By Festus Ahon
ASABA-AGAINST media reports credited to Rita Lori Ogbebor, the Niger Delta Integrity Group, NDIG, Sunday, said the inauguration of the 2019 screened and confirmed substantive board of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC was not being delayed because of pending court cases.
The group in a statement by its President and Secretary, Akpoebide Okotiene and Edet Ekpenyong, respectively, said: “Our attention has been drawn to statements attributed to Rita Lori Ogbebor published in Vanguard Newspaper of Sunday, August 7, 2022 where she, in her usual style, made several false claims regarding the substantive Board of the NDDC.
“Among other false claims, Lori-Ogbebor stated that the Board of NDDC is being delayed because of “pending court cases.” Nothing can be further from the truth.
“The facts are very clear. What happened in the case of the NDDC Governing Board, which was appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari in October 2019 is that after the appointees were vetted by all relevant agencies of the federal government, screened and confirmed by the Nigerian Senate on the 5th of November 2019, President Buhari asked that the inauguration of the Board should be put on hold pending the completion of the forensic audit, for which an Interim Management Committee (IMC) was appointed for the NDDC.
“The Federal Government announced during the inauguration ceremony of the IMC that the Senate-Confirmed NDDC Board will be inaugurated after the forensic audit. The decision to postpone the inauguration of the Senate Confirmed Board was not due to any court case.
“There is no Court order anywhere in the country obtained by Rita Lori Ogbebor or anyone else against the inauguration of the NDDC Board which was appointed by President Buhari and confirmed by the Senate on the 5th of November 2019.
“On the 24th day of June 2021, while receiving the leadership of Ijaw National Congress (INC) at the State House in Abuja, President Buhari promised the Nation that the NDDC Board would be inaugurated as soon as the forensic audit report is submitted and accepted. The President said: “I want to assure you that as soon as the forensic audit report is submitted and accepted, the NDDC Board will be inaugurated”. The report has now been submitted to President Buhari.
“In typical fashion, Lori-Ogbebor has deployed lies and innuendos in her dubious narrative, as published in the Vanguard story referenced where she made further false claims to the effect that the NDDC Act provides that her Itsekiri tribe is exclusively entitled to produce the representative of Delta State in the NDDC Board as Chairman or Managing Director based on its oil production. The truth is that there is no such provision in the NDDC Act.
“It is important to note that the NDDC Act does not recognize ethnicity as a basis for appointing persons to its board. To project ethnicity is a call to disharmony and anarchy. The makers of the NDDC Act in their wisdom clearly avoided this path which can only lead to conflicts and hate in the States of the Niger Delta Region.
“The NDDC Act, which is the law that governs appointments into the NDDC Board, in Part 1, Section 2(1) B only requires a member of the NDDC Governing Board to come from an “Oil Producing Area”. An area is a definite geographical space bound by its recognition in the constitution as an administrative space.
“Thus, an area is a state, a local government area or a senatorial district. In the context of the NDDC act, an oil producing area is coterminous with an oil producing local government area. All indigenes of Oil Producing Local Government Areas in Delta State (whether they are Urhobo, Ijaw, Isoko, Itsekiri, or Ndokwa) are eligible.
“Nobody can be excluded on the basis of tribe as long as he or she is from an oil producing Local Government Area in Delta State. Similarly, all indigenes of Oil Producing Local Government Areas in the Niger Delta are eligible for appointment into the NDDC Board.
“People like Rita Lori Ogbebor have deployed falsehood to build a nest of unearned and undeserved privileges over the years by feasting in falsehood, acrimony and division.
“A decent society cannot allow her to continue to spew lies to attempt to interfere with legitimate processes. All her claims are lies and her strategy is to throw up inaccurate, unfounded claims with the aim of misleading the public. It is instructive that Niger Deltans do not take her seriously.
“Niger Deltans have, over the past three years, endured the abuse of the NDDC Act by the appointment of interim management committees and a sole administrator who are not fully representative of the nine constituent states, and have carried on without regard for due process.
“Aware of the protests and dissatisfaction of Niger Deltans with that arrangement, President Buhari had promised by himself, on June 24, 2021, that the Board will be inaugurated once the forensic audit report is submitted. That has been done and we call on Mr President to keep his promise, which is the expectation of Niger Deltans.
“With the submission of the forensic audit report to President Buhari eleven months ago on September 2, 2021, the inauguration of the Board of the Niger Delta Development Commission should not be delayed any further.
“All Niger Deltans are now looking up to President Buhari to fulfil his promise to inaugurate the NDDC Board to ensure fair representation of the nine constituent states, accountability in the utilization of the NDDC funds, checks and balances, and due process in the Commission in compliance with the NDDC Act”.