- As Sylva Denies Rift With Akpabio
Following the promise by the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio to inaugurate the substantive board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) before the end of June, a group, the Benin Youths Assembly (BYA) has called on the federal government, to give priority to the nominees who have been screened and confirmed by the Senate.
Rising from a meeting in Benin City, the Edo State capital recently, the group led by Maxist Kola Edokpayi, Coordinator General of the group and Felix Isere, General Secretary, issued a communique urging the Hon. Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Akpabio to ensure that the already screened and confirmed board of the Commission be inaugurated without delay.
The communique reads in part: “We are pleased with the outcome of the meeting and the promise by the Hon. Minister to commerce the process of inaugurating a substantive board by the end of June.
“However, our position is that the Hon. Minister must, as a matter of importance, ensure that the already constituted board with Dr. Pius Odubu as Chairman and Chief Bernard Okumagba as Managing Director, screened and confirmed by the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, is the board to be inaugurated.
“That we appreciate and commend the Hon. Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Mr. Godswill Akpabio for initiating the meeting with stakeholders from the region where they were given the opportunity to express themselves.
“More importantly, we thank the Deputy Governor of Delta State who represented the Governor, Traditional Rulers present and representatives, leaders of the region, who stood-in and spoke on behalf of the various Ethnic Nationalities in Niger Delta.
“We salute their bravery and ability to tell the Hon. Minister the truth without fear or compromise.
“That our position is primarily premised on the fact that since the establishment of the NDDC, no person, man or woman, from Benin ethnic nationality has been appointed Chairman in spite of our peaceful and co-operative disposition and our high contribution to Oil and Gas production in Nigeria.
“That the appointment of a Benin man from Orhionmwon Local Government Area (the LGA with the highest Gas production in Nigeria) as Chairman of the Commission was well celebrated by our people who, hitherto, have been marginalized and unfairly relegated in the administration of NDDC. Hence our Royal Father, Omo N’Oba N’Edo, Uku Akpolokpolo, Oba Ewuare II personally sent a letter of appreciation to His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari.
“That as a people with great men, women and vibrant youths who have been peaceful, understanding and co-operative with the Federal Government and Oil producing companies in our area, we deserve the Chairmanship of the Commission. Anything short of this will be viewed as injustice and an attempt to undermine the Benins and a deliberate test of the will of our people, which will be vehemently resisted.
“That the appointment of Dr. Pius Odubu, a two time member of the Federal House of Representative, two time Deputy Governor of Edo State and the Director of Logistics, Buhari/Osinbajo Presidential Campaign 2019, as Chairman is a well thought out process and it represents a new hope for the Niger Delta Region. Combined with Mr. Bernard Okumagba, an accomplished banker and an astute technocrat with outstanding record of service as Managing Director, the NDDC will be exceedingly transformed for the interest and development of the Niger Delta Region.
“That no attempt should be made to tinker or alter the board as already constituted, screened and confirmed. The only thing left in the process of having a substantive board for the NDDC is the formal inauguration of the confirmed board. To do otherwise will not only lead to unnecessary delay and conflict of interest, it will create serious legal abnormalities.”
The group, who claimed it has the capacity to cause commotion if their demands are not met, pledged its commitment to continue to engage all critical stakeholders in the region.
“We restate our commitment to continuously engage all critical stakeholders in the Niger Delta region, irrespective of party affiliations or interest, in the collective efforts to foster peace, unity, security and sustainable development of the Niger Delta Region for the betterment of our people”, it said.
Meanwhile, the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Sylva has denied any rift between him and his Niger Delta Affairs counterpart, Akpabio over an alleged shortlisting of new names of nominees for the board for fresh round of screening by the Senate.
The New Diplomat learnt that some traditional rulers from Ekeremor Community in Bayelsa State have petitioned President Buhari, urging him to call to order Sylva, whom they accused of upturning the name of one indigene of the community, Elder Denyanbofa Dimaro, who has been allegedly nominated by Akpabio for the position of the managing director of the Commission.
It was further gathered that the royal fathers had threatened that the purported agreement reached between Akpabio and the MEND leader, Tompolo last week in Oproza to relax his 7-day ultimatum which the monarchs claimed to have been brokered by them and other stakeholders, would be jeopardized.
The monarchs stated in the petition that Sylva’s opposition to the nomination of Elder Dimaro by Sylva was against the spirit of justice, equity and fairness.
The petition which was dated June 4, 2021, pleaded for President Buhari’s intervention to prevent further protest and agitations in the Niger Delta area.
It reads in part: “On behalf of the traditional rulers and leaders of thought, particularly of Ekeremor LGA extraction in Bayelsa State, we wish to respectively draw your attention to the restiveness of youths resulting from this clear alienation by the APC-led Federal Government.
“Your Excellency Sir, we were highly elated by the newspaper publications naming one Elder Denyanbofa Dimaro, an illustrious son of Peretorugbene community in the Ekeremor LGA of Bayelsa State, as the Managing Director (MD) while Dr. Cairo Ojuogbo from Delta State as the chairman of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
“What has, however, heightened tension amongst the youths and citizenry is the growing rumor that the Minister of State for Petroleum, Chief Timipre Sylva is thwarting this laudable effort of the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Chief Godswill Akpabio.
“In our opinion, the polity and the region are already over heated and anything that will bring about further agitations should be avoided.”
“We are, therefore, pleading with Mr. President to consider giving the appointment of the substantive Managing Director of the NDDC to someone from within the above mentioned communities in the Ekeremor LGA of Bayelsa State and particularly as already announced in the media.”
The New Diplomat learnt that copies of the petition were sent to the Commissioner of Police, Bayelsa State, Director of Department of State Service, (DSS) and the President of Ijaw National Congress, (INC)
Signatories to the petition include King Joel Ekeni Ibane, Simon Onniye Ogiobo, Timi Odikeme Okere, Roman Deriabebe, Samuel Sapele and Amame Oru.
However, Sylva has denied any disagreement with his colleague, Akpabio over the allegation raised by the Bayelsa monarchs.
In a statement issued by Mr. Julius Bokoru, Special Adviser on Media and Public Affairs to the Minister, Sylva said there is no disagreement between him and Akpabio over the planned inauguration of the Commission’s Board just as he advised the general public to disregard the allegation which he described as “malicious.”
“Sylva is currently hosting the Nigeria International Petroleum Summit (NIPS) and while he has the development of the Niger Delta at heart, he is not fixated on who becomes who in the formation of the NDDC board.
“He rather hopes and prays that for the sake of the development of the region, competent, committed, compassionate and patriotic people get appointed.
“The architects of that story conveniently forgot to mention that the appointment of the NDDC executive members is strictly the prerogative of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“The public is hereby advised to disregard that report as it is totally untrue, malicious and engineered purely for mischief.
“Sylva will continue building harmony amongst Niger Delta leaders, the Honourable Minister will attract even more development to the region as he is doing and will keep working towards a more peaceful South-South region”, the statement reads.
It would be recalled that President Buhari had forwarded a list of nominees for the board of the NDDC to the Senate on the 28th of October, 2019 for screening and confirmation. The list has Dr. Pius Odubu, former Deputy Governor of Edo State, as chairman of the Commission and Chief Bernard Okumagba from Delta State, as Managing Director.
Other nominees on the President’s list include Engr. Otobong Ndem from Akwa Ibom, Executive Director, Projects; Maxwell Oko from Bayelsa, Executive Director Finance and Administration; Prophet Jones Erue, Delta State Representative; Chief Victor Ekhator, Edo State Representative; Dr. Joy Yimebe Nunieh, Rivers State Representative and Nwogu N. Nwogu, Abia State Representative.
The list also includes Theodore Allison, Bayelsa State representative, Victor Antai, Akwa Ibom State representative; Maurice Effewati, Cross River State representative; Olugbenga Edema, Ondo State representative; Hon. Uchegbu Chidiebere Kyrian, Imo State representative; Aisha Murtala Mohammed, Kano State, representing North-West; Shuabu Ardo Zubairu, Adamawa State representing North-East and Amb. Abdullahi M. Bage, Nasarawa State, representing North-Central.
The President’s nominees’ list which was dated October 18, 2019 and addressed to the President of the Senate, Distinguished Senator Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan, was personally signed by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The Senate had screened and confirmed the nominees for the NDDC board on February 5, 2020 awaiting the President’s inauguration. Just when it was being expected that the board will be inaugurated, the Minister for Niger Delta Affairs, Akpabio announced the setting up of an interim management committee headed by Prof. Pondei alongside the setting up of a forensic audit to audit the account of the Commission since inception. The board was thus suspended.
The New Diplomat’s checks revealed that the Act setting up the NDDC in 2000 stated the provisions for the appointment of the chairman and managing director of the board of NDDC.
The Act in Section 4 provides that “The office of the chairman shall rotate among the member states of the Commission in the following alphabetical order –
(a) Abia State; (b) Akwa Ibom State; (c) Bayelsa State; (c) Cross River State; (d) Delta State; (f) Edo State; (g) Imo State; (h) Ondo State; and (i) Rivers State.
While in Section 12(1), the Act provides for the appointment of the managing director thus: “There shall be for the Commission, a managing director and two executive directors who shall be indigenes of oil producing areas, starting with the member states with the highest production quantum of oil and shall rotate among member states in order of production, and shall –
(a) have such qualification and experience as are appropriate for a person required to perform the functions of those offices under this Act.
(b) The managing director shall be the chief executive and accounting officer of the Commission.
(c) Be appointed by the President, Commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces and confirmed by the Senate in conjunction with the House of Representatives
A Warri-based legal practitioner, Badasaraye Aghogho Esq who spoke with The New Diplomat, noted that the NDDC Act clearly stated the requirement for the appointment of the Chairman and the Managing Director of the Commission.
According to him, going by the provision of Section 4, the appointment of the board chairman is based on the member-states in accordance to their alphabetical order, adding that at the moment, it is the turn of Delta State to produce the chairman as Abia, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa and Cross Rivers had previously done so.
Badasaraye also stated that in compliance with Section 12(1) of the Act, the managing director of the board ought to be produced in the order “starting with the member states with the highest production quantum of oil and shall rotate among member states in order of production,” according to him, Delta State also maintained the position to produce the Managing Director of the Commission.
“I don’t see any confusion in the appointment of both the chairman and the managing director of the NDDC. The Act in Section 4 and Section 12(1) was very clear on how the two key officers of the Board would emerge.
“The chairman is appointed based on the alphabetical name of the member state whose turn it is to produce the next chairman, while the managing director is appointed based on the rotating production quantum of oil among the member States.
“I’m very optimistic that if the President abides by the provisions of the Act of the Commission, there will be no confusion or promotion of illegality”, he said.
It is not clear as of the time of this reporting whether or not the Nigerian Senate will be ready to screen another list of nominees from the President when the nominees for board that have since been screened and confirmed on the 5th of February, 2020 are still awaiting inauguration.
Efforts to get the reaction of Akpabio to confirm if he has already pencilled down new nominees for the board and as to whether he has jettisoned the names already screened and cleared by the Senate, have so far proved abortive.