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Vested Interests And The New NDDC Board

By Substance Nature-Udo


Not many observers can easily be convinced that the episodic melodramas that heralded the newly constituted board of the NDDC will not last beyond what was seen. Lety assume, with a measure of restraint and hope, that the last act has been staged. But the sequence of happenings that led to the marching orders by the Nigerian Senate to the new Board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) to start work immediately, snobbishly discarding Sen. Godswill Akpabio’s Interim Management Committee, still wander on minds.


On Tuesday, October 29, 2019, President Buhari had, through the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), manned by Boss Mustapha, forwarded 16 names of nominees for the new Board of the NDDC to the National Assembly. It was therefore curious that in the evening of the same day, October 29, 2019, the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Sen. Godswill Akpabio, set up a 3-man Interim Management Committee (IMC) for the same board.


The protem set-up comprised Dr. Joy Gbene Nunieh (Acting Manging Director); Dr. Cairo Ojougboh, Acting Executive Director, Projects; and Chief Ibanga Bassey Etang (Acting Executive Director, Finance/Administartion). The former Senator and Governor of Akwa Ibom State had argued that the essence was to give the IMC “an enabling environment” to manage the board for about a period six months, during which the forensic audit of the NDDC shall have been completed.


In the spectrum of the federal parliamentarians, Akpabio was too presumptuous and his haste akin to toppling the apple cart. So, the Senate on Tuesday, November 5, 2019 successfully screened the 15 nominees out of the 16 earlier forwarded to it by President Buhari and empowered the new board to immediately take charge. The names dropped to 15 because Dr. Joy Nunieh representing Rivers State, out of perceived anger that the Senate was acting against her interest and relishing position on the IMC, was said to have defiantly shunned the screening even when, according to the Chairman of Senate Committee on NDDC, Sen. Peter Nwaoboshi, an invitation was respectfully extended to her like it was to others concerned.


The Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, had dismissed the IMC as null and void on the logic that the law that set up the NDDC does not recognize any interim arrangement once a board is in place. Lawan cleared clouds of fears on the minds of two fellow senators, the Senate Minority Leader, Enyinnaya Abaribe and Ike Ekweremadu on the likely fate of the Interim Management Committee now that a board has been properly instituted. The answer was instant and logical: “With the completion of this process of confirmation, I am sure that any structure that exists in the NDDC is vitiated. I don’t think we have anything to worry about because this is one thing that is clearly established by the law”, Lawan had elucidated with unshaken tone of finality.
In the same vein, the House of Representatives on Thursday, November 14, 2019 summoned Sen. Akpabio to immediately dissolve the IMC. Ossai Osssai (PDP, Edo) had lighted the flame with a motion that the existence of the IMC contravenes Section 8 of The NDDC Act that allocates the management and administration of the NDDC to a governing board. The resolution was unanimous, irrevocable, enforceable.
Since then, there have come expressed and pent-up feelings. Some have launched the argument that the Niger Delta Minister’s IMC could hardly have emerged without some conspiracy on the power-chain; otherwise, as they further contended, it would not have been tolerated to the extent it was, with befuddling political diplomacy.


Some others have speculated that part of the reasons for the observable disappointments on faces or the heated exchanges of words amongst the power brokers was that some of them were sidelined in the choices or nominations of members into the NDDC new board. For instance, writing on the topic, “Revealed – How Akpabio, Omo-Agege Fell Out Over NDDC Board Appointments”, the Nation Newspaper of Saturday, November 16, 2019, tried to join the edges in creating a montage of what allegedly must have transpired behind the scene.


In expectation and practice, The NDDC Act 2000 in section 1 (1) establishes the Commission; while section 2 (1)C creates a Governing Board to oversee and run the affairs of the Commission, which only the President has the power to appoint and inaugurate after due screening and confirmation by the Senate in consultation with the House of Representatives as encouraged by section 2 (2)a of the Act. Categorically, the Act does not make any provision for the President to delegate his power to control, supervise or direct the affairs of the Commission to any Minister, individual or groups, Sections 7 (3); section 23.


Maybe it is also expedient to state that the NDDC Act does place the NDDC under the armpit of the Minister of Niger Delta. The Ministry only has a responsibility to liaise with the Commission. This, in the eyes of the law, is to checkmate duplication or overlapping of duties that no one may be held answerable. But there are slight changes and provisions with regards to establishments like the Universal Basic Education Commission, UBEC Act 2004; Tertiary Education Trust Fund Act 2011, etc. Of course, Members here are not required to be screened by the Senate.
The intrigues that attended the grandstand inauguration of the new NDDC Board in a near emergency situation by the National Assembly, which emasculated Sen. Akpabio’s factional brainchild, were indicative of cracks on the nascent board. Conversely, in the lenses of many observers, because the board apparently has benefactors and beneficiaries even as it stands at the moment, what happened were pointers to possible subterranean conflicts of interest that might spill into the bloodstream of the board and have it work with divided loyalty and distorted focus throughout its life span. This may be part of the endemic viruses responsible for the inefficiency and underperformance of NDDC over the years!


It thus appears that some bigwigs have stakes on the NDDC board they must promote and protect in determining who holds what and what goes to whom. In the process, or by this open-secret tradition, a highly potent seed bound to beget distrust and distraction has deliberately or casually been sown on minds, and the fruitage might be poisonous to the collective growth of the already crippled Commission. Will those who felt and still feel that they were played out in the process of nomination and allocation of juicy offices ever see reasons to join forces with the superior logic of the majority in advancing the altruistic cause of the NDDC?


Although the sanctimonious ones might pretend in vain to the contrary, in this country where practically everything is tied to the apron strings of politics, loyalty has been discovered to first be given to benefactors and godfathers than to corporate national interest, especially when it comes to award of contracts, employment opportunities and other privileges. In the eyes of public opinion, NDDC is already a pitiable victim of practicable anomalies largely on account of vested interests. Will there be any appreciative difference with the new board given the official antics that ushered it into office?


Perhaps one thing that cannot be mistaken in the near comical episodes is the fact that, without pretensions or signs of tiredness at shaking more tables, Sen. Akpabio so far may have proven how complex and complicated the plights of the NDDC are. Yet, what essentially must matter most now is trying to tackle them than creating more. The restless Minister needs as much support from all as he should be unsparing in giving others. Shared interests will be far better than selfish interest.



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