2023: Group Warns Buhari, APC Leadership on Implications of Alleged Illegality in NDDC

Less than forty-eight hours after the emergence of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar as the Presidential candidate of the opposition PDP, a group of concerned APC members in the Niger Delta region has raised the alarm on the looming consequences of the ruling party’s ill-treatment of the region, especially for what it described as the “ongoing illegality in NDDC.” In a letter to President Buhari and the APC National leadership, the APC group, “Committed members of the APC from the Niger Delta Region,” whose letter was signed by the trio of Ebibomo Akpoebide, Menegbo Nwinuamene, and Itam Edem, specifically cautioned that “as it stands, the APC cannot win an election in the region” except the missteps in NDDC are remedied and the NDDC substantive Board is inaugurated in accordance with the law setting up the Commission. According to the APC group, “we dare say that Chief Akpabio, a two-time governor of Akwa Ibom State and Senator until 2018 under the PDP, came to our party as a fifth columnist to destroy the APC and reverse the bold moves to cement the party in the Niger Delta states. He has set the party back in many respects but we are hopeful that with concerted efforts by stakeholders we can regain our footholds before the next general election, which is very crucial. This is why we are glad that his resignation offers a chance to correct the ills and win back the trust of our people.” Akpoebide, Nwinuamene, and Edem specifically stated in their letter that “the resignation of the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Akpabio, offers your administration the opportunity to reboot and reclaim its connection with the Niger Delta people after three years of the former Minister’s disastrous manipulation of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), which has angered all stakeholders in the region. His tenure has been the most disastrous for the people of the oil producing states who make up the NDDC. He has been especially disagreeable even in advancing the interests of the people of our region, not to talk of the damage he has done to your reputation and the All Progressives Congress (APC) among the people, especially the voting population.”  In urging President Buhari and the APC leadership to correct the ills committed by Chief Akpabio and make amends for the damage done to the APC in the region, it restated that “as it stands, the APC cannot win an election in the region except these missteps are remedied.” The Niger Delta APC members recalled that another group, The Niger Delta Rescue Movement (NDRM) had already vowed not to back the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the 2023 elections following the delay to inaugurate a substantive board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC). The spokesman of NRDM, Jonathan Okwa, speaking in Yenagoa, Bayelsa state, 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, noting that “Chief Akpabio’s actions have indeed imperilled our party in the Niger Delta States.”  The group further recounted what it described as the “trajectory of Akpabio’s mischief,” noting that in October 2019, in exercise of his powers as spelt out in the NDDC Act of 2000, President Buhari appointed a Board for the NDDC which was duly confirmed by the Nigerian Senate on November 5, 2019. However, through “subterfuge, before the board could be inaugurated, Akpabio came up with the idea of an audit to be supervised by an interim management, so the Board was asked to be on standby for inauguration after a forensic audit originally planned to last three months.”  Akpoebide, Nwinuamene, and Edem regretted that “Akpabio then ill-advised you and came up with a grand scheme to suspend the inauguration of the board which was confirmed by the Nigerian Senate on November 5, 2019 and instead employed some interim officials in breach of the NDDC Act, people he relied on to (allegedly) fleece the NDDC of its resources and the NDDC nine constituent states of their commonwealth through an orchestrated scheme to conjure an unending audit of the Commission. From three months, he extended the audit to last two years! After contrived delays over two years, the report of the forensic audit of the Niger Delta Development Commission was finally submitted to you, Mr. President on September 2, 2021, eight months ago, yet the substantive Board you unequivocally promised to inaugurate is yet to be inaugurated.” They recalled that the President, had specifically on June 24, 2021, while receiving the leadership of Ijaw National Congress (INC) at the State House in Abuja, promised that the NDDC Board would be inaugurated as soon as the forensic audit report is submitted, wherein he said that ‘‘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 APC group reminded President Buhari that “not only have you not fulfilled your promise eight months after, the Ijaw National Congress (INC) which you received in audience when you made the above promise to Nigerians has been compelled to describe the delay in the inauguration of the NDDC Board as a “clear betrayal of trust and display of state insensitivity on the Ijaw nation and Niger Delta region.” 
The Niger Delta APC group is disturbed 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.”

The group went down memory lane to recount what it described as a “pattern of illegalities instituted by the current administration to undermine accountability at the NDDC in a way that no other federal agency has been so treated in the last seven years of the Buhari Presidency. In the 15-year history of the NDDC, prior to your administration coming in 2015, an interim appointment had never been made outside of the law, even when the Governing Boards were dissolved.” Listing the “pattern of illegalities,” it stated that “prior to your coming to power in 2015, in the absence of a Board duly constituted in line with the NDDC Act, the most senior Civil servant in the NDDC took over as Managing Director in acting capacity for a brief period until a Board was constituted in line with the NDDC Act.” Akpoebide, Nwinuamene, and Edem further went on to state that the orderly succession in NDDC was only “breached in 2015 when your Administration dissolved the Bassey Henshaw led Board with Dan Abia as Managing Director, and appointed Mrs. Ibim Semenitari as Sole Administrator, a position she held illegally for over one year. The illegality in NDDC continued in January 2019 when the two-year old Victor Ndoma-Egba led Board was dissolved and replaced with an Interim Management team led by Professor Nelson Brambaifa. It was not until August of 2019 that your government ended  the illegal Brambaifa interim management  team and then, in accordance with the law establishing NDDC, forwarded the list of nominees for the NDDC Governing  Board to the Senate for confirmation, and then dutifully appointed the most senior civil servant at that time in NDDC, Mrs. Akwaghagha Enyia, as Acting Managing Director pending the Senate confirmation of the President’s nominees as NDDC Board members, which list you, Mr. President personally signed and forwarded to the Senate on October 18, 2019.” According to the group, again the Buhari administration “relapsed to its recourse to illegality in administering NDDC, because as the Senate dutifully screened and confirmed the nominees sent by you in exercise of your powers, as Board and Management of NDDC on November 5, 2019, this same government under the obvious manipulation of Chief Akpabio who has previously boasted that the NDDC was his ‘settlement’ for joining the APC, embarked on another spree of interim managements/sole administrator contraptions, while the Board confirmed by the Senate has been on hold since November 2019.” It observed that since October 2019 this government has appointed two interim management teams led by Joi Nunieh and Professor Keme Pondei, respectively, and presently the Commission is led by a Sole Administrator, Effiong Akwa.   The group urged the President “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 also fulfill your own promise of June 24, 2021, and inaugurate the board of the Commission to ensure accountability, checks and balances, probity and equitable representation of the nine constituent states. This, Mr. President, is the minimum your government and the APC can do to win back the trust of the Niger Delta people.” 

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