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General News of Monday, 20 June 2022

Source: www.thisdaylive.com

Again, Group urges Buhari to halt illegality in NDDC now

President Muhammadu Buhari President Muhammadu Buhari

A group of concerned All Progressives Congress (APC) members in the oil-rich Niger Delta region of Nigeria has called on President Muhammadu Buhari and the party leaders to immediately intervene to put a stop to what it termed the continuing illegality around the activities of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).

The seeming indefinite situation in the NDDC vis-a-vis the reported insurgence of apparent acts of sabotage against smooth operations of oil and gas activities in the Niger Delta should give the federal government and the APC leaders cause for worry, the group asserted made available to THISDAY in Asaba. The group said: “It is very troubling and, therefore, do not augur well for our ruling APC in the Niger Delta as we head into the 2023 general elections to allow the alleged illegality to continue due to failure of President Buhari to duly constitute the board of the commission.” This call has become more urgent in the wake of the emergence of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State and Chairman, South-south Governors’ Forum, as presidential running mate to the candidate of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar and the reported resurgence of acts of vandalism of oil installations in the region.

The APC group, under the auspices of the “Committed Members of the APC from the Niger Delta Region,” said in a statement that “with the selection of Okowa as PDP’s vice-presidential candidate, however, it further diminishes whatever chances our party, the APC ever had in the region given the ruling party’s government choice of foisting interim management and sole administrator contraption in the region’s foremost intervention agency, NDDC, in violation ofw the law, for nearly three years; and, thereby denying the nine constituent states opportunity for fair and equitable representation on the commission’s board.”

Citing in a story published in a national daily on June 14, 2022, entitled “S&P Report: Pipeline Closures, Maintenance Drag Nigeria’s Oil Output to New Low,” the group stated that “Nigeria’s crude oil output has plunged to new low in recent weeks, hit by pipeline closures (due to) vandalism and outright sabotage as well as community issues. The newspaper further quoted Platts Analytics stating that ‘Political risks may worsen ahead of elections in early 2023’.”

The group noted that 21st Century Youths in Niger Delta and Agitators with Conscience (21st CYNDAC), according to its coordinator, Izon Ebi, had cautioned that with the government’s dismantling of hitherto thriving illegal oil refinery activities in the region, the youths of the region would again resort to destruction of oil pipelines if they are not productively re-engaged, which equitable representation of the nine constituent states on NDDC board can guarantee.

Emphasizing how Okowa PDP’s vice-presidential candidacy and resurgence of oil pipeline vandalism would further diminish whatever chances APC had in the region, the group lamented: “How the long-suffering people of the Niger Delta region have had to endure nearly three years of the region’s foremost agency has been administered in violation of its establishment Act”.

“In effect, the nine NDDC states of Abia, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Edo, Imo, Ondo, and Rivers, which by law ought to have representation on the board, have been de­prived of their statutory representation due to the failure/delay of the president to inaugurate the board of the commission, in contravention of the NDDC Act,” the group added.

They regretted that the constituent states have been deprived of the opportunity of having their representatives who, sitting on the NDDC board, are supposed to ensure that the budget of the NDDC is run in the way that what is due to each state gets to them. According to them, “this blatantly illegal act of the Federal Government has been de-marketing APC in the region.”

The APC members recalled that in its recent letter to President Muhammadu Buhari and APC leadership, it specifically cautioned that “as it stands, the APC cannot win an election in the region except the missteps in NDDC are remedied and the NDDC substantive board is inaugurated in accordance with the law setting up the commission.”

The group also drew attention that already another group, the Niger Delta Rescue Movement (NDRM) has since vowed not to back the APC in the 2023 elections following the delay to inaugurate a substantive board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).

The spokesman of NRDM, Jonathan Okwa, said the group would ensure the mobilisation of the people of Niger Delta region to vote against the APC in the 2023 presidential and general elections if the board is not inaugurated.

The APC group also regretted that the situation currently in NDDC which has subsisted for two years is that “there is an illegal sole administrator who is both Managing Director, Executive Director of Finance, and Executive Director Projects, in clear breach of NDDC Act which ensures separation of these duties to ensure checks and balances.”

They further argued that the continued administration of the NDDC by Interim management committees / sole administrator was “illegal because the NDDC Act has no provision for this illegality as the NDDC Act only provides that the board and management of the NDDC at any point in time should follow the provisions of the law which states that the Board and management is to be appointed by the president, subject to confirmation by the Senate. Nobody is supposed to begin to administer the NDDC and utilise the huge funds accruing to it on a monthly basis without passing through this legal requirement as stipulated in the NDDC Act.

“The APC leadership should be concerned about the dissatisfaction of the Niger Delta people over the manner President Buhari has handled the NDDC, most especially administering the commission with illegal interim managements/sole administrator contraptions for five years in his seven years in office, and therefore needs to end the ongoing illegality in NDDC if APC desires to win the upcoming general elections, across the board in the entire region, and be remembered for good in the Niger Delta. Otherwise, what will be APC’s response when the opposition party in its electioneering campaigns denounce APC for non-compliance with the NDDC Act and thereby denying the nine constituent states of their legitimate demands for equitable representation on the board of NDDC for the benefit of their people?”

The group further stated that “given the various encounters our presidential aspirants had with party delegates from Akwa Ibom, Abia, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Edo, Imo, Ondo, to Rivers states, our party should no longer be in doubt about the mood of the people of the region with regard to their genuine angst towards the Federal Government and APC for the way we have been badly treated by certain elements in the Federal Government who feed fat on the resources of our region.”

It noted that Niger Delta leaders, governors, youths, women, traditional rulers, civil society organisations, and other stakeholders, have consistently demanded that Buhari should comply with the law setting up NDDC, end the ongoing illegality in the Commission, and inaugurate the substantive board.

While receiving the leadership of the Ijaw National Congress (INC) in Abuja on June 24, 2021, President Buhari had assured that the board will be inaugurated once the forensic audit report was submitted.

That report has been submitted to the president since September 2, 2021, yet he has delayed inaugurating the board, it said.

“Despite further assurances that the submission of the report would see to the inauguration of the board, it has not ended the delays, manipulations and hijacking of the NDDC by vested interests. This foremost federal government agency set up to right the wrongs in the Niger Delta over the years is still being run by a sole administrator appointed in breach of the NDDC Act.”

It also drew attention to an extensive story in a national newspaper on Saturday, June 4, 2022, entitled “NDDC no longer serves N’Delta interests — PANDEF, monarchs, stakeholders,” in which a wide spectrum of opinion leaders and authentic stakeholders bemoaned the current deplorable state of the Commission and urged President Buhari to inaugurate the board that has been screened and confirmed by the Nation’s Senate since November 2019.

In the view the group, for a government that prides itself for adherence to rule of law, this administration “conversely continues to administer the NDDC in flagrant violation of the NDDC Act. As a commission established in 2000 by an Act of Parliament, the ongoing national embarrassment at NDDC should be of grave concern to President Buhari and the ruling APC, about our diminishing chances of making any impact in the upcoming 2023 general elections and thereby should persuade the President and the APC leadership to put an end to the illegality of further administering NDDC with a Sole Administrator that is not known to the law setting up the commission.”

The APC members, therefore, urged Buhari to “keep to his promise of June 24, 2021, end the illegal sole administratorship at the NDDC, inaugurate the NDDC Governing Board in line with the NDDC Act to represent the nine constituent states, and thereby ensure proper corporate governance, checks and balances, accountability, transparency, and probity in managing the commission.

“We further state that this is the minimum the Federal Government and the APC can do to win back the trust of the Niger Delta people and stand a chance to do well in the region in the forthcoming 2023 general election.”

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