FG, IOCs Urged to Release $5.6bn Owed NDDC
*Delay in NDDC board inauguration may lead to renewed hostilities, groups warn
Olusegun Samuel in Yenagoa and Sylvester Idowu in Warri
Traditional rulers and youth groups from the Niger Delta have urged the federal government and multinational companies (IOCs) operating in the region to release the accumulated monies owed the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) to enable the new Minister of the Niger Delta Affairs, Mr. Umana Okon Umana, to reposition and implement the newly developed roadmap for the commission.
The stakeholders alleged that under the former minister, Godswill Akpabio, NDDC was owed about $5.6 billion and N649 billion by the IOCs. They warned that the newly developed roadmap by the new minister to achieve the commission’s core mandates might not work if NDDC was not removed from its life support approach, saying what the commission receives on a monthly basis is just enough to pay employees’ salaries and office maintenance.
The stakeholders made up of traditional rulers, women and youth leaders, in a statement issued by their Secretary-General, Chief Anthony Loveday, noted that the call on the federal government and the IOCs was necessitated by the short time available to the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari and the worrisome reality that the roadmap developed by Umana might not be implemented without proper funding.
They restated their support for the expected rebranding of the commission, saying it would enable it to serve as a vehicle to drive the socio-economic development of the region.
The statement said, “The leadership must understand that time is of the essence, as millions of people across the region are languishing in abject poverty. Therefore, the federal government should match its words with action and release the funds owed to the NDDC and also direct the multinational oil and gas companies to release the monies owed the commission.
“We support the new policy directions and the expected rebranding of the commission under the ministerial leadership of Mr. Umana O. Umana. We are waiting on the FG to release the funds for the expected reforms to commence.
“We expect the reforms to lead to sound decisions on various issues affecting the people of the region, including the completion of the East-West road, and the review of various infrastructural development projects across the region.
“The Presidency should as a matter of urgency grant the NDDC new contracts awarding powers to enable the NDDC provide communities across the nine states in the region with empowerment and entrepreneurship training programmes in order to alleviate the sufferings of the people in the region, and to ensure payments of verified and completed contracts before the expiration of the tenure of President Muhammadu Buhari.”
Delay in NDDC Board Inauguration May Lead to Renewed Hostilities, Groups Warn
Meanwhile, a coalition of groups under the aegis of Community Development Committee of Oil and Gas Producing Areas of the Niger Delta (CDCOGPAND) and Oil Mineral Producing Communities Traditional Rulers Forum (OMPCTRF) have urged President Muhammadu Buhari to speed up the implementation and inauguration of the Board of Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
The groups stated that continued delay in the inauguration of the board of the commission might lead to renewed hostilities in the region.
According to a statement jointly signed by Chairman, Board of Trustees of the coalition, Joseph Ambakederimo, and Head of Secretariat, OMPCTRF, Kingsley Arthur, the groups urged the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Umana Okon Umana, not to allow himself to be manipulated or give in to the shenanigans of those they referred to as buccaneers.
They urged the minister to follow the path of honour and due process to end the on-going illegality of administering NDDC with a sole administrator in violation of the NDDC Act.
According to the groups, “Looking at other appointments the president has made, particularly the recent appointment of the Managing Director for the Oil and Gas Free Zone Authority (OGFZA), Onne, in Rivers State, the swiftness at which the appointment was made calls to question why the NDDC board has become something of a ridicule to the people of the region.”
CDCOGPAND and OMPCTRF also drew attention to the directive issued by the president for a forensic audit of Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP) “without dissolving the board of the HYPREP or appointing an interim sole administrator to run the affairs of HYPREP while the audit will last.”
In the case of NDDC, the groups noted that a substantive board had been delayed even after the forensic audit had been concluded.
The groups also stated that the president did not appoint an interim sole administrator to run the affairs of the OGFZA.
“A substantive appointment was quickly made which has made the OGFZA appointment the swiftest appointment ever made in seven years of this administration,” the groups added.
They groups asked Umana to explain what was delaying the NDDC Board inauguration, and sought to know, “why the NDDC board inauguration is being handled in such a lackadaisical manner, and why are the people of the region seeming so weak that they can’t resist this treatment of slavery by our own people?”
According to the groups, there has been “two financial years’ budgets of the NDDC approved by the National Assembly amounting to N799 billion, which has been brazenly mismanaged with no repercussions meted out to persons, the resources of the commission are allegedly pilfered on a daily basis with some used to lobby people in this government to get extension of tenure in order for them to continue the illegality of the on-going contraption and pillage of the collective resources of the region.”
CDCOGPAND and OMPCTRF, however, noted that the people of Niger Delta were happy that Umana was given the headship of the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs and by extension the responsibility to supervise the NDDC.