The Niger Delta Development Initiative (NDDI), a socio-cultural, political and economic pressure group has appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari to inaugurate the legally recognised Board of the Niger-Delta Development Commission (NDDC) which he appointed in August 2019.
In a petition signed by the President of the Group Chief Ebikalome Tonye Anselm and Secretary Comrade Johnson Oghenekevbe, the NDDI drew the attention of President Buhari to what it termed ‘the illegalities’ currently going on in the Commission and the urgent need to act in accordance with the law setting it (NDDC) up.
It would be recalled that President Buhari sent the names of members of the Board of the Commission to the Senate for approval in October 2019 for screening. The Senate eventually confirmed the appointment of Dr. Pius Odubu and Bernard Okumagba as chairman and managing director. The lawmakers also confirmed 13 other nominees as members of the board of the commission,
Instead of inaugurating the Board, the President went on to approve the appointment of an Interim Management Committee (IMC) to oversee the affairs of the Commission.
In their petition, the NDDI also appealed to Buhari to sack of Senator Godswill Akpabio, the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs for taking-over the functions of the Commission in violation of the spirit and letters of the enabling Law that set up NDDC.
“Mr. President, we agree that there is a fundamental basis for probing into activities of the Commission, but we are worried that such exercise cannot obliterate the legal foundation upon which the Commission is founded.
“For the avoidance of doubt, your Excellency, we are of the firm view that over the NDDC are nothing short of an assault not only on established legal framework Governing the Management of the Commission, but an assault on the sensibility of the people of Niger Delta and nine member States of the Commission. This has continued despite the cacophony of voices that have risen against the decapitation of the Commission by the Ministry”, the group lamented.
While urging President Muhammadu Buhari not to allow himself to be goaded into sustaining illegalities in one of the interventionist agencies in which huge appropriations are being made annually, the Group appealed to him to shun distractions and “institute a legally recognized Board and Management which he had appointed in August 2019.
It in addition expressed sadness over the manner in which the Management of NDDC is being “manipulated to the extent that even court orders are now been manufactured to pave way for the lackey of the Minister to assume the sole leadership of the Commission” ― despite the litany of allegations of corrupt practices which have been made by several persons and groups across a broad spectrum against the spirit and letters of the enabling Law that set up the Commission”.
The petition further accuse the Minister of wrongly advising President Muhammadu Buhari against the inauguration whose main objective is to join other compatriots to advance the cause of development of the Niger Delta in particular and Nigeria in general.
It recalled how a Federal High court sitting in Abuja on the 20th day of January 2021, in suit No. FHC/ABJ/617/2020 Between the Incorporated Trustees of Forum for Accountability and Good Governance made a very startling revelation that it never granted any interim injunction to the Pondei-led Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the NDDC”, which had been dissolved by the President before its supposed lifespan in December 2020 and thereafter directed the most Senior Director should assume in capacity of a Sole Administrator based on the vacuum that was created in the development as it was widely reported on December 12, 2020, amidst protests and litigations by the various interest groups and Stakeholders in the polity on account of gross and further violation of the NDDC Act.