By Charles Kumolu
Rights activist, Chief Rita Lori-Ogbebor, has called on President Muhammadu Buhari not to succumb to the pressure of reconstituting the board of Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, until pending court cases are decided.
She also cautioned government against allowing those she said contributed to the fate of the region to have input in the selection of the leadership of the agency.
Lori-Ogbebor, who was reacting to a report that some politicians of Niger Delta extraction had nominated their candidates into a proposed board, said this in a chat with Vanguard.
She urged government not to appoint persons to the commission based on their recommendations.
Vanguard had reported that stakeholders were disturbed over reports that some present and former ministers of Niger Delta extraction including a top National Assembly, NAS, member were locked in a battle over the composition of the proposed board.
The report said nominations had been made since 2021, with Denyanbofa Dimaro pencilled down as Managing Director.
Reacting to the development, Lori-Ogbebor warned against selecting NDDC leadership without recourse to NNDC Act.
She said: “I am raising the alarm that people who haven’t allowed the Niger Delta region to work are at it again. There is a report that before the former Minister of Niger Delta, Godswill Akpabio, left they had concluded arrangements for a new board of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC. What worries me is that the same people influenced the appointment of board members last time. The composition of that board was lopsided and tribalistic.
The Deputy Senate President used his position to get the nominees confirmed, but I went to court to challenge the anomaly. The matter is still in court. They have started again without waiting for the cases in court to be addressed.
I have two cases in court.
“One is challenging Omo-Agege on the kind of people he influenced their membership of the board. The selection wasn’t done in accordance with NDDC Act, which says the leadership of the board will be rotational among member states in alphabetical order.
What I am saying is that it is the turn of Delta State to produce the next leadership of NDDC. And the law says when it comes to the state, the area that produces the highest quantity of oil should either produce the chairman or the managing director.
And if that is so, it is the turn of the Itsekiri to produce the leadership of NDDC in Delta State. But what we are seeing today is that a former Minister of Niger Delta, Deputy Senate President and the Petroleum Minister are reported to have concluded plans to present their stooges. I went to court to demand that the result of the forensic audit ordered by President Muhammadu Buhari be made public.
“My position is that we cannot continue like this in the Niger Delta. The region has leaders who are not ashamed of the state of the Niger Delta. We are going from bad to worse. As a leader of my people, I am saying no to the way of doing things in the Niger Delta. All the leaders who have not done anything good for the Niger Delta should have no input in the composition of the new board.
The people found to have committed infractions in the forensic audit should be named and prosecuted. Also, a lot of people in the Niger Delta do not fully understand what the Petroleum Industry Act, PIA, is all about.
If the implementation of the PIA as it affects the Niger Delta is not monitored, we would be worse than how we were when we had Memorandum of Understanding with several oil companies. The PIA gives a certain percentage to the oil-producing communities. It also says what we would get would be determined by the profit margin of the oil companies.
“What this means is that if the oil companies do not make profit, we are at a loss. What the situation implies is that we should be there to ensure the oil companies make profit. That is what the PIA is saying.
After coming to explore our oil, we should be there to ensure they make profit.
So, the extent to which we protect their facilities, determines what we would gain as host communities.
I want to state clearly that the oil theft that makes the country lose so much is not the petty oil theft in the creeks. It is the big oil theft done by those on the high sea that makes the country lose so much. Now, they are saying it is government that is responsible for paying us.
We all know what it means to rely on government to pay us. Anything about government goes through a system and this system can be hijacked like the NDDC. Sadly, government has been using big men to respond to Niger Delta issues. These big men instead of fixing the problems oppress us.
The PIA is going to go the same way as the 13 percent derivation we fought for if it is not monitored. If we don’t monitor the process, the whole of the country will continue to suffer as a result of instability in the creeks. As long as the Federal Government doesn’t take care of the Niger Delta people, they will continue to suffer because oil is their major product. ‘’