A group of traditional rulers under the aegis of the Association of Rural Chiefs for Peace and Development (ARCPD) have urged President Muhammadu Buhari to immediately inaugurate a substantive board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
The monarchs while reacting to the recent audit report on NDDC called on the President to inaugurate the board members nominees that had already been screened and cleared by the Senate.
Recently, The New Diplomat had reported that a total of 13,000 projects were abandoned in the Niger Delta region since the creation of the NDDC according to the forensic report submitted by Akpabio.
President Muhammadu Buhari while receiving the report Thursday, vowed to investigate, prosecute and recover funds from contractors, firms and politicians indicted by in audit report.
The President noted that N6 trillion had been invested in the NDDC since its creation in 2001 without any significant results.
Reacting to the report, the National coordinator of ARCPD, Chief Nengi James-Iriworio lamented that the Niger Delta region already has the highest cases of abandoned projects, adding any further delay in inaugurating the board could cause havoc.
Recall also that following the dissolution of the NDDC board in 2019, Chief Bernard Okumagba was nominated as Managing Director of the Commission and had since been screened by the Senate and confirmed for the position alongside other 14 members of the governing board including Dr. Pius Odubu who was nominated and confirmed as Chairman of the board by the Senate.
However, rather than inaugurate the substantive board as confirmed by the Senate, an interim Sole Administrator was appointed to manage the commission with the President saying that the board would be inaugurated after an internal probe on the affairs of the NDDC is completed.
Following the completion of the probe and the release of the audit report, the national coordinator urged Buhari to keep his promises by inaugurating the same individuals who have already been screened and cleared, adding that any other contrary thing would ‘send a dangerous signal to the Niger Delta region that Mr President is not in charge.’
The statement partly reads, “we call calling on President Buhari to honor his words and we urge him not to succumbed to pressure to replace the names of those that have already been screened with others, noting that replacing those that have already been screened will send a dangerous signal to the Niger Delta region that Mr President is not in charge.
“Now that it has been submitted, the Association of Rural Chiefs for Peace and Development, want Mr President to adhere, and comply with the earlier statement he told us, he should keep to his words and inaugurate the persons that have been screened.
“Having concluded that exercise, the integrity of Mr President will be questioned if these people are drop for new persons and it will imply that the government has been infiltrated for people to be shortchanged; it will further create animosity and acrimony amongst the people of the Niger Delta. If things are going the way it is going, definitely our organisation will stampede the new screening process by instituted a legal action to challenge the process.”
Similarly, the Niger Delta United Congress, has called on the President to immediately inaugurate the NDDC board.
According to the group, any further delay in inaugurating the board could affect the development of the Niger Delta region.
The group urged Buhari to ignore statements from individuals who are using ethnicity as a guise to delay the inauguration of the already screened board members.
This was contained in a statement signed by the group’s President Ebizomor Brisibe and the secretary, Edem Archibong.
The statement reads, “With the submission of the forensic audit report, the inauguration of the Board of the Niger Delta Development Commission should not be delayed any further, certainly not by the meddlesomeness of fringe ethnic champions who are working to delay the progress of our region.
“We state this fully aware that there are people who have been recruited by persons keen to continue the current aberration of the sole administrator by orchestrating a crisis through campaigns for persons of their ethnic extraction to be appointed into the board. Specifically, the recent claim by Rita Lori-Ogbebor that only someone from her Itsekiri tribe is eligible for appointment into the Board as a representative of Delta State is provocative, anarchical and insulting to other ethnic groups.
“What will become of our ethnic harmony if every ethnic group begins to make such provocative statements. This is clearly a recipe for chaos and schisms.
“There is already a board nominated by President Muhammadu Buhari in October 2019, confirmed by Nigerian Senate on November 5, 2019 and awaiting inauguration.
“Niger Deltans have, over the past two years, endured the abuse of the NDDC Act by the appointment of interim management committees and a sole administrator who are not fully representative of the constituent states, and have carried on without regard for due process. Aware of the protests and dissatisfaction of Niger Deltans with that arrangement, President Buhari had promised by himself that the Board will be inaugurated once the forensic audit report is submitted. That has been done and we call on Mr President to keep his promise, which is the expectation of Niger Deltans.
“We reject calls by ethnic champions who have built a reputation for perpetuating conflict among the tribes of the Niger Delta. It is important to note that the subsisting NDDC Act does not recognize ethnicity as a basis for appointing its board. To project ethnicity is a call to disharmony and anarchy. The makers of the NDDC Act in their wisdom clearly avoided this path which can only lead to conflicts and hate in the States of the Niger Delta Region.
“The NDDC Act is the law that governs appointments into the NDDC Board. The NDDC Act in Part 1, Section 2(1) B requires a member of the NDDC Governing Board to come from an “Oil Producing Area”. An area is a definite geographical space bound by its recognition in the constitution as an administrative space. Thus, an area can be a state, a local government area or a senatorial district. In the context of the NDDC act, an oil producing area is coterminous with an oil producing local government area. All indigenes of Oil Producing Local Government Areas in the Niger Delta States are eligible. Nobody can be excluded on the basis of tribe as long as he or she is from an oil producing local government area.
“We therefore call on Mr President, who in his wisdom and in exercise of his authority made the appointments and directed that they be on standby pending the submission of the forensic audit report, to direct the inauguration of the Senate-confirmed Board without further delay. This will enable all Niger Deltans to direct our energies to the great work of developing our region through the NDDC.”