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Niger Delta stakeholders call for inauguration of NDDC board, declare interim administration illegal

Yenagoa—Prominent persons from the South-South region over the weekend have charged the Federal Government, the Attorney General of the Federation/Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, and Minister of Niger-Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, to do what is right with the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC.

They stressed that not obeying the recent interim order of the Federal High Court sitting in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, which frowned at the use of Interim Management and Sole Administrators to run the interventionist agency, is a call to lawlessness by the Federal Government.

Vanguard newspaper reports that Chairman, Bayelsa State Traditional Rulers Council and Ibenanaowei of Ekpetiama Kingdom, King Bubaraye Dakolo, Agada IV, the paramount ruler of Idjerhe Kingdom, Delta State, HRM King Obukowho Monday Whiskey, Udurhie I, Deputy National Chairman, Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, and Acting Chairman of Bayelsa Elders Forum, Chief Thompson Okorotie, fondly called TKO, among others, said the federal government was promoting chaos in the agency.

Dakolo, who commended wailing women of Niger Delta and others that went to court to challenge the situation in NDDC and those usurping the powers of the board, said: “the Federal Government was not supposed to go ahead with a sole administrator because the Act does not give room for that and people have pointed out this particular misdemeanour time and again to the Federal Government that this is illegal.

“But, they have been deaf and dumb so to speak and now the court has spoken and I believe that they will listen, not listening is to call for anarchy.

“If the court has spoken, the Federal Government should obey the court order and do what the court says and perhaps dish out punishment to all those who have usurped the provisions of the Act for so long.

“When we talk about publishing the findings of the forensic audit of NDDC, yes, it ought to be done, some of us believe that the Federal Government has been hypocritical for so many years and has been acting in a manner against the Niger Delta people.

“The NDDC was supposed to be a stop-gap and an interventionist agency to accelerate the development of the region.

“For some of us, we feel that the paperwork of the NDDC is beautiful, monies come from oil companies but they have not achieved much and nobody is going to jail; nobody is being called to question, which means that from the beginning, the powers-that-be did not want the NDDC to work.

“As far as we are concerned, the forensic audit has identified thousands of failed projects, phantom, and substandard projects and it is only natural that the audit is published.

“Now the reason the list is not published is that most of the names on that list are not persons from the Niger Delta; the whole design is a Niger Delta man is appointed the CEO while someone somewhere there is controlling the puppet.

“And that is what has been going on in the NDDC and that is why they are hesitating to publish the names.

“It is not the job of the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs to get the board inaugurated, it is the job of the Presidency.

“Akpabio is just the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, even if he has been deluding himself as being in charge of NDDC, the fact is that he is not and that is why none of what he has said so far has come true.

“Let the Attorney General and Presidency do their job.”

King Whiskey, on his part, urged the federal government to inaugurate the NDDC board: “The Federal High Court, Bayelsa judgment is one ruling that is capable of redeeming the battered image of the Federal Government as far as the mismanagement of the funds of NDDC is concerned.

“Therefore, the Attorney-General/Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, should rise to the occasion and immediately implement the court judgment by firstly removing the NDDC from the control of the Ministry of the Niger Delta Affairs.

“Secondly, he should immediately order the inauguration of the screened and confirmed board of the NDDC under the chairmanship of former deputy governor of Edo State, Dr. Pius Odubu, and managing directorship of ex-Delta commissioner, Olorogun Bernard Okumagba.

“And thirdly, order a detailed probe of the finances of the NDDC from 2019, 2020, 2021, and part of 2022 that this strange body not known to the NDDC Act 2000 has masqueraded as an interim management committee and sole administrator.

“It is also important to advise the Minister of the Niger Delta Affairs, Obong Godswill Obot Akpabio, to immediately apologize to Niger- Deltans for the pain he has caused the region and make himself available to the probe panel and explain the budgetary allocations for NDDC for 2019, 2020, and 2021 because the day of reckoning has come.

“And except this is done urgently, our people will have no choice than believe the news currently flying that he is neck-deep in the mismanagement of the NDDC funds in the past two years”.

Okorotie, also speaking said the Buhari led-federal government should discontinue the present arrangement of an interim administration.

According to him: “What is happening at the NDDC is one of grave injustice that the minorities are complaining about.

“The people of the Niger Delta are looked down on by those who claimed to own Nigeria.

“At the appropriate time, they will know they do not own Nigeria.

“Nigeria is owned by Almighty God and He will put it right for us at the appropriate time no matter how long it takes.

“There is an Act governing the affairs of the NDDC and that place is supposed to have a regular board and management running the commission and there is no room for a sole administrator.

“They have messed up the place, those at the federal level kept taking all the jobs in the NDDC from the people of the region.

“Now when they have run it down, they decided to ensure it is run perpetually by an administrator.

“Minister of Niger Delta Affairs should respect himself.

“He is a disservice to the Niger Delta.

“He ought to protect the interest of Niger Deltans, but he has not done so.

“Now, a court action saying there should be no continuance of the sole administrator is correct.

“I support it; it is the right thing to do. For over two years now the commission has been in turmoil and that is downgrading our developmental aspiration.

“What sort of government is this that has no respect for the law, a law established, duly passed by the National Assembly, and assented to?

“The Federal Government should as, a matter of urgency, constitute a proper board.

“The Attorney General of the Federation should obey the court and ask President Buhari to constitute the board and management immediately”.

Legal practitioner and two-time commissioner in Bayelsa and a chieftain of Embassara Foundation, Iniruo Wills called for the interim administration to be disassembled.

“The President and the two relevant lawyer ministers, being the Attorney-General of the Federation and the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, should respect the ruling of the court by promptly dismantling the illegal sole or interim administrator position foisted on NDDC and ensure inauguration of a lawful governing board as prescribed by the NDDC Act.

“For three to four years, this Federal Government intervention agency for the Niger Delta has been subjected to a series of illegal contraptions called Acting Managing Director, Interim Management Board, and Interim Administrator.

“In doing this and enabling the unlawful and reckless mismanagement of the agency’s revenues running into billions of dollars in that period, the Federal Government has been the chief promoter of lawlessness in Nigeria.

“Such bad examples can only inspire the motley crowds of outlaws that have seized Nigeria to do more havoc, from industrial-scale oil theft in the Niger Delta, terrorism in the North, wanton killings in the South-East and chronic executive stealing in other government agencies.

“The Federal Government should please stop its destruction of NDDC. The President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Olu Akpata, should also speak to these two lawyers and NBA members to respect the law.

“Finally, the Niger Delta governors, whose call for forensic audit was manipulated into this forensic fraud, should stop sleeping on the matter and storm the President to do the right thing for once. They should defend their region and what belongs to it.”

Similarly, the National Coordinator, Niger Delta Peace Coalition, Zik Gbemre said: “The NDDC Act recognizes no interim management or a sole administrator.

“It never even provided for ministerial control. “Even the judgment took long to be delivered because it was a matter of simple interpretation of the Act.”

“The law does not provide for partisan control of the commission.

“The Act provides for an interventionist agency to be managed by nonpartisan technocrats entrusted by presidential choices to prudently deploy clearly defined finances to fast track development of much neglected Niger Delta without bureaucratic bottlenecks.

“But since the foundation governing board led by Engr Godwin Omene, the only genuine board appointed in tandem with the enabling Act was sacked.

“The unlawful management of the NDDC did not start with President Buhari, but the aggravated abuse and politicization of the NDDC mandate, which has worsened financial recklessness in the commission under the current dispensation, is one of the key indices to judge what a failed administration Buhari has led.

“Of course, the questions on the implications of the ruling should be directed to the National Assembly members who have the constitutional role to checkmate the President’s flouting of the NDDC law but have instead become part of the problem of NDDC as a patronage tool.

“I can rightly predict that the Bayelsa court judgment will not last.

“As usual, the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) will appeal the ruling, which orders will be set aside by the superior court.

“It has been almost impossible to defeat the AGF and the Federal Government at the highest court in the country under the present administration”.

Spokesman, Niger Delta Rights Advocates, NDRA, Darlington Nwauju, said: “Firstly, the Bayelsa court only interpreted the NDDC Act and by extension validated the position of the law.

“I salute the firmness of the court to deliver not just judgment but justice. “Secondly, the AGF should act right by advising Mr. President and the Federal Government to end the impunity and financial carnage taking place at the NDDC.

“Thirdly, the Minister in charge of the Niger Delta Affairs knows what is right, but has failed to do it. I doubt if history will be kind to him.”

Former President, Ijaw Youth Council, IYC, Mr. Eric Omare, shared his perspectives, saying: “Straight away, the Attorney General of the Federation should implement the judgment.

“After all, in similar circumstances such as the judgment relating to the Electoral Act delivered by the Federal High Court, Umuahia, the AGF hurriedly expressed his desire to implement the judgment, so he should do the same thing.

“In addition, Nigerians would recall that Akpabio claimed to have appointed the interim administrator on the strength of a court judgment.

“Hence, he should in the same vein implement this judgment by dissolving the interim administratorship.

“My only advice to Akpabio is that his stewardship of the Niger Delta Ministry will not be forever.

“Everything that has a beginning must have an end. So his tenure as Minister would come to an end and the NDDC would continue to exist”.

However, constitutional lawyer, Dr. Akpor Mudiaga-Odje, took a different position from the Niger Delta natives.

He said: “The suit is a long time in coming and should open a new vista into the justified struggle of the battered people of the Niger Delta though we are yet to get a certified true copy of the court’s order.

“We want to believe that the court did not and has not and cannot at this stage declare the office of the sole administrator of the current NDDC as illegal without hearing from apposite parties”

“It is only after the parties have been duly served and a hearing is conducted on the case that judgment will be eventually delivered.

“As for me, the NDDC Act of 2000 does not recognize a sole administrator for the board, full stop.

“We thus use this medium to call on all and sundry to support this suit and any other peaceful agitation to better the Niger Delta”.

Chairman Board of Trustees, Centre for Human Rights and Anti-Corruption Crusade, CHURAC, Comrade Cleric Alaowei, who shared Mudiaga-Odje’s opinion, regretted: “The order of the Federal High Court sitting in Yenagoa is a welcome development.

“It is an interim order anyway, which will not survive more than 14 days except it is further extended.

“In the circumstance, I don’t think the AGF and the FG will obey the order since the substantive matter has not been decided.

“However, for the sake of public good and the general wellbeing of the Niger Delta people, we advise the Federal Government to obey the ruling of the court.

“Obeying the ruling will do more good in promoting the image of the Federal Government than disobeying it, which is even a recipe for corruption.

“As for Senator Akpabio, NDDC has become his farm.

“Only the intervention of the judiciary will rescue the commission from the grip of those political parasites. Abubakar Malami should, therefore, exert the same energy he contributed to obey the judgment of the Federal High Court over the Electoral Act, 2023 to enforce the Federal High Court order concerning the NDDC sole administratorship.

Chairman, Contractors Association of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, Mr. Joe Adia, who decried the selective attitude of the Federal Government to judgments it will obey, said: “We are fully in support of the court action and order.

“The impunity of this government has gone too far that they cannot obey a simple court order.

“We will keep pushing till the right thing is done in NDDC.

“Something as simple as bringing in the already screened and approved board by the Senate since 2019 is so difficult for this government”.

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