Passionate Plea to Buhari on Inauguration of NDDC Board without Further Delay

Charles Aberebiegha shows a strong cause for urgent intervention of the leadership of the All Progressives Congress and President MuhammaduBuhari for the inauguration of the Senate-approved Board of the Niger Delta Development Commission, which appears to be a discouragement to a teeming number of people in the Niger Delta region

As has been previously predicted by watchers of unfolding events in the volatile Niger Delta region, tension seems to be reaching fever-pitch as the INEC required electoral activities leading up to the 2023 elections are happening across the federation and throwing up issues.

Specifically in the Niger Delta region, a group, “Committed members of the APC from the Niger Delta Region,” led by the trio of EbibomoAkpoebide, MenegboNwinuamene, and ItamEdem have, in quick succession fired two strongly-worded letters to President MuhammaduBuhari and the leadership of the All Progressives Congress (APC), following the conclusion of the special conventions of the nation’s two leading parties, the PDP and APC, respectively.

As if to underscore the sense of urgency that they perceive, less than 48- hours after the emergence of AtikuAbubakar, former Vice President, as the Presidential candidate of the opposition PDP, this group of “Committed APC members from the Niger Delta region” sent in their first correspondence “Letter to President Buhari and the APC Leadership on the Ongoing Illegality in the NDDC and the Implications for the APC in the 2023 Elections.”

In the extensive and detailed letter, complete with facts, dates and history of what has transpired in NDDC and the region from 2015, when President Buhari took office, till date, the group raised alarm on the looming consequences of the ruling party’s ill-treatment of the region, especially what it described as the “ongoing illegality in NDDC.” Matter of fact, the group 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.”

The group in the above letter went to length to state how they believe that Senator GodswillAkpabio, former Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, laboured strenuously to try and subvert the collective will and desire of the authentic stakeholders of the Niger Delta region. According to them, Chief Akpabio, a two-term governor of AkwaIbom State and Senator until 2018 under the PDP, “came to  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.”

Continuing, the trio of Akpoebide, Nwinuamene, and Edem opined 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. 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.”

 The APC group then detailed what it described as the “trajectory of Akpabio’s mischief.” According to them, 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. 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.

Going down memory lane, it recounted that Akpabio then ill-advised President Buhari 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,  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 Mr. President on September 2, 2021, nine months ago, yet the substantive Board President Buhari unequivocally promised to inaugurate is yet to be inaugurated.

The Committed APC members further recalled and reminded President Buhari that specifically on June 24, 2021, while receiving the leadership of Ijaw National Congress (INC) at the State House in Abuja, he promised that the NDDC Board would be inaugurated as soon as the forensic audit report is submitted.

At that occasion, 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 group therefore regrets that the President has not only not fulfilled his promise nine months after, the Ijaw National Congress (INC) which he received in audience when he (President Buhari) 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.”

According to them, 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. 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. The NDDC Act does not permit the appointment of any external persons from outside the Commission to act as Managing Director or Sole Administrator without compliance with the Act which requires nomination by the President and Confirmation by the Senate. This is the same requirement for Ministers of the Federal Republic. The Law does not permit for anyone to be appointed as Acting Minister in any Ministry. If there is no Minister in a Ministry, the most senior civil servant – i.e. the Permanent Secretary holds forth until a Minister is appointed by the President and duly confirmed by the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

 “The orderly succession in NDDC was only breached in 2015 when your Administration dissolved the BasseyHenshaw led Board with Dan Abia as Managing Director, and appointed Mrs. IbimSemenitari 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. AkwaghaghaEnyia, 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.

“But unfortunately again this 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 embarked on another spree of interim managements/sole administrator contraptions, while the Board confirmed by the Senate has been on hold since November 2019.

 “Since October 2019 this government has appointed two interim management teams led by JoiNunieh and Professor KemePondei, respectively, and presently the Commission is led by a Sole Administrator, EffiongAkwa.”

 In its second correspondence, “Letter to President Buhari, APC Leadership to Halt the Ongoing Illegality in NDDC and Galvanize the Region for APC in the 2023 Election,” following the successful completion of APC’s special convention and the emergence of its presidential candidate, Bola Tinubu, for the 2023 election, the group stated that they are further encouraged to write again to the President and the leadership of APC because they are “reasonably informed that the APC presidential aspirants promised to take-up the matter with you, President Buhari to ensure that the Board (NDDC) is inaugurated expeditiously, aware of the negative impact it will have on our party ahead of the campaigns now that the primaries to elect candidates have been concluded, from State House of Assembly members to the Presidential candidate.”

The APC group further stated that “given the various encounters our presidential aspirants had with party delegates from AkwaIbom, Abia, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Edo, Imo, Ondo, to Rivers states, our party should no longer be in doubt about the mood of the people of the region with regard to their genuine angst towards the Federal Government for the way we have been badly treated by certain elements in the Federal Government who feed fat on the resources of our region.”

The group reminded President Buhari and APC leadership that a notable group in the region, The Niger Delta Rescue Movement (NDRM) has 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 .

The “Committed APC members” also drew the attention of the President, the Federal Government and the APC to the danger in continuing with the interim contraption as this administration winds down. The NDDC Act, provides that each of the nine oil producing states have a representative on the board. In addition, there is one representative for all oil producing companies in the country and one person each from non-oil-producing geopolitical zones. All the members of the Board listed above are on part time basis as clearly stated in Section 2(3) of the NDDC Act. The only full time members of the Board as clearly stipulated in the NDDC Act are three – the Managing Director and two Executive Directors – who are responsible for the day-to-day administration of the Commission. However, for close to three years this has been ignored by the Buhari Administration. This has given rise to tension in the Niger Delta region.

President Buhari should now rise to the occasion to save the Niger Delta region from those who have deliberately decided to exacerbate the palpable tension in the region. He should 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 his 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.

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