By G9ija

Niger Delta Elders’ Forum (NDEF) has, again, urged President Muhammadu Buhari to “comply with the law setting up NDDC and inaugurate the 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 inaugurate the Board of the Commission upon receipt of the forensic audit, in compliance with the law, and which commitment he made to the nation on June 24, 2021 when he received the leadership of Ijaw National Congress (INC) in Aso Rock, Abuja.

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In tandem with the legitimate demands of Niger Delta authentic stakeholders, we again urge President Muhammadu Buhari to inaugurate the substantive board to manage the Commission for the benefit of the people of the nine Niger Delta states.

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 inaugurate the Board of the Commission upon receipt of the forensic audit, in compliance with the law, and which commitment he made to the nation on June 24, 2021 when he received the leadership of Ijaw National Congress (INC) in Aso Rock, Abuja.

We recall that President Buhari 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 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.” The Forensic audit report has been submitted to President Muhammadu Buhari over a year ago, on September 2, 2021. However, the Governing Board is yet to be inaugurated.

President Muhamnadu Buhari had forwarded to the Senate for confirmation the appointment of a board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) via a letter dated 18th October, 2019.

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.

 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”.

Accordingly, 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.

However, after the nominees were screened and confirmed by the Nigerian Senate on the 5th of November 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 over a year ago, on September 2, 2021. However, the Governing Board duly confirmed by the Senate is yet to be inaugurated.

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.  Mr President restated his commitment 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.

We therefore urge 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.

We also remind 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  violation of the law establishing the Commission.

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.