Following President Buhari’s restatement of his commitment to end the ongoing illegal sole administratorship at the NDDC and inaugurate the Board of the Commission in compliance with the law, Niger Delta United Congress (NDUC) has urged Obong Umana Okon Umana, Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, to “urgently implement the inauguration of the board and management of the Commission to ensure that the nine constituent states of the region will have fair and equitable representation in the Commission.”
In a statement signed by its President, Ebizomor Brisibe and Secretary, Edem Archibong, the group reminded the Honourable Minister of Niger Delta Affairs that the “preservation of a sole administrator or an interim administration in the management of the Commission is not only a breach of the NDDC Act 2000 but a demonstration of impunity and affront on the long-deprived people of the region who have had to endure three years of the foremost agency being arbitrarily run in breach of the law – the NDDC Act, and in utter disregard of their need and the region’s development.”
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Our attention has been drawn to reports in the national media that President Muhammadu Buhari has again announced that the board for the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) will soon be inaugurated. According to The Cable Online Newspaper, he said this on Thursday, July 28, 2022 while declaring open a retreat for management of the ministry of Niger Delta affairs and NDDC at the state house banquet hall, Presidential villa, Aso Rock, Abuja.
President Buhari has therefore restated his commitment to end the ongoing illegal sole administratorship at the NDDC and inaugurate the Board of the Commission in compliance with the law. He had earlier made a commitment to the nation on June 24, 2021 when he received the leadership of Ijaw National Congress (INC) in Aso Rock, Abuja. The President said: ‘‘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 Forensic audit report has been submitted to President Muhammadu Buhari since ten months ago, on September 2, 2021. Regrettably, the NDDC which is the foremost Niger Delta regional development agency and which was set up to right the wrongs in the Niger Delta is still being run by a sole administrator appointed in breach of the NDDC Act.
We therefore urge Obong Umana Okon Umana, Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, to urgently implement the inauguration of the board and management of the Commission, in compliance with the law to ensure that the nine constituent states of the region will have fair and equitable representation in the Commission in line with the Act of the National Assembly 2000 which brought the interventionist agency into existence and made it mandatory for the President to appoint a board and management for the Commission, subject to confirmation by the Senate.
The Honourable Minister of Niger Delta Affairs should note that the preservation of a sole administrator or an interim administration in the management of the Commission is not only a breach of the NDDC Act 2000 but a demonstration of impunity and affront on the long-deprived people of the region who have had to endure three years of the foremost agency being arbitrarily run in breach of the law – the NDDC Act and in utter disregard of their need and the region’s development.
We also wish to remind the Honourable Minister that the continued administration of the NDDC by a 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. 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.
Our demands are also in tandem with unending calls by authentic stakeholders who have consistently demanded that the NDDC Act should be complied with in the governance of the Commission because it is illegal to have contraptions of interim management committees/sole administrator to administer the NDDC and arbitrarily utilise the monthly sums due to the Commission.
Renowned constitutional lawyer and human rights activist, Mr Femi Falana, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), has also warned that if 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 also noted that the continued administration of NDDC by a Sole Administrator “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.”
By doing the right thing – ensuring the immediate inauguration of the board of NDDC in line with the NDDC Act, Obong Umana would not only be ensuring that the real issues of neglect, underdevelopment, and lack of equitable representation on NDDC Board, all of which are inhibiting the growth of the all-important oil-rich region, are properly addressed, but will also douse the increasing anger against the Federal Government in the region as a result of the very poor, biased, illegal and provocative actions of the Federal Government in the handling of matters concerning the NDDC and the Niger Delta region.
We further remind the Minister and the Federal Government that whereas the North East Development Commission (NEDC) has been allowed to function with its duly inaugurated board (since May 2019) in line with the NEDC Act, thereby guaranteeing proper corporate governance, accountability, checks and balances, and fair representation of its constituent states, the NDDC on the other hand has been arbitrarily managed in the past three years by interim administrations/sole administrator, in flagrant violation of the law establishing the Commission.
As stakeholders in the Niger Delta region we align with other credible voices in the region to emphasise that the Federal Government, President Buhari, and indeed the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), should be concerned about the disdain of the Niger Delta people over the manner the NDDC has been handled, most especially administering the Commission with illegal interim managements/sole administrator contraptions for five years in this administration’s seven years in office, and therefore needs to end the ongoing illegality in NDDC if this government is to be remembered for good in the Niger Delta.
Devoid of proper corporate governance, checks and balances, accountability, transparency, and probity in managing the Commission, there has unfortunately been unending irregularities and lack of due process in NDDC since October 2019 when the illegal interim managements/sole administrator contraptions have been administering the Commission in flagrant violation of the NDDC Act.
Under the illegal interim managements/sole administrator contraptions, the combined two-year budget for 2019 and 2020 which expired on March 31, 2022, as approved by the National Assembly was N799 Billion. Yet, as pointed out by Professor Benjamin Okaba, President of Ijaw National Congress (INC), under the interim managements/sole administrator contraptions, billions of naira have been paid out “for emergency contracts; over 1,000 persons have been allegedly employed in the NDDC between January and July, 2020 without due process; the 2020 budget was passed in December and N400bn was voted for the NDDC but the commission had spent over N190bn before the budget was passed, thereby violating the Procurement Act.”
We also recall the Senate probe of NDDC in June/July of 2020 which revealed how the NDDC Interim Management Committee (IMC) blew N81.5 billion in just a couple of months on fictitious contracts, frivolities, and in breach of extant financial and public procurement laws. The Senate therefore passed a resolution recommending that the IMC should refund the sum of N4.923 Billion to the Federation Account, and that the IMC should be disbanded, while the substantive board should be inaugurated to manage the Commission in accordance with the law.
We therefore urge the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Obong Umana Okon Umana to speedily ensure the inauguration of NDDC’s substantive board in compliance with the law setting up the Commission
Following President Buhari’s re-commitment to inaugurate NDDC’s board, we affirm that our demand and that of other genuine stakeholders in the region is for an end to the illegal sole administratorship at the NDDC and the inauguration of the NDDC Governing Board, without further delay in line with the NDDC Act to represent the nine constituent states to ensure proper corporate governance, checks and balances, accountability, transparency, and probity in managing the Commission.