The appeal was contained in a statement issued by the General Secretary of AUPCTRE, Comrade Sikiru Wahid, on Sunday, August 14, 2022. The labour union said the call has become imperative to save the commission from destruction.
There has been unending calls by authentic stakeholders who have consistently demanded that the NDDC Act should be complied with in the governance of the Commission noting that it is illegal to have contraptions of interim management committees / sole administrator to administer the NDDC and arbitrarily utilise the monthly sums due to the Commission.
AUPCTRE in the statement appealed to President Buhari, the National Assembly, the President of the Senate, Dr. Ahmad Lawan, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, and the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Umana Okon Umana, to take urgent steps to ensure NDDC delivered on its mandate.
The statement read ”as critical stakeholders in the Niger Delta Development Commission, and of the regional development efforts, after taking a critical review and appraisal of all the happenings within and around the NDDC, since January, 2019, have resolved as follows:
”That we as staff of the NDDC collectively, under the umbrella of AUPCTRE, cannot fold our hands while different political actors from the region through their actions or inactions undermine the enabling Act of the NDDC, and so threaten the corporate existence of the commission; that as a Union, we say to all political heavy weights from the Niger Delta Region, that enough of putting personal interest over and above the development of the region for which the vehicle of the Niger Delta Development Commission was setup.”
The union further noted that when in January 2019, NDDC’s Managing Director/CEO Nsima Ekere and its Chairman, Senator Victor Ndoma Egba, SAN, resigned their appointments to contest elections in their respective states, their positions should have been filled in accordance with Section 5, Paragraph 3, of the Act establishing the commission. The paragraph states inter alia that: ”where a vacancy occurs in the membership of the board, it shall be filled by the appointment of a successor to hold office for the remainder of the term of his predecessor. So however, that the successor shall represent the same interest and shall be appointed by the President, Commander –in – Chief of the Armed Forces, subject to the confirmation of the Senate,” the union explained.
AUPCTRE, however noted with dismay that political gladiators from the region for whatever reason(s), allegedly ill-advised President Buhari to dissolve the Ndoma Egba-led board of the commission, and in its place, appointed an Interim Management Committee.
Recall that in 2019, President Muhammadu Buhari forwarded to the Senate for confirmation nominees for appointment into the Board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) via a letter dated 18th October, 2019 where the President specifically sought the Senate’s confirmation of the appointment of the nominees as members of the NDDC Board and the Nigerian Senate in Plenary duly confirmed the appointments on November 5, 2019.
However, after the nominees were screened and confirmed by the Nigerian Senate on the 5th of November 2019, President Buhari asked that the inauguration of the Board should be put on hold pending the completion of a forensic audit of the NDDC. The Forensic audit report has been submitted to President Muhammadu Buhari since eleven months ago, on September 2, 2021. However the NDDC Board which has been put on hold since November 2019 is yet to be inaugurated.
Currently there is increasing anger against the Federal Government in the Niger Delta region as a result of the very poor, biased, illegal and provocative actions of the Federal Government in the handling of matters concerning the NDDC and the Niger Delta region. Specifically, the NDDC has in the past three years been administered with illegal interim managements/sole administrator contraptions, contrary to the provisions of NDDC Act and negates fair and equitable representation which a board guarantees and which ensures proper governance, accountability, equity and fairness to the nine constituent states.
The union said that the Interim Management Committees/Sole Administrator contraptions that have been administering the Commission in the past three years do not provide fair and equitable representation of the constituent states, a situation that has culminated into anger and lack of support by the aggrieved persons towards successive interim management committees/sole administrator. According to them, “instead of focusing efforts on driving development of the Commission, these illegal committees either fight back or focus on pacifying the aggrieved stakeholders.”
According to AUPCTRE, since that January 2019 therefore, it has been one interim administration or the other. “We as members of staff, as a union, are saying enough of all these. Let the right thing be done,” AUPCTRE reiterated.
The group also lamented over what it described as ”unending audits which fritter away the funds of the commission,” because according to them, ”a forensic audit that was meant to take between three to six months to complete, but eventually took almost two years to complete, has been undertaken. A forensic audit that could have been carried out without suspension of the inauguration of a board, but for some personal reasons one or two politicians from the Niger Delta Region ill advised the president against the inauguration of the board.”
It will be recalled that President Buhari made a commitment to the nation on the 24th day of June 2021, while receiving the leadership of Ijaw National Congress (INC) at the State House in Abuja that the NDDC Board would be inaugurated as soon as the forensic audit report is submitted and accepted. 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.” The Forensic audit report has been submitted to President Muhammadu Buhari eleven months ago, since September 2, 2021 but the Board is yet to be inaugurated.
AUPCTRE affirmed that as staff of the commission and as a union, they want to partner with President Buhari and the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs to do the right thing for the NDDC. They therefore demanded that the Board of the NDDC be inaugurated in accordance with the law, “with the same ease as it has been done for other commissions, agencies and parastatals of government across the Federation.”
A broad assemblage of Niger Delta stakeholders also believe that by ending the ongoing illegality of sole administratorship in NDDC and inaugurating the Commission’s substantive board in compliance with the law, to represent the nine constituent states, it will inevitably ensure proper corporate governance, checks and balances, accountability, transparency, and probity in managing the Commission.