On the heels of the recent caution by elder statesman and the leader of the Pan-Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), Chief Edwin Clark that the people of the Niger Delta will “sternly resist any attempt to appoint another interim administrator/Committee for NDDC,” while calling for the immediate inauguration of the NDDC board in compliance with the law establishing the Commission, a group of concerned APC members in the Niger Delta region has again requested President Buhari and the APC leadership to hearken to authentic stakeholders in the Niger Delta states who have stridently expressed their dismay and frustration over the inexplicable delay to inaugurate the NDDC substantive Board.

In another follow-up letter to President Buhari and the APC National leadership, the APC group, “Committed members of the APC from the Niger Delta Region,” whose letter was signed by the trio of Ebibomo Akpoebide, Menegbo Nwinuamene, and Itam Edem, stated that the delay in inaugurating the NDDC Board is “diminishing the chances of our party, the APC in our region due to our Government’s foisting of interim managements and sole administrator contraptions in our region’s foremost agency, NDDC, in violation of the law, for three years now thereby denying the nine constituent states opportunity for fair and equitable representation on the Commission’s board.” 

READ THE FULL STATEMENT BELOW 

We earnestly urge President Muhammadu Buhari and the leadership of our great party, the APC, to act now, end the ongoing illegality of sole administratorship in NDDC, and inaugurate the substantive board of the Commission in compliance with the law, the NDDC Act.

The delay in inaugurating the NDDC Board is diminishing the chances of our party, the APC in our region due to our Government’s foisting of interim managements and sole administrator contraptions in our region’s foremost agency, NDDC, in violation of the law, for three years now thereby denying the nine constituent states opportunity for fair and equitable representation on the Commission’s board. 

In effect, the nine NDDC states of Abia, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Edo, Imo, Ondo, and Rivers, which by law ought to have representation on the board, have been de­prived of their statutory repre­sentation due to the failure/delay of the Federal Government to inaugurate the board of the Commission, in contravention of the NDDC Act. The constituent states have be­en deprived of opportunity of having their representatives who, sitting on NDDC Board, are supposed to ensure that the budget of the NDDC is run in the way that what is due to each state gets to them. This blatant illegal act of the Federal Government has been de-marketing APC in the region. 

However, the promise made by the new Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Obong Umana Okon Umana to “meet the yearnings of the people of the Niger Delta for development,” further assuring that “together we can create the necessary impact and make the difference for the people of Nigeria and the Niger Delta,” is encouraging.

We still recall our recent letter to President Buhari and the leadership of our ruling party in which we specifically cautioned that “as it stands, the APC cannot win an election in the region” except the missteps in NDDC are remedied and the NDDC substantive Board is inaugurated in accordance with the law setting up the Commission.

The continued administration of the NDDC by Interim management committees / sole administrator is illegal because the NDDC Act has no provision for this illegality as the NDDC Act only provides that the Board and Management 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. 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.

President Buhari and the APC leadership should be concerned about the disdain of the Niger Delta people over the manner the Federal Government has handled the NDDC, most especially administering the Commission with illegal interim managements/sole administrator contraptions for five years in President Buhari’s and APC’s seven years in office, and therefore needs to end the ongoing illegality in NDDC if APC desires to win the upcoming general elections, across board in the entire region, and be remembered for good in the Niger Delta. Otherwise, what will be APC’s response when the opposition party in its electioneering campaigns denounce APC for non-compliance with the NDDC Act and thereby denying the nine constituent states of their legitimate demands for equitable representation on the board of NDDC for the benefit of their people?

 As we earlier stated, “given the various encounters our presidential aspirants had with party delegates from Akwa Ibom, Abia, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Edo, Imo, Ondo, to Rivers states, our party should no longer be in doubt about the mood of the people of the region with regard to their genuine angst towards the Federal Government and APC for the way we have been badly treated by certain elements in the Federal Government who feed fat on the resources of our region.” 

Niger Delta leaders, governors, youths, women, traditional rulers, civil society organisations, and other stakeholders, have consistently demanded that President Buhari should comply with the law setting up NDDC, end the ongoing illegality in the Commission, and inaugurate the substantive board.

 Indeed, while receiving the leadership of Ijaw National Congress (INC) in Abuja on June 24, 2021, President Buhari had said that the Board will be inaugurated once the forensic audit report was submitted.  The President 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.” That report has been submitted to the President ten months ago, since September 2, 2021, yet the board has not been inaugurated. 

Despite further assurances that the submission of the report would see to the inauguration of the board, it has not ended the delays, manipulations and hijacking of the NDDC by vested interests. This foremost federal government agency set up to right the wrongs in the Niger Delta over the years is still being run by a sole administrator appointed in breach of the NDDC Act.

 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.

Recently, in an extensive story in Vanguard newspaper on Saturday, June 4, 2022, entitled “NDDC no longer serves N’Delta interests — PANDEF, monarchs, stakeholders,” a wide spectrum of opinion leaders and authentic stakeholders bemoaned the current deplorable state of the Commission and urged President Buhari to inaugurate the Board that has been screened and confirmed by the Nation’s Senate since November 2019.

Sadly, for a government that prides itself for adherence to rule of law, this administration conversely continues to administer the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) in flagrant violation of the NDDC Act. As a Commission established in 2000 by an Act of Parliament, the ongoing national embarrassment at NDDC should be of grave concern to President Buhari and the ruling APC, about our diminishing chances of making any impact in the Niger Delta region in the upcoming 2023 general elections and thereby should persuade the President and the APC leadership 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.

 President Buhari should therefore keep to his promise of June 24, 2021, 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. We restate that this is the minimum the Federal government and the APC can do to win back the trust of the Niger Delta people and stand a chance to do well in the region, in the forthcoming 2023 general election.

Disclaimer

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