Group Urges Buhari to Hearken to Stakeholders, Inaugurate NDDC Board
Niger Delta Peoples’ Forum (NDPF) has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to hearken to the increased mass agitation across the Niger Delta region in the past few weeks to end the ongoing illegality in NDDC, abide by the law, fulfil his own promise of June 24, 2021, and inaugurate the substantive board of NDDC to ensure equitable representation of the nine constituent states.
According to the National Chairman of the group, Chief Boma Ebiakpo, the recent upsurge of protests and agitation by a broad assemblage of stakeholders in the past few weeks demanding for the inauguration of NDDC Board aligns with the region’s legitimate demand that the Commission be governed according to law to ensure proper corporate governance, accountability, probity, and equitable representation of the nine constituent states.
NDPF told President Buhari that barely two weeks ago, the Wailing Women of the Niger Delta (WWND) decried the alleged “ongoing embezzlement of funds allocated to the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) under the illegal sole administrator under the current Minister for Niger Delta Affairs. This is with a view to demand accountability.”
According to the Coordinator of WWND Odighonin Adienbo, “What have the funds coming to the NDDC been used for since the illegal appointment of a sole administrator in sheer defiance of the NDDC Act without a proper board? More so as contractors are not being paid and no projects are embarked upon under the guise of forensic audit report. The current situation in the region can only be likened to a crime against humanity and we will not accept it.”
Ebiakpo also reminded the President of the protest that rocked Edo state last week as vehicular and human activities were disrupted along the busy Murtala Muhammed Way in Benin when hundreds of youths protested and demanded the inauguration of NDDC board.
The protesters under the auspices of Concerned Edo Citizens in conjunction with Coalition of Edo Volunteers Groups carried placards of various inscriptions accusing the Minister of the Niger Delta, Godswill Akpabio of personalising the Commission, alleging that all those calling the shots in the intervention agency (The Minister and the Sole Administrator) are from Akwa Ibom State
In a statement jointly signed by Barr. Eni Balulu, Comrade Eshiefaotsa Sylanus and Comrade Kola Edokpayi, the group demanded, “the inauguration of the substantive Board of NDDC as screened and confirmed by the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, since November 2019.”
Niger Delta Peoples’ Forum also drew President Buhari’s attention to a group, Project Niger Delta, which last week vowed to mobilise youths across the region to protest the continued delay in the inauguration of the board of the Niger Delta Development Commission.
The group made this known in an open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari and signed by its Executive Director and Coordinator, Comrade Princewill Ebebi urging President Buhari to “set up modalities to inaugurate the NDDC board.”
According to Project Niger Delta, “as its stands, it is only Akwa Ibom State where the minister and interim administrator hail from that is benefiting from the NDDC while other states are mere spectators in the affairs of the commission.
“It is regrettable that a major institution established by law to tackle the development challenges of the Niger Delta region has been rendered redundant with the continued delay in the inauguration of a substantive board as stipulated in the Act setting up the commission. It is sad that since you came on board, the management and running of the commission has been vested in the hands of acting managing director, interim administrator, and now sole administrator, in flagrant disregard of the Act setting up the commission and therefore denying the component states the opportunity to have representatives in the board.
“This has not only dragged the region backwards but is causing serious unrest, agitations, and indignation amongst the people of the Niger Delta Region.”
In a similar vein, NDPF also alerted President Buhari to the three-day protest two weeks ago, and the ultimatum issued last week by NDDC indigenous contractors who have given the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio and the NDDC Sole Administrator a five-day ultimatum to pay off the debts owed them, and also demanding that President Buhari inaugurates the Commission’s substantive board.
Chief Boma Ebiakpo finally drew President Buhari’s attention to the scathing statement of activists under the auspices of 21st Century Youths of Niger-Delta and Agitators for Conscience, (21st CYNDAC) last week who said that “What is happening in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) presently is worse than what gave birth to Mr. President’s calling for a forensic audit of the NDDC.”
The group, in a statement, by its spokesperson, Izon Ebi, therefore called on the leadership of the National Assembly, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, to do the needful by “advising Mr. President to immediately inaugurate the substantive board of NDDC, so as not to be seen as the persons conspiring with the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, to plunge Niger Delta region into fresh crisis capable of eroding the gains of the present peace being enjoyed by Niger-Deltans and oil multinationals.”
NDPF therefore stated that “Niger Delta stakeholders have collectively made the point that President Buhari needs to redeem himself now that the Forensic audit report has been submitted to him since September 2, 2021. The President should do well to heed the call of Niger Delta leaders, governors, youths, women, traditional rulers, civil society organisations, and other stakeholders, comply with the law setting up NDDC, and also fulfill his own promise of June 24, 2021, and inaugurate the board to manage the Commission for the benefit of the people of the nine Niger Delta States.”
The group recalled that on the 24th of June 2021, while receiving the leadership of the Ijaw National Congress in Aso Rock, Abuja, President Buhari promised that the NDDC Board will be inaugurated once the forensic audit report was submitted.
The President said: ‘‘Based on the mismanagement that had previously bedeviled the NDDC, a forensic audit was set up and the result is expected by the end of July, 2021. I want to assure you that as soon as the forensic audit report is submitted and accepted, the NDDC Board will be inaugurated.”
NDPF said its regrets that the forensic audit report had been submitted to the President since six months ago, on September 2, 2021, yet the President was yet to fulfil his promise to inaugurate the NDDC Board while also noting that the North East Development Commission (NEDC) has been allowed to function with its duly constituted Board in place in line with its NEDC Act thereby ensuring proper corporate governance, accountability, checks and balances and fair representation of its constituent states, whereas the NDDC on the other hand has been run arbitrarily in the last two years by Interim committees/sole administrator in breach of the NDDC Act.
The Niger Delta Peoples’ Forum therefore affirmed that it aligns with the demands of all authentic Niger Delta stakeholders that President Buhari should end the ongoing illegal Interim Management/sole administratorship at the NDDC and inaugurate the NDDC Governing Board in line with the NDDC Act to represent the nine constituent states, and thereby ensure proper corporate governance, accountability, transparency, and probity in managing the Commission.