Renowned constitutional lawyer and human rights activist, Mr Femi Falana, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), has called on the Federal Government to comply with the law setting up the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) by putting in place a substantive Board for the Commission.
According to him, “with the plan to appoint another Interim Administrator or extend the illegal tenure of the incumbent, several groups have threatened to embark on mass actions that may cause a breach of peace in the Niger Delta region.” The outspoken Senior Advocate stated that “it is hoped that the Federal Government will urgently douse the growing tension in the area” by putting in place the Board of the NDDC “without any further delay.” He also called on the Federal Government to release the report of the forensic audit of the NDDC.
He restated that the Buhari administration has “adduced some contradictory reasons in the past three years to justify the illegal appointment of Interim Administrators to run the affairs of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) in utter contravention of the provisions of the Niger-Delta Development Commission (Establishment etc) Act, 2000, No. 6, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria. Whereas the enabling law provides for the constitution of a Board made up of the representatives of the nine constituent states, the President has been appointing Interim Administrators to manage the NDDC. The action of the Buhari administration is illegal, discriminatory and sectional.” Falana regretted that while the Board of the NDDC is yet to be inaugurated “the (Board) members of the North-East Development Commission (NEDC) were appointed by President Buhari, confirmed by the Senate and inaugurated on May 8, 2019.”
It will be recalled that while receiving the leadership of Ijaw National Congress (INC) in Abuja on June 24, 2021, President Buhari had promised that the NDDC Board will be inaugurated once the forensic audit report was submitted. The President said at that occasion 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.” That report has been submitted to the President ten months ago, since September 2, 2021, yet the board has not been inaugurated.
Femi Falana further noted that whereas the Federal Government has not inaugurated the NDDC Board ten months after receipt of the forensic audit report, “the President has continued to appoint Interim Administrators to manage the NDDC without any legal justification. Such appointment or renewal of same constitutes a violent violation of the valid and subsisting order of the Bayelsa Judicial Division of the Federal High Court which has restrained President Buhari from further appointing Interim Administrators to manage the NDDC.”
According to him, “with the plan to appoint another Interim Administrator or extend the illegal tenure of the incumbent, several groups have threatened to embark on mass actions that may cause a breach of peace in the Niger Delta region.” He therefore urged the Federal Government to urgently douse the growing tension in the area by putting in place the substantive Board of the NDDC without any further delay. He also called on the Federal Government to release the report of the forensic audit of the NDDC.
Falana warned that if however, the Federal Government “does not put an end to the impunity, it is undoubtedly clear that the appointment of the Interim Administrators and the actions taken by them including the award of contracts are liable to be set aside by the Federal High Court, sooner or later.” He therefore reiterated his call on the Federal Government to comply with the law and put in place a substantive Board for the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) to avoid a “breach of security in the oil-producing region of Nigeria.”