Mixed Reactions Trail NDDC Board Appointment

South-South governors have summoned an emergency meeting over the members-designate of the Board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) made public on Tuesday by the Presidency.

Former Edo State Deputy Governor Pius Odubu is the chairman of the new board whose name has been sent to the Senate for confirmation.

Other members are: Prophet Jones Erue (Delta); Edo Rep – Chief Victor Ekhatar (Edo); Rivers Rep – Dr. Joy Yimebe Nunieh (Rivers); Abia Rep – Nwogu Nwogu (Abia) and Bayelsa Rep – Theodore A. Allison (Bayelsa).

Others are: Akwa Ibom Rep – Victor Antai (Akwa Ibom); Cross River Rep – Maurice Effiwatt (Cross River); Ondo Rep -Olugbenga Elema (Ondo); Imo Rep – Uchegbu Chidiebere Kyrian (Imo); Northwest Rep – Aisha Murtala Muhammed (Kano); Northeast Rep – Ardo Zubairu (Adamawa) and Southwest Rep – Badmus Mutalib (Lagos).

Mixed reactions by Niger Delta stakeholders yesterday trailed the composition of the board.

Following the dissolution of the former board headed by Prof. Nelson Brambaifa, a university don from Bayelsa State, Dr. Bernard Okumagba from Delta State, was named as Acting Managing Director.

While governors of Niger Delta states expressed reservations, other stakeholders, including Urhobo and Ijaw youths, hailed President Muhammdu Buhari for taking a wise decision.

A source close to the governors said they had scheduled an emergency meeting for today to discuss the composition, adding that their grouse was that President Buhari did not consult them.

According to the source, the new board was “hurriedly put together” without the governors’ input.

He added: “As governors of the Niger Delta states, the law setting up the NDDC provides that they should be consulted on the composition of the NDDC Board.

“When I spoke to other governors from the region, they said the same thing. We are embarrassed that merit was thrown to the wind in the selection of persons that were appointed to the Board.

“”Politics was the only consideration used in selecting members of the new Board and this runs contrary to the provisions of the NDDC Law.

Isoko and Ndokwa leaders in Delta State, who rejected the composition of the board, vent their anger on President Buhari and Deputy Senate President Ovie Omo-Agege, stressing that the appointments violated the principles of inclusiveness.

Noting that two Delta State indigenes-Okumagba, an Urhobo, and Prophet Erue Jones, an Isoko-are on the new board, they maintained that Ndokwa was marginalised.

The paramount ruler of Seimbiri Kingdom and former President of Traditional Ruler of Oil-Producing Communities, Pere Charles Ayemi-Botu; President, Isoko Monitoring Group, Comrade Sabestine Agbefe, and the Vice President General, Ndokwa Neku Union, Chief Tony Uti, said the appointments were in bad faith.

Pere Botu, who complained that Delta State was not given the board chairman, said the appointments violated the rotational principle.

He added: “By the law setting up NDDC, the Chairman is supposed to be for Delta State. The Chairman rotates in alphabetic order among all the states. First was Abia, then Akwa-Ibom, Bayelsa, and Cross River. Now that it is supposed to be for Delta State, it has gone to Edo.”

The monarch added: “The President doesn’t have listening ears. So, I don’t expect any change from him. But, the fact is that letter ‘D’ comes before ‘E.’ So, Delta state should have got the chairmanship. This is very sad and a bad precedent.”

A lawyer and leader of Ndokwa nation, Chief Henry Uti, said: “I am very disappointed with the Federal Government because it has failed to uphold the policy of he who gives, receives.”

He added: “For over 60 years, Agip has been operating in our land. Except for Professor Eric Opiah, who is a former Chairman of OMPADEC, Ndokwa nation has not had any appointment in any agency for the development of oil communities.”

Uti said: “The appointments are very unfair, to say the least. It is unfair for the Urhobo to produce the Managing Director of the NDDC for a second time when other ethnic groups are yet to get any position, just because the Deputy Senate President is an Urhobo.

“Giving the Commissioner to Isoko is also unfair to the Ndokwa. Ndokwa deserves the position. Isoko deserves the MD because Urhobo and Itsekiri have had executive positions as MD, Executive Director, Project.”

“Ijaws have been Executive Directors, Finance and Administration, and Itsekiri have been EDP, even though Tuoyo Omatsuli did not complete his tenure. An Urhobo, Samuel Adjogbe, completed that position.”

The President of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), Chief Legborsi Pyagbara, said there is nothing to celebrate in the new appointments.

He said: “The frequent changes by the Federal Government of the persons at the helm of affairs in NDDC do not allow for stability and consistency in policy making. The Federal Government is simply using NDDC to play politics and not for technical delivery of projects. The NDDC’s Act is also no longer being strictly adhered to.

“How can NDDC make a difference in the Niger Delta, when the competent helmsmen, who ought to push for the development of the region and empowerment of the people are frequently being changed?”

The MOSOP leader urged President Buhari to enhance consistency and stability in NDDC, instead of using the interventionist agency to play politics.

However, the Ologbotsere of Warri Kingdom, Chief Ayiri Emami, differed, saying that the President put round pegs in round holes.

He said the new board would live to expectation, unlike the past board that failed to develop the region.

Emami added: “The new board should focus on all ongoing projects so that it doesn’t end the way of the last board, which did not represent what President Buhari stands for. We have two very solid ministers for the Niger Delta in Godswill Akpabio and Festus Keyamo, and with this team, they should be able to deliver on the mandate of the President. They must go to site and ensure that works that are ongoing on papers are ongoing in reality.”

Echoing Emami, an activist from Rivers State, Success Jack, applauded President Buhari for taking a courageous decision. He also called for the investigation of the dissolved board headed by Brambaifa.

Hailing the president, Urhobo and Ijaw youths urged stakeholders in the region to support the new board to achieve its mandate.

The Urhobo Progress Union (UPU) and the Ijaw Youths Council (IYC), in a statement, said the new helmsmen would perform to expectation.

The UPU President-General, Olorogun Moses Taiga, in a statement by his Media Assistant, Kenneth Young, urged the ethnic nationalities in the region to cooperate with the board, eschew rivalry and shun politics of distractions.

He described Okumagba as a patriot and experienced administrator who will not disappoint the region.

Taiga added: “”Bernard was raised in the Urhobo tradition of truth, equity, courage, integrity, liberation and passion for excellence. The UPU and the entire Urhobo nation are praying for him to succeed in office, and we will give him all the support.”

A leader of IYC, Eric Omare, a lawyer, charged Okumagba to tackle the infrastructural deficit in the Niger Delta.

He said: “”The new NDDC management must keep politics aside and face the developmental challenges of the Niger Delta region. We call on all stakeholders in the region to give the new board the required support to achieve their mandate.

Meanwhile, other sources have revealed that the report of appointments of new board of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC may be a ‘planted’ press release that doesn’t have the backing of the President.

President Buhari is currently at the Seventh Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD 7) which holds from August 28-31 in Japan and may not have authorised the release of any names of appointees into NDDC board as being circulated in the online and social media, our dependable sources said.

Although BIGPEN Online couldn’t independently verify this information but investigation has shown that the announcement of the composition of the new board didn’t follow due process and laid down procedure.

Sources disclosed that appointments into the commission are prerogative right of Mr President, who will forward a letter to the Senate to approve the confirmation of the appointments.

Such letters are often made public by the Senate President during senate plenary and not through the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation.

The Nigerian Senate is currently on its 8 weeks recess which started after completing the screening of President Buhari’s 43 ministerial nominees. It is expected to reconvene on Sept. 24.

Our sources in the presidency while puncturing holes in the names of appointees, also said that there had never been a time when Mr. President would direct NDDC acting Managing Director as it is in the statement to hand-over to the most senior Director in the Commission.

Another hole in the so-called appointments, according to another source is that the statement asked the appointees who have not been confirmed by the Senate to report to office of Secretary to the Government of the Federation which is unprecedented.

The statement was quoted to have reads, “The Chairman and members of the newly composed Governing Board are also invited to the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation on Monday, 2nd September, 2019 at 2.00 p.m for proper documentation and briefing.

“They are to come along with their updated CVs and valid identification”.

Also appointments of such magnitude as NDDC cannot be signed and route through a “Permanent Secretary (General Services Office) in the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Olusegun A. Adekunle, Esq” as being circulated in the press release when the SFG was just sworn in to power.

“Since when did the presidency start asking appointees to report to Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation for proper documentation and briefing at a specific time and to come along with their updated CVs and valid identification in a public statement”, our source queried.

BIGPEN Online source further said, “The entire appointments is ‘fake’, or handiwork of jobbers, because the names released are unacceptable, the entire process is faulty and the manner the names were released made it suspicious, but if these turned out to scale through then the person responsible for those appointments, who authorise the release of the so-called names without following due process may be having serious problem soon.

“Some of these names may have been penciled down for appointment, that’s before the ministerial list came out, the screening and subsequent swearing in and assignments of portfolios and a lot has changed since then, so why would someone wants to jump the gun to beat protocol”, the source queried.

“The ‘cabal’ in the presidency has set a trap for somebody and I think he has fallen into it. That’s all I can tell you”, said the source.