justice and equity.
Swear- in governing board- Nowinta, Kanji, Imeabe, Etaluku, Idi, Ebri
Executive Director, Nigeria Good Governance Research Center, Benin City, Edo state, Igbotako Nowinta, say the way forward was for President Buhari to reconstitute the board NDDC with “men and women of great positive characters and records of astonishing public records”
Benin- based media practitioner, Mr. Joseph Kanji, advised: “Buhari should immediately inaugurate the board NDDC as required by the extant law establishing the commission.
National President, South-South Youths Initiative, Saviour Imeabe, said: “We call on President Buhari to appoint a Minister that will work for the people of Niger Delta. We want the report of the audit to be released immediately. We want to see a new beginning in NDDC and the Niger Delta Affairs Ministry.”
President, Isoko National Youth Assembly, INYA, Delta state, Amos Etaluku, said: “Now that Akpabio has resigned from the Ministry, we urge Buhari to appoint a substantive board for the NDDC. This is due to the fact that having placed the commission under the ministry, the minister was controlling it.”
National Secretary, Ndokwa National Youth Movement, NNYM, similarly in Delta state, Presley Idi, also asserted: “We hereby urge President Buhari to do the needful and immediately appoint someone, who truly has the best interest of the Niger Delta at heart and also approve the inauguration of a substantive board.”
In Cross River state, Mr. James Ebri, entrepreneur, politician and younger brother to ex- governor of Cross River state , Clement Ebri, told Saturday Vanguard: “ It is a statutory position, everything the interim board has done remains unknown to the laws establishing the NDDC, so, whatever they put in place never had a legal backing.”