•Give us breathing space to do our job, Onochie tells Nigerians
•PANDEF, Itsekiri leaders, others kick
•We insist on MD or chairman position – Itsekiri Leaders of Thought
•INC, Onuesoke plead with stakeholders for understanding
By Emma Amaize, Sam Oyadongha, Jimitota Onoyume, Festus Ahon, Luminous Jannamike, Egufe Yafugborhi, Davies Iheamnachor, Emma Una, and Chioma Onuegbu
ANGRY reactions yesterday heralded the inauguration of the governing board of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC. The agency had been without a board for nearly four years.
The inauguration came, despite pending court order and protest by stakeholders to some members of the board.
While the Pan-Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, urged President Muhammadu Buhari to ensure that the nomination and inauguration of the board of NDDC, 60 days to the general elections, was not politically motivated, Itsekiri Leaders of Thought, IloT, again kicked against the exclusion of Itsekiri from the board of the commission.
The Itsekiri leaders insisted that the position of Managing Director or chairman of the commission be reserved for an Itsekiri, on the ground that their areas produce the highest volume of oil in Delta State.
Former speaker of Akwa Ibom Assembly, Peter Umoh, also frowned on the inauguration of the board
But Ijaw National Congress, INC, and former governorship aspirant in Delta State, Chief Sunny Onuesoke, pleaded with stakeholders in the region to show some understanding on inauguration of the board.
Recall that a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja had, following a suit by Itsekiri Ethnic Nationality, cautioned the Federal Government against inaugurating the screened chairman and board members of NDDC.
But despite the order, the Senate went ahead to screen and confirm the appointments of Mrs. Lauretta Onochie, as NDDC chairman and Chief Samuel Ogbuku as the commission’s Managing Director, alongside other nominees.
Itsekiri Ethnic Nationality, represented by Chief Edward Ekpoko, Mr. Edward Omagbemi and Engr. Victor Wood, in the suit, is contesting that Onochie hails from Onicha-Olona community in Aniocha North Local Government Area of Delta State, a non-oil and gas producing area, whereas, Chief Ogbuku, who was forwarded as MD, NDDC board hails from Bayelsa State, contrary to an established rotation arrangement in accordance with the NDDC Act.
The Senate had on December 20, 2022, confirmed the nominations of chairman and board members of the commission after the President Muhammadu Buhari sent their names in accordance with the NDDC (Establishment) Act, 2000.
But speaking during the inauguration yesterday Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, urged members of the board to be above board, adding that they should work towards policies that would contribute to the coordinated development of the Niger-Delta.
Be above board
He said: “It is the expectation of government, that development of the Niger Delta will, henceforth, not be haphazard. It will now be full time and full-blown such that Nigerians within that part of the country will benefit from the institution, NDDC.
“We also expects that the board members inaugurated today will bring their experience to bear and ensure an equitable development in the different states of the Niger Delta
“We, therefore, urge you to ensure compliance with government regulations, procedures, processes, and extant rules and regulations.
“We also expect the management to take into consideration and and enable the full procedures in the Public Procurement Act, the Public Service Rules, and the financial regulations in ensuring that they give good governance and give an accountable leadership within the time of the governing board of the NDDC.”
Breach contract approval limits, face severe sanctions
Similarly, the Minister of Niger-Delta Affairs, Chief Umana Umana, said the tasks before the new board include a faithful implementation of the recommendations of the report of the NDDC forensic audit.
According to him, besides the findings of the forensic audit, government has received numerous petitions alleging irregularities in employment in the commission.
He said: “The new board will have to look into these allegations of irregular employment from 2019 and follow up on the ongoing personnel audit in the commission to make sure that all cases of employment during the period under review were in accordance with extant rules and regulations of the service.
“On our part as the overseeing ministry, we will not relent in providing and availing the board and the commission at large with the necessary support and guidance needed for a successful tenure.”
Restore hope to N/Deltans
Also, Minister of State, Niger-Delta Affairs, Mrs. Sharon Ikeazor, urged the new board to work towards restoring hope to the people of the region.
She said: “I urge you to take advantage of the opportunity to impact positively on the lives of the people. I encourage you to ensure that the narrative of NDDC changes, henceforth.
“With you coming, transparency, integrity, and due diligence will be associated with the NDDC. Let us all work together to restore hope to the people in the Niger Delta region.”
Give us breathing space – Onochie tells Nigerians
On her part, the new Chairperson of NDDC board, Onochie, urged Nigerians to give the new board breathing space to do its job.
She said: “Since its establishment by the NDDC Act, the commission has received a lot of flack from all and sundry.
“Consequently, the board will be looking to review also, in addition to all the guidelines issued by the minister, will be looking to review the existing policies and guidelines to enable us have a clear sight as we hit the ground running.
“We cannot continue to work with failed templates and expect to get a different result. Apart from the physical development of our region, we will be paying extra attention to the empowerment of our teeming youth population, equipping them with requisite skills to enable that catch up with their peers in other parts of Nigeria and elsewhere.
“There’s no doubt that we have a huge task ahead of us. We ask for the support of Nigerians in general and Niger Delta in particular.
“We ask that you give us a breathing space to generate great ideas that will bring about the desired change in the region. We are determined to do a great job.
“We are committed to the improvement of the economic and ecological well being of our region. We are devoted to the prosperous future of the youths of the region. We will not fail. It’s a promise. but we ask that you give us the breathing space to do our job.
“We ask for your support, All and sundry, so that we can deliver for the long suffering people of the Niger Delta.”
Ensure inauguration not aimed at 2023 polls, PANDEF tells Buhari
However, reacting to the inauguration, the Pan-Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, which spoke through its National Publicity Secretary of PANDEF, Ken Robinson, warned that constitution of the board should have nothing to do with next month’s election.
It said: “Well, it is unfortunate that the inauguration has been done, despite a court order stopping it. But the originating court order on Mrs. Onochie, I think is misplaced if it’s on the fact that she is not from an oil producing community.
”It is misplaced because that NDDC Act does not place such requirements on the appointment of the chairman of the board of the NDDC.
“Where the requirement is placed is on the Managing Director, the Executive Director, Projects, Executive Director Finance and Administration and representatives of the states.
“I don’t know if that court order is on the representative from Ondo State because the persons is not from an oil producing community. That one is challengeable. But if the order is on Onochie, I think it is misplaced.
“It is commendable that at last the president has nominated and inaugurated a substantive board of the NDDC. But, coming at this time, less than 60 days to the general elections, we hope that it is not politically motivated.
“We hope these persons nominated and inaugurated will work to deliver on the mandate of the NDDC 100 per cent. And will not go there and serve as appointees for political patronage to serve the political interest of certain persons in the forthcoming election.”
We hope these set of people will be different.MD, Chairman for Itsekiri -Itsekiri leaders
Secretary of IloT, Sir Sunny Mene, while reacting to the inauguration of the board on phone, said the Itsekiri would not relent in its agitation for the right thing to be done.
He said: “As far as IloT is concerned, this appointment has not followed the law. The law is very clear on how the MD and chairman of the NDDC is to be appointed. And from available records, it is the turn of Delta State to produce the Chairman and the MD.
“In the state, the Itsekiri ethnic nationality is the highest oil producing ethnic group in the state. So, under fairness and equity, he who wears the shoe knows where it pinches, the Itsekiri ought to have been appointed into at least one of the positions.
“We are the ones suffering the ecological disaster, so to develop our areas, we should get the top position. We know the pains.
“In a society governed by the rule of law, all sides stay action when a matter is in court until the matter is decided .”
Sheathe your swords – Okaba, INC president
In his reaction, President of Ijaw National Congress, INC, Prof. Benjamin Okaba, urged stakeholders in the Niger Delta to sheathe their swords and give the newly inaugurated NDDC board the chance to work.
“It is better late than never. We are also aware of the various levels of protestations and court cases.
“Yes, the process might be imperfect but at least where we are in this country, I think we should give them the opportunity to start and hit the ground running.
Waste of time – Gbemre
On his part, Coordinator, Niger Delta Peace Coalition, Zik Gbemre, said: “It is a sheer waste of time to expect that some dissenting voices can make the President renege on swearing an NDDC board of his nominees the National Assembly had very well cleared for the appointments.
“All through his administration that is winding down, President Buhari has ruled NDDC by fiat, defying all statutes guiding appointment into the board, including court restraining orders. If he did not listen to the opposition in the illegal selection of interim boards and sole administrators, why would he care about those raising issues over his choice of a substantive board?”
A good omen in NDDC – Onuesoke
A former governorship aspirant in Delta State, Chief Sunny Onuesoke, said: “The best thing that has happened to NDDC since its creation as an interventionist agency to solve the problems of the Niger Delta is the appointment of Onochie as the chairman of the board.
“I am grateful to the president for the inauguration of the board. Like I will always say, I do not play politics of do-or-die affairs. Onochie is super and eminently qualified to head the board of NDDC. She has been a silent advocate of the Niger Delta region for almost a decade and a half.”
Inauguration months to end of Buhari tenure disturbing- Ex-Speaker
In his reaction, former speaker of Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, Peter Umoh, opined: “The fact that the inauguration of the NDDC governing board today is happening a few months before the end of President Buhari’s tenure in office is what is disturbing.”
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