Cancel NDDC Board Appointments Now, Itsekiri People Urge Buhari

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Sunday Okobi

The people of Itsekiri nation in Delta State have called on President Muhammadu Buhari to as a matter of urgency cancel the recent appointments made into the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) board, describing the appointments as nothing but impunity and injustice against the Itsekiri people.

They lamented that the recent appointment of the commission Chairman, Philip Odubu, and Managing Director, Bernard Okumagba, does not comply with the NDDC law, adding that it lacks equity, fairness and justice to their ethnic nationality.

In a protest letter addressed to President Buhari, the Senate president and the National Assembly, which was read to journalists at a press conference held in Lagos yesterday, the leader of the Itsekiri nation, Chief Rita Lori-Ugbebor, however, disclosed that if Buhari refuses to cancel the appointments, they would have no other option than to go to court.

According to her, “We write to vehemently protest against some of the recent appointments made to NDDC.

“Our protest is based on the non-compliance with the NDDC law, lack of equity, fairness and justice to our ethnic nationality, the Itsekiri people.”

“We know that you stand for these same values. It is also important that you address this continuing and odious impunity being undertaken by some persons acting for and on behalf of the Nigerian state to deprive us of our rightful dues.

“The Itsekiri people therefore demand that the recent appointment to the commission board be cancelled and a new appoint in tune with the rule of law, equity, fairness and justice be made.”

The letter noted that the NDDC law was intended to fast track the development of the region, which it said the underdevelopment of the zone had been identified and confirmed by the Willinks Commission Report of 1959.

It noted that the law designed an intervention agency as an organisation to be run by qualified indigenes of the oil and gas producing communities/states, in the main, not the other way round, as the NNDC, by law and practice, takes cognizance of the oil and gas producing communities/states in appointment to its board and its staffing.

Lori-Ugbebor, who holds the traditional title of Igba of Warri Kingdom, posited in the letter that “indeed, one provision of the NDDC law for the appointment to the office of the chairman is that the candidates must come from an oil and gas producing state which shall follow in a rotation of states, in their alphabetic order.

“Your Excellency, previous appointments have followed this order. Why is it that this time, the letter ‘E’ is taken before the letter “D”? Why is it considered expedient to appoint a candidate from Edo States at a time when it is lawfully the turn of Delta State?

“Assuming that the appointment of a chairman from Edo State was necessitated by an appointment of managing director from Delta State, why should the proposed candidate be Okumagba, who does not hail from an oil and gas producing community? Is there a paucity of candidates from oil and gas producing communities like Itsekiri? No!”

The veteran journalist further stated that the present Managing Director-designate, Okumagba, although is from Okere-Urhobo in Warri, he does not hail from an oil and gas producing community or even at least from an impacted community, as defined by the laws and practices.

“Mr. President, it is this penchant for not following the rule of law and their intendment; this resort to impunity and being clever by half that is the bane of our underdevelopment, which has consequently led to a resort to self-help.

“Somebody who is not from the oil and gas producing communities cannot know or feel the pain the people of the degraded region are passing through, therefore cannot solve their problems.

“It is this chicanery that usually leads to Itsekiri being short-changed in all matters relating to our dealings, rights and entitlements.

“It is our obeying the laws of our land and generally following the rule of law, coupled with our being micro-minority, that have made others to deal with us with impunity.

“We, therefore, appeal to you to cancel the recent appointment to the board of the NDDC, and a new appointment be made in tune with the rule of law, equity, fairness and justice,” she stated in the letter.