A group of concerned APC members in the Niger Delta region has again written to President Buhari, the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Obong Umana Okon Umana, the Federal Government, and the APC leadership, to express “disappointment with the delay in inaugurating the NDDC Board and the continued stay in office of a Sole Administrator in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), in flagrant violation of the NDDC Act.”

In a statement by the group, “Committed members of the APC from the Niger Delta Region,” which was signed by the trio of Ebibomo Akpoebide, Menegbo Nwinuamene, and Itam Edem, stated that the continued stay in office of a sole administrator to administer NDDC in “flagrant violation of the NDDC Act has damaging consequences on our great party, the APC, as we approach the commencement of electioneering campaign for the 2023 general election.”

READ THE FULL STATEMENT BELOW:

As Niger Deltans and committed members of the All Progressives Congress (APC), we write to express our disappointment with the delay in inaugurating the NDDC Board and the continued stay in office of a Sole Administrator in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), in flagrant violation of the NDDC Act, and its damaging consequences on our great party, the APC, as we approach the commencement of electioneering campaign for the 2023 general election.

The ill-treatment of the Niger Delta region since 2019 has set the party back in many respects in the region, but we are still hopeful that, in concert with stakeholders we can regain our footholds before the next general election, which is very crucial.

We therefore urge you as Minister of the Niger Delta to take advantage of the confidence reposed in you to reboot and reclaim our party’s connection with the Niger Delta people after three years of the disastrous manipulation of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), with the imposition of interim management committees/sole administrator contraptions which has angered all stakeholders in the region.

The deliberate acts of subterfuge in NDDC are antithetical in advancing the interests of the people of our region, not to talk of the damage the delay in the inauguration of the Commission’s substantive board has done to the Federal Government, President Buhari’s reputation and the All Progressives Congress (APC) among the people, especially the voting population.

May we remind you that several groups including the Ijaw Media Monitoring Group (IMMG) has recently put our party, APC, on notice and raised alarm that the people of the Niger Delta region will not allow the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to campaign in the region, when campaign kicks off on September 28, if the substantive Board of NDDC is not inaugurated before then. According to the National President of Ijaw Media Monitoring Group (IMMG), Elder Asu Beks, if the board of NDDC is not inaugurated before the commencement of electioneering, “we will stone any campaign train of that ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) that is coming to the Niger Delta. So, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the presidential candidate of the party, should arrange a meeting with the Minister of Petroleum and other Niger Delta stakeholders to dialogue with President Muhammadu Buhari and make sure that this issue is resolved immediately, otherwise, we will stone any campaign train coming to the Niger Delta region.” 

The National President of IMMG stated that “as we already know, Mr. President has sent the nominees to the Senate and the Senate has approved it. I don’t know why the man who swore to protect the constitution of Nigeria is the one now breaking the law. There is no aspect of the NDDC Act that says there should be interim management or sole administrator. But we have had up to four or five of such since the beginning of this administration. It is totally unacceptable.”

Another group, the prominent Niger Delta Rescue Movement (NDRM) has also already vowed not to back the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the 2023 elections following the illegalities in the NDDC and the delay to inaugurate a substantive board of the NDDC. The spokesman of NRDM, Jonathan Okwa, stated that following the prolonged delay of President Buhari to give the Niger Delta people what is rightfully theirs, in accordance with the law, the NDDC Act, the group would ensure the mobilisation of the people of Niger Delta region to vote against the APC in the 2023 presidential and general elections if the board is not inaugurated. The ongoing illegality of administering the region’s foremost agency with a sole administrator in violation of the NDDC Act has indeed imperilled our party in the Niger Delta States.

Also, a Labour group, the Amalgamated Union of Public Corporations, Civil Service Technical and Recreational Services Employees (AUPCTRE), NDDC Chapter, has urged President Muhammadu Buhari to inaugurate the board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC). The appeal was contained in a statement issued by the General Secretary of AUPCTRE, Comrade Sikiru Wahid. The labour union stated that the call has become imperative to save the commission from destruction.

AUPCTRE in the statement appealed to President Buhari, the National Assembly, the President of the Senate, Dr. Ahmad Lawan, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, and the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Umana Okon Umana, to take urgent steps to ensure NDDC delivered on its mandate.

The statement read: ”as critical stakeholders in the Niger Delta Development Commission, and of the regional development efforts, after taking a critical review and appraisal of all the happenings within and around the NDDC, since January, 2019, have resolved as follows: ”That we as staff of the NDDC collectively, under the umbrella of AUPCTRE, cannot fold our hands while different political actors from the region through their actions or inactions undermine the enabling Act of the NDDC, and so threaten the corporate existence of the commission; that as a Union, we say to all political heavy weights from the Niger Delta Region, that enough of putting personal interest over and above the development of the region for which the vehicle of the Niger Delta Development Commission was setup.”

The most salient issue that the authentic stakeholders of the Niger Delta has consistently demanded, and which even President Buahri had promised and made commitments on is to end the illegal Interim Management / sole administratorship at the NDDC and inaugurate the Board of the Commission in compliance with the law, and which promise he made to the nation on June 24, 2021 when he received the leadership of Ijaw National Congress (INC) in Aso Rock, Abuja. President Buhari also reiterated his promise to inaugurate the Commission’s Board at the recently concluded retreat of your Ministry and NDDC, which ended on July 29, 2022.

Recall that President Buhari made a commitment to the nation on the 24th day of June 2021, while receiving the Ijaw National Congress (INC) at the State House in Abuja that the NDDC Board would be inaugurated as soon as the forensic audit report is submitted. 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 one year ago, since September 2, 2021 but the Board is yet to be inaugurated.

The Federal Government’s delay to inaugurate the Commission’s substantive board is of grave concern to Niger Deltans as it indicates a continued disregard by this government for the region as well as unwillingness to submit to transparency in administering NDDC.

We are further dismayed that 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.

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 you as the Supervising Minister of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), about your reputation and legacy, as a Niger Deltan, when you leave office in 2023. We therefore urge you, the Federal Government, President Buhari, and indeed, the leadership of APC, 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.

Niger Deltans are also accusing the Buhari Administration of discrimination and double standards. They point out that whereas the North East Development Commission (NEDC) has been allowed to function with its duly inaugurated Board in place (since May 2019) in line with its 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 run arbitrarily in the last three years by Interim committees/sole administrator in breach of the NDDC Act. To the detriment of the entire Niger Delta region, these illegal interim contraptions have been used to fleece the NDDC of its funds in the last three years.

Niger Deltans are very upset with the disdainful manner the region has been treated. There is increasing anger against the APC in the Niger Delta 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. The federal government and the APC should be aware of the danger in continuing with this interim contraption as we approach the 2023 elections.

Against the relentless legitimate demands of stakeholders, it is in our best interest to keep a good legacy by abiding by the law establishing NDDC, especially as we are in a contest to elect a new President for the country in an election that is projected to be hotly contested. This government’s breach of the laws guiding the establishment of an agency created to develop an impoverished region is not in good taste, especially when it looks like the forensic audit was a smokescreen for some people in the Federal Government to fleece the resources meant for our people.

We implore the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs and the Federal Government to now rise to the occasion to save the Niger Delta region from this sorry state, from those who have deliberately decided to exacerbate the palpable tension in the region. Kindly heed the call of Niger Delta leaders, governors, youths, women, traditional rulers, civil society organisations, and other stakeholders, comply with the law setting up NDDC, and ensure the inauguration of the board of the Commission to ensure accountability, checks and balances, probity and equitable representation of the nine constituent states. This is the minimum the Federal Government, President Buhari, and the APC can do to win back the trust of the Niger Delta people.

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