Niger Delta Elders’ Forum (NDEF) has, again, aligned with what it described as the “legitimate demands of Niger Delta authentic stakeholders” to urge President Muhammadu Buhari to comply with the law setting up the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and inaugurate a substantive board to manage the Commission for the benefit of the people of the nine Niger Delta states.
In a statement by its National President, Chief Tonye Ogbogbula, it stated that “the most salient issue that the authentic stakeholders of the Niger Delta has consistently demanded, and which the President also made commitments on is to end the illegal Interim Management / sole administratorship at the NDDC and inaugurate the Board of the Commission upon receipt of the forensic audit, in compliance with the law.”
According to the group, President Buhari made the commitment “to the nation on June 24, 2021 when he received the leadership of Ijaw National Congress (INC) in Aso Rock, Abuja,” and re-affirmed the commitment in his “recent announcement, on July 28, 2022, that the board for the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) will soon be inaugurated,” thereby restating his “commitment to end the ongoing illegal sole administratorship at the NDDC and inaugurate the Board of the Commission in compliance with the law.”
According to NDEF, President Buhari restated his commitment to inaugurate the NDDC Board on July 28, 2022 while declaring open a retreat for management of the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs and NDDC at the State House banquet hall, Presidential villa, Aso Rock, Abuja.
The group also recalled that President Buhari had earlier made a commitment to the nation on June 24, 2021 when he received the leadership of Ijaw National Congress (INC) in Aso Rock, Abuja.
The President had said: ‘‘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, the NDDC Board will be inaugurated.”
Chief Ogbogbula regretted that “the Forensic audit report has been submitted to President Muhammadu Buhari since eleven months ago, on September 2, 2021. Regrettably, the NDDC which is the foremost Niger Delta regional development agency and which was set up to right the wrongs in the Niger Delta is still being run by a sole administrator appointed in breach of the NDDC Act.”
NDEF noted that President Buhari had forwarded to the Senate for confirmation the appointment of a board of the NDDC via a letter dated October 18, 2019.
According to the group, “specifically, President Buhari in the letter sought the Senate’s confirmation for Dr Pius Odubu (Edo) as chairman of the NDDC Board, Chief Bernard Okumagba (Delta) as Managing Director, Engr Otobong Ndem (Akwa Ibom) as Executive Director, Projects, and Maxwell Oko (Bayelsa) as Executive Director, Finance and Administration. Others listed in the President’s letter of to the Senate included Prophet Jones Erue, representing Delta State, Chief Victor Ekhalor (Edo), Nwogu N Nwogu (Abia), Theodore A Allison (Bayelsa), Victor Antai (Akwa Ibom), Maurice Effiwatt (Cross River), Olugbenga Edema (Ondo), Hon Uchegbu Chidiebere Kyrian representing Imo state. The rest are Aisha Murtala Mohammed from Kano state representing North West, Shuaib Ardo Zubairu from Adamawa representing North East and Ambassador Abdullahi M Bage from Nasarawa representing North Central, on the board respectively.”
NDEF stated that the president’s letter personally signed by him reads: “In accordance with the provision of Section 2(2)(a) of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) (Establishment) Act, 2000, I write to forward, for confirmation by the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the under listed nominees for appointment into the NDDC board, to occupy the positions indicated against their names.”
President Buhari, in the letter, expressed hope that “the Senate will consider and confirm the nominees in the usual expeditious manner”.
Chief Ogbogbula recounted that the “written request, which was read on the floor of the Senate on Tuesday, October 22, 2019 by its President, Ahmad Lawan, was given expeditious consideration by the upper legislative chamber, which directed its standing committee on NDDC, to carry out screening exercise on all the nominees and report back within a week. The Senate’s standing committee carried out the screening exercise on 15 out of the 16 nominees on Thursday, October 31, 2019, upon which the Senate in Plenary confirmed their appointments on November 5, 2019.”
The group, however, stated that after the nominees were screened and confirmed by the Nigerian Senate on the November 5, 2019, “President Buhari asked that the inauguration of the Board should be put on hold pending the completion of the forensic audit, for which an Interim Management Committee was appointed for the NDDC. The Forensic audit report has been submitted to President Muhammadu Buhari since eleven months ago, on September 2, 2021. Regrettably, the NDDC which is the foremost Niger Delta regional development agency and which was set up to right the wrongs in the Niger Delta is still being run by a sole administrator appointed in breach of the NDDC Act.”
The group restated that “President Muhammadu Buhari had already nominated a Board for the NDDC in October 2019 whose members were vetted by all relevant agencies of the federal government following which they were screened and confirmed by the Nigerian Senate on November 5 2019. They are waiting to be inaugurated. Mr President has restated his intention to inaugurate the Board on the completion of the forensic audit, which commitment he restated on Thursday, July 28, 2022 while declaring open a retreat for management of the ministry of Niger Delta affairs and NDDC at the state house banquet hall, Presidential villa, Aso Rock, Abuja.”
Chief Ogbogbula therefore urged President Buhari to “inaugurate the board and management of the Commission, in compliance with the law to ensure that the nine constituent states of the region will have fair and equitable representation in the Commission in line with the NDDC Act 2000 which brought the interventionist agency into existence and made it mandatory for the President to appoint a board and management for the Commission, subject to confirmation by the Senate.”
NDEF affirmed that it aligns with other “authentic stakeholders to restate that the preservation of a sole administrator or an interim administration in the management of the Commission is not only a breach of the NDDC Act 2000 but an affront on the long-deprived people of the region who have had to endure three years of the foremost agency being arbitrarily run in breach of the law – the NDDC Act and in utter disregard of their need and the region’s development.”
The group also stated that “we also wish to remind President Buhari, the Federal Government, and indeed the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) that the continued administration of the NDDC by a sole administrator is illegal because the NDDC Act has no provision for this illegality as the NDDC Act only provides that the Board and Management of the NDDC at any point in time should follow the provisions of the law which states that the Board and management is to be appointed by the President, subject to confirmation by the Senate. In effect, nobody is supposed to begin to administer the NDDC and utilise the huge funds accruing to it on a monthly basis without passing through this legal requirement as stipulated in the NDDC Act.”
Chief Ogbogbula also reminded President Buhari and the Federal Government that “whereas the North East Development Commission (NEDC) has been allowed to function with its duly inaugurated board (since May 2019) in line with the NEDC Act, thereby guaranteeing proper corporate governance, accountability, checks and balances, and fair representation of its constituent states, the NDDC on the other hand has been arbitrarily managed in the past three years by interim administrations/sole administrator, in flagrant violation of the law establishing the Commission.”
The group restated that “as stakeholders in the Niger Delta region we align with other credible voices in the region to emphasise that the Federal Government, President Buhari, and indeed the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), should be concerned about the disdain of the Niger Delta people over the manner the NDDC has been handled, most especially administering the Commission with illegal interim managements/sole administrator contraptions for five years in this administration’s seven years in office, and therefore needs to end the ongoing illegality in NDDC if this government is to be remembered for good in the Niger Delta.”
According to NDEF, “all stakeholders are now awaiting the earnest inauguration of the NDDC Board appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate since November 2019 in line with the NDDC Act to ensure fair representation of the nine constituent states, accountability in the utilisation of the NDDC funds, checks and balances and due process in the administration of the Commission.”