The NDDC Act is Good

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Comrade Ebi Arogbofa, National Chairman of Transparency And Accountability Advancement Group continues the insistent call on President Muhammadu Buhari to end the reign of illegities at the Niger Delta Development Commission

Our attention has been drawn to comments credited to Mr Olubunmni Tunji-Ojo, Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on the Niger Delta, which oversights the Niger Delta Development Commission, that he is proposing a bill for the NDDC Act to be repealed and replaced with a new law.

Tunji-Ojo said the bill he is proposing will stipulate minimum qualifications for the offices of the Managing Director and the Executive Directors.

Tunji-Ojo’s new proposal to repeal the NDDC Act is mischievous, especially given that the current legislation is very clear on the qualifications for the executive positions. Under Part V, Section 12(1) and (1a), the NDDC Act provides that: “There shall be for the Commission, a Managing Director, and two Executive Directors who shall be indigenes of oil producing areas starting with the member states of the Commission with the highest production quantum of oil and shall rotate amongst member states in the order of production; (a) have such qualification and experience as are appropriate for a person required to perform the functions of those offices under this Act.”

Tunji-Ojo “said it was an irony that the law establishing the commission does not provide any punishment for any infraction committed within the commission.” This is not true as there are more than enough provisions in the EFCC Act, the ICPC Act and the criminal code to punish those who commit infractions in any public institution, the NDDC inclusive. There is no need for this Tunji-Ojo merry go round proposal to replace the NDDC Act, except it is clearly what it is, an agenda to prolong the Interim arrangement.

Indeed, the statements from Tunji-Ojo in recent times indicate how he and some of his colleagues have acquiesced to the illegalities being undertaken at the NDDC by the Minister for Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godshill Akpabio and the Interim Sole Administrator.

Tunji-Ojo and his colleagues should first answer for their failure to defend the NDDC Act as it is now when the Minister brazenly ignored the law, disregarded the Governing Board appointed by the President and cleared by the National Assembly in line with the NDDC Act, and, instead, appointed interim managements since October 2019. The NDDC has been operating outside the ambit of the NDDC Act since October 2019, yet Tunji-Ojo and his colleagues did nothing to ensure that the provisions of the NDDC Act are followed.

The House of Representatives, and indeed the National Assembly, must steer clear of the fraudulent antics of Tunji-Ojo. We recall that Tunji-Ojo presided over the House of Representatives Committee that probed the last NDDC Interim Management Committee, between May and July last year, but failed to present the report of the committee to the House of Representatives for adoption despite revelations of fraud, financial recklessness and mismanagement of funds running into several billions of naira.

How can a committee chairman who compromises an oversight investigation talk now of amending the NDDC Act as if that was what made him inert in presenting the report of his committee’s investigation? We are not unaware of the meetings held between Akpabio and Tunji-Ojo, including one at his office in the National Assembly, during the investigation. Tunji-Ojo actually frustrated the conclusion of that probe by failing/refusing to present the report of the probe, to the House of Representatives for its adoption, to date.

It is clear that Tunji-Ojo is compromised in this whole matter of the NDDC, perhaps because of his own alleged corruption. We note that he was accused by Chief E. K. Clark to have cornered 10 contracts totalling N10.9billion for companies linked to him for execution in his hometown which is not an oil producing community. He now wants to perpetuate the Interim Administrator’s illegal reign so that they can continue to share the resources, budgets and income of the Niger Delta people while pretending to be implementing a never-ending forensic audit and supposedly amending or repealing the NDDC Act. Our people in the Niger Delta reject this. We will not allow Tunji Ojo to continue Akpabio’s fraudulent schemes to the detriment of the Niger Delta people.

Today, over N400 billion has been fleeced by the illegal managements appointed by Akpabio since October 2019 with nothing to show in the Niger Delta states, with the active connivance of people like Tunji-Ojo, through fictitious contracts, financial recklessness and mismanagement.

We had stated previously that the appointment of Mr Effiong Okon Akwa, a member of the previous Interim Management Committee, as Interim Sole Administrator of the Commission with a mandate to head the agency is illegal as it contravenes the NDDC Act. We are bothered at the continuation of this brazen behaviour of the Niger Delta Minister Godswill Akpabio, assisted by people like Tunji-Ojo, in making illegal appointments of heads of the NDDC, despite sound legal counsel that it is not only unlawful but disenfranchises the nine constituent states of the NDDC to fair representation in the development agency.

It is sad that the desecration and disregard for the NDDC Act is taking place under the nose of the National Assembly, which must sit up and insist that the proper thing be done. The peace in the Niger Delta region should not be taken for granted as many nationalities, groups and stakeholders have continued to question the propriety of appointing illegal interim administrators for the NDDC.

The concern of every Niger Deltan and indigenes of the NDDC states at the moment is to put in place the Governing Board in line with the NDDC Act without any further delay. The forensic audit has been used as an excuse to put the Governing Board on hold. After undertaking that audit for over 15 months now, there can be no further excuse for not concluding the audit and putting the Board in place.

Earlier this week crusaders under the auspices of 21st Century Youths of Niger Delta and Agitators with Conscience, 21st CYNDAC urged President Buhari and Senator Godswill Akpabio to inaugurate the screened and confirmed board of the interventionist agency without further delay.

Coordinator of the group, self-styled “General” Izon Ebi, in a statement, said: “We call on Senator Akpabio to make known the outcome of the forensic audit and inaugurate the new board to hit the ground running because Niger Deltans have waited patiently and would not entertain further excuses. We want a clean template and framework that will guarantee efficiency, productivity, accountability, and development of the Niger Delta region. We urge the minister to do the needful and save himself and the region the unnecessary embarrassment that will portray the Niger Delta region and its leaders as unserious and dishonest people if the needful is not done and the expectations of the Niger Delta people are not met.”

According to them “The patience and understanding of the people should not be taken for granted.”

We want to remind the Presidency that in response to the condemnation of Akwa’s appointment last December, Akpabio had pleaded that the Governing Board of the NDDC will be put in place in April this year. We cannot have another delay. The Interim Sole Administrator arrangement will not be tolerated any further. We won’t allow any politician or group to ride roughshod with the resources of the Niger Delta people and mess with the NDDC Act for their selfish political and corrupt interests forthwith. The current illegality in the NDDC should be ended now. The NDDC Governing Board should be put in place without any delay.