May 30, 2023

Stakeholders laud Umana’s leadership impact on Niger Delta

Stakeholders laud Umana’s leadership impact on Niger Delta

Critical stakeholders in the Niger Delta region have commended the leadership qualities of the immediate past Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Mr Umana Okon Umana, describing his stint at the ministry as “full of impact in the key areas needed to bring accountability and stability to the Niger Delta Development Commission and the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs.”

Led by Professor Benjamin Okaba, president-general of the Conference of Ethnic Nationalities in the Niger Delta, the all-Niger Delta delegation of leaders which visited the former minister in his office during the weekend said they came to express the appreciation of their people to Mr Umana “for his short but very impactful” tenure at the ministry.

Professor Okaba said the Niger Delta people are grateful to the former minister for the constitution of the board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), and for his style of leadership that was devoid of undue interference in the affairs of the NDDC.

Chief Anabs Sara Igbe, chairman of the Critical Stakeholders Executives, who also spoke during the visit, described the relationship between the NDDC and its supervising ministry under the leadership of Mr Umana as a remarkable departure from the past. Chief Igbe extolled Umana’s “understanding and leadership that have made all the difference,” urging leaders of the region to maximise the opportunities which the Ministry of Niger Delta represents because it may not be there forever.”

Another member of the delegation, Chief Ita Ante, president of Oron National Forum, described Umana as a compassionate man.
Other members of the delegation included T.K. Ogoriba, chairman of Mosiend Elders Council; Rosebella Jackson, Mosiend member of Mosiend Elders Council; Chief R.F Thompson, president of NDPFF; Omusuku Charles of MEND; Comrade Kennedy T. West, president of Mosiend; Bishop Victor Thomas, national chaplain; and Marshall Kunoun, vice-chairman of Mosiend Elders Council.

Umana, who thanked President Buhari for all the positive changes that took place in the NDDC and the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, said he was humbled by the kind words from his guests over his contributions as minister. He explained that at the outset of his assignment as minister he needed to address a few issues, the top of which was the constitution of the board of the NDDC. “I knew the commission could not function properly without a board,” he said. “Even the International Oil Companies (IOCs) were not willing to deal with the commission because of the board issue.” He explained that without a board the commission, which is a creation of the law, could not be functioning according to law.

Umana said that as a deliberate policy, he informed the chief executive of the NDDC that he was in charge of running the commission and that the minister would only supervise. “For me, there is a difference between supervision and interference,” Umana said.

He said the government needed to put in place and execute a policy of accountability and transparency to bring to an end the rancour in the region. He said the interest of the region was of paramount consideration for the government which made it go ahead with the constitution of the board despite unrelenting pressure to the contrary. “That is why I feel sad about the crisis in the board,” Umana said. “Leaders of the region need to advise those causing trouble to follow the law. We have issues but we should not de-market our region.”

Umana said among the positive developments in the ministry during his tenure was the approval of the 2023 budget, which marked a departure from the previous two years when there were no approved budgets for 2021 and 2022. He said another noteworthy development was the publication by the NDDC of a compendium of projects completed by the commission during the Buhari administration as a demonstration of commitment to accountability and transparency. He said the compendium was also an opportunity for the commission to tell its story, rather than wait for others to do so in a manner that may not reflect the true facts on the ground.

The 15-member delegation was made up of representatives from Ogoni Development Forum, Oron National Forum, Mosiend Elders Council, NDNAF, MEND, Niger Delta Youth Awareness and Good Government, NDPFF, among others.