•Buhari holds all the aces

By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South

IF President Muhamadu Buhari had inaugurated the substantive Board of the Niger-Delta Development Commission, NDDC, screened and approved by the Senate since November 2019, the administration with former Deputy Governor of Edo State, Dr. Pius Odubu as Chairman and former Commissioner for Delta State, Olorogun Bernard Okumagba, as Managing Director, would have been on its third year now.

However, the Federal Government did not instate the board, following the maneuvering intertwined by the former Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, who unmistakably had the support of President Muhammadu Buhari in the overpriced experiment with contraptions such as Interim Management, Committee, IMC, and Sole Administrator contrary to the establishing Act of the oil region’s interventionist agency. 

They carried out with the shenanigans in NDDC under the swathe of Forensic Audit, and other trickeries for three years. It was lately, according to sources, that perceptive minds of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, found that the party would sabotage its chances in the Niger Delta if the Buhari government failed to inaugurate the NDDC board before the 2023 general elections.  

While many expect President Buhari simply go ahead with the completed process and inaugurate the awaiting Odubu/Okumagba lineup, the member- states of NDDC have gone to war over the Managing Director position, regarded as the most desirable office in the Commission. 

There was a strong sign that President Buhari may send the list of NDDC governing board to the National Assembly soon. However, the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Sylva, who is from Bayelsa State, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Mr. Abubakar Malami; and Ondo state governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, SAN, had reportedly made recommendations to the President on the matter.

NDDC has a laid down provision on the emergence of Managing Director. Section 12 (1) of the NDDC Act 200) provides: “There shall for the Commission a Managing Director and two Executive Directors who shall be indigenes of oil-producing states starting with member states of the Commission with the highest production quantum of oil and shall rotate among member states in order of production.”

League of 4 core oil states!

However, a founding leader of the region, who is among those that fought former President Olusegun Obasanjo to a standstill, over the creation of NDDC, told Saturday Vanguard, “There is a league of four big oil-producing states, namely Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers, and Akwa Ibom states. The Managing Director only rotates among them because of their production quantum, while the position of Chairman rotates in alphabetical order among the nine member states.”

 ”We were all part of this regulation, a marginal oil-producing state is not supposed to produce the Managing Director, we brought them in even they are not core oil-producing states and the Chairmanship goes round in alphabetical order, which is why Abia started it. It is just like the United Nations, there are member states that have veto power, and Nigeria is not part of such special countries,” he said.

Delta disputation

A coalition of Activists and Stakeholders of Oil-Producing States, submitted since 2021: “By strict adherence to the NDDC Act and established mode of rotating the office of the MD/CEO amongst the top four major oil-producing states, in Niger Delta region. Delta state, by some stroke of providence, is clearly entitled to produce both the Chairman and Managing Director in the next NDDC Board.”

Leaders of the group, Comrade Tam Ebiowei, Niger Delta Peace Initiative, ‘General’ Jack Tamuno, Movement for Niger Delta Development; and Ambassador Davies Emunemu, Greater Niger Delta Youth Initiative, in a statement, said: ”Right from the creation of the NDDC, the position of the MD has been rotated amongst the top four major oil-producing states. The states are Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers, and Akwa-Ibom state, respectively.”

They said, “True to this, the appointment of Godwin Omene (whose tenure was completed by Chief Emmanuel Agwariavwodo) both from Delta state; Timi Alaibe of Bayelsa State; Chibuzor Uguoha (whose tenure was completed by Christain Oboh), both of Rivers State. And Dan Abia (whose tenure was completed by Nsima Ekere), both of Akwa Ibom State, becomes a glaring proof of the established practice of rotating the position of the MD amongst the top four oil-producing states of the NDDC, to the exclusion of all other states.”

“With this, Delta State clearly becomes the rightful state to produce the next NDDC MD because of such established practice. Section 4 of the NDDC Act made it abundantly clear Delta State is also to produce the next Chairman of the NDDC Board.”

“Citing the NDDC Act, they noted, “The office of the Chairman shall rotate amongst member states of the Commission in the following alphabetical order: Abia, Akwa-Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Edo, Imo, Ondo, and Rivers state”.

“With Cross River state producing Senator Victor Ndoma Egba, SAN as the last Chairman of the Nsima Ekere-led NDDC Board, Delta state clearly becomes the rightful state by law, to produce the next Chairman in the incoming NDDC Board.”

According to the group, “It is also a known fact that this occurrence won’t be peculiar to Delta state alone. This is because a careful analysis of the sequence showed that this exact situation would recur amongst the other three major oil-producing states in the future; with Akwa-Ibom state entitled to produce both the MD/CEO and Chairman in 2079, followed by Rivers State in 2107 and Bayelsa State in 2119. The sequence will repeat all over again with Delta State in 2136″.

Hon Essien says it’s Delta’s turn 

Speaking impartially, former House of Representatives member, Chief Nduese Essien, from Akwa Ibom state, said the next Managing Director ought to come from Delta state.

  ”What I will say is that after the first board, subsequent administrations have bastardized the NDDC Act. They are no longer following provisions of the Act, one of which was that the managing director, the executive directors, and the commissioners should come from the oil producing areas of the states.”

 ”They have surreptitiously abandoned that provision by picking some commissioners from non -oil producing areas of the states. Then, it came to a point they started appointing managing directors, who are not from the oil producing areas of the states. 

 ”Now, the proposal by the current government is to even pick the Managing Director, the Executive directors from outside the Act. The Act provides that the Chairman of the Board should come from the states in alphabetical order, which they have not followed consistently.

 ”The next one should come from Delta, after Cross River state. In addition, the executive directors were to come from the largest oil producing state. However, the proposal from the current administration intends to appoint the Managing Director from outside the four states

 ”If this government wants to accommodate the states outside the four largest oil- producing states, they should take an amendment to the National Assembly, to amend the Act. The current administration, having bastardized the Act successfully, now wants to disregard the Act establishing the NDDC. That is the consequence of what we are facing today,” he said.

Ondo ready to sue FG

However, Ondo would not give in, as elders from riverine communities of the state under the aegis of Ilaje Unity Forum, IUF, said it was the turn of the state, and appealed to President to make up the board of NDDC with the managing director from Ondo state.

Dependable sources hinted that Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo state had purportedly directed the state’s Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Charles Titiloye, to sue the Federal Government, if the state did not get a managing director slot.

Edo submission  

To the Network for Grassroots Development, NGD, an Edo-based group, which has Odubu as Chairman in the pending Board, cleared by NASS in 2019, it was the turn of the state to produce the Managing Director.

.Responding to the claim of another group, which ruled out Edo and Ondo states, for the managing director position, Co-Administrator of NGD, Ukato Thomas, in a statement, said: “The suggestion that such a warped submission is anchored on the provision of the NDDC Act makes their case even more ludicrous. Of particular note and interest is Section 12 (1) of the NDDC Act.”

 ”It is, therefore, erroneous to put forward in the public domain that the two states of Edo and Ondo are not qualified to produce the Managing Director of the NDDC.”

 “This position is not borne out of the need to agitate for the sake of agitation but established facts and statistics of the contributions of each state to the oil revenue of the country support it. For those who doubt this position, they should do well to educate themselves with the recent statistics from the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) and of course, the Federal Ministry of Finance. Edo State is the next in line to produce who should be the Managing Director and not any other State at all.”

Bayelsa argument 

The South-South Elders Progressive Forum, SSEPF, confirmed the existence of the league of four major oil-producing states among the member- states, and lashed out at the Minister of Justice, accusing him of purportedly scheming to favor Edo state over Bayelsa State in the appointment of a Managing Director for NDDC.

SSEPF in a statement by the chairperson, Dr. Promise Okpolo and others, asserted, “When the pioneer managing director of the commission, Mr. Godwin Omene, who hails from Delta state was removed midterm in 2003, and replaced by Mr. Emmanuel Aguariavwodo, also from Delta State, who later resigned. Timi Alaibe was uplifted from EDFA to complete the tenure.

“Again, when on September 14, 2011, Mr. Chibuzor Ugwoha, an indigene of Rivers State, was removed as the managing director of the commission; he was with Mr. Christian Oboh, who hails from the same community as Ugwoha.”

“In 2013, President Goodluck Jonathan. appointed Mr. Bassey Dan Abia from Akwa Ibom state as managing director of NDDC. Though sacked before the end of his four-year tenure and replaced in 2015 with Mrs. Ibim Semenitari, in an acting capacity by Buhari, Mr. Isima Ekere, also from Akwa Ibom State, was appointed on November 1, 2016, to complete Dan Abia’s tenure. Ekere exited office at the end of 2018, which was the end of a substantive and lawfully constituted board for the NDDC.

“It is pertinent to note with emphasis that neither Prof. Nelson Brambaifa, appointed acting managing director in January 2019, nor Prof. Kemebradikumo Pondei, also appointed acting managing director, February 20, 2020, to head an Interim Management Committee for a forensic audit of the commission ordered by Buhari, were appointed substantive managing directors in a properly and duly made up board…”  The elders noted that Delta, Rivers, and Akwa Ibom states, which are key crude oil producers, have had at least two indigenes from each of the three states appointed as substantive managing directors of the NDDC on a duly made up board. 

They also regretted that Bayelsa State, which is also in the league of the four major oil-producing states in the region, has never had an indigene appointed as a substantive managing director in a new board nor was anyone appointed to complete a full tenure after the two-year period, they upgraded Alaibe to fill in the gap after Agwariavwodo’s exit.

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