Fresh tension has mounted in the Niger Delta as the region awaits the submission of the forensic audit into the management of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) to President Muhammadu Buhari on July 31, 2021.
The minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, had promised that the report of the forensic audit, which had stalled the inauguration of the commission’s board since 2019, would be presented to President Buhari, unfailingly, on July 31.
The delay in inaugurating a substantive board for the development agency had generated widespread protests in the oil-rich belt in June as stakeholders rejected continuous stay in office of an administrator.
LEADERSHIP recalls that the inauguration of the Obudu-led board, screened and confirmed by the Senate after its appointment by Buhari, was suspended in 2019 to pave the way for an unfettered forensic audit of the NDDC’s activities.
Akpabio, had in the wake of the agitations by beleaguered citizens, said the forensic audit report would be ready by July to enable Buhari to inaugurate the substantive board and management to mount the saddle in the commission.
“I am very certain that come the end of July, the final result (of the forensic audit) will be given to Mr. President for final implementation,” Akpabio told State House reporters, on Tuesday, June 22, shortly after a meeting with the Chief of Staff to the President, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari.
To this end, fresh tension enveloped the region on Tuesday, few days to the July 31st deadline given by the embattled minister.
There were palpable fears of likely consequences of the failure of the minister to meet the deadline.
Prominent stakeholders expressed concerns and warned the minister to ensure that the July 31st was sacrosanct and irreversible in the interest of peace and harmony in the region.
The stakeholders told LEADERSHIP that the minister must deliver on his promise.
Niger Delta ex-militant leader, Government Ekpemupolo, alias Tompolo, warned against further delay in the inauguration of the board.
His spokesman, Mr. Paul Bebenimibo, said his boss would not tolerate further delay tactics by Akpabio, adding that,” We believe that a substantive board would be far more beneficial to our people.”
President of Ijaw National Congress (INC), the umbrella socio-cultural organisation for the Ijaw ethnic nationality, Prof. Benjamin Okobia, said it would be dishonorable if Akpabio failed to deliver on his promise.
Okobia warned that Akpabio should be conscious of the implications of failure to meet the expectations of the people of the region.
The Itsekiri National Youth Council (INYC) also warned that the July 31 date be respected by Akpabio.
INYC’s president, Mr. Weyinmi Agbateyiniro, said he was not in doubt in view of the personality of the minister, adding that the date was sacrosanct.
When contacted, Akpabio’s spokesman, Mr. Jackson Udoh, said he had no information on the controversial forensic audit.
“I don’t know anything about forensic audit for now”, he responded sharply, in a telephone interview with LEADERSHIP.