There is still tension in the Niger Delta over agitations for the inauguration of substantive board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and putting an end to the regime of Interim Management Committee (IMC), days after stakeholders meeting with the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, in Abuja. National Daily gathered several stakeholders in the Niger Delta are pessimistic and doubt that the federal government will implement the agreement or promises made at the meeting with the minister. The stakeholders argued that the federal government seldom honoured agreements or promises made in the past in the Niger Delta. Accordingly, the Niger Delta stakeholders are still in doubt that the government will honour the promise of the minister to inaugurate the substantive board of the NDDC. They insisted that the ultimatum issued for the appointment of the NDDC board should remain.
A Niger Delta stakeholder from Bayelsa State, a former Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Timi Frank, had in a statement in Abuja, declared that the meeting in Abuja between the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, and Niger Delta leaders on the seven-day ultimatum issued by High Chief Government Ekpemupolo – Tompolo – for the reconstitution of a substantive board for the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), was not in the interest of the Niger Delta people.
Timi Frank had insisted that the Federal Government must comply with the ultimatum issued by High Chief Government Ekpemupolo, Tompolo, for the reconstitution of a substantive board for the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) in the interest of the region.
Timi Frank had alleged Akpabio intended to use the meeting to cover the illegalities he has so far perpetrated in the NDDC and the region, warning the presidency not to accept any position paper from the minister derived from the meeting.
Timi Frank, therefore, declared: “I am using this opportunity to call on the Federal Government to respect the ultimatum given by Tompolo as nothing will change the positions of Chief Clark, Niger Delta governors and other stakeholders who have demanded the sack of the illegal sole administrator of the NDDC and the immediate reconstitution of the board of the agency.
“We, therefore, insist and stand by the demands of High Chief Government Ekpemupolo as stated in his ultimatum concerning the reconstitution of the NDDC Board.”
The Ijaw Youths Council (IYC) had earlier demanded President Muhammadu Buhari to urgently dissolve the Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and inaugurate a substantive board.
The IYC, in a statement by the Council President, Peter Timothy Igbifa, protested that the IMC was no longer useful and should not be retained any longer.
The IMC, appointed by Buhari on October 30, 2019, led by Prof. Keme Pondei, was under fire, being accused of poor performance and alleged corruption before the dissolution of the committee.
The IYC President had argued that the notion that the IMC was needed to supervise the forensic audit of the NDDC was no longer justified.
Igbifa declared: “The Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) Worldwide believes strongly that the present Interim Management Committee of the NDDC has outlived its usefulness and does not have anything new to add to the development of the Niger Delta region.”
Igbifa had maintained: “When President Muhammadu Buhari appointed the Interim Management Committee on the 30th of October, 2019 to oversee the activities of the Commission as the forensic auditors carry on their assignment, so many persons in the region were not pleased with the idea of appointing an Interim Management Committee, knowing that they will be hamstrung by the powers that be from effectively discharging their responsibility to the people of the region.
“Today, even the doubting Thomases will agree that there is a huge disconnect between the people, their developmental needs and what the present Interim Management Committee is doing in the Commission.
“One of the primary reasons that was given for the appointment of the present Interim Management Committee by those that facilitated the installation of the current illegal contraption; which negates the NDDC Act, is to the effect that the audit assignment should be done without any interference.
“Of course we don’t have any problem with that, but as a council and a prominent voice in the region, we are at a loss to the effect that, there is no audit going on in the NDDC, even if there is, that does not stop the President from inaugurating a substantive Board.”
The agitations for the dissolution of the IMC and inaugurating a substantive NDDC board was given currency by the increasing allegations of corruption which include the N81.5 billion NDDC IMC spent in seven months without visible improvement on the development of the Niger Delta states or the welfare of citizens resident in the region.
The NDDC IMC was initially alleged to have spent the N81.5 billion in 6 months – January 2020 to July 2020 – but the IMC accepted the fund was spent in 7 months – October 2019 to May 2020 – not six months.
The NDDC IMC had in a tweet on its official twitter handle on Sunday, July 19, 2020, explained that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) record showed that the N81.5 billion was spent by the two Interim Management Committees of the NDDC between October 29, 2019, and May 31, 2020.
The IMC in the tweet, highlighted: “It’s false to say NDDC mismanaged N81.5 billion between January and July 2020. Truth is that sum was spent by two Interim Management Committees of the NDDC between October 29, 2019, and May 31, 2020, according to the Central Bank of Nigeria.”
Subsequently, the two chambers of the National Assembly, the Senate and House of Representatives, in May 2020, moved to investigate members of the NDDC IMC on allegations of N40 billion mismanagement in 3 months.
After earlier grandstanding, NDDC IMC submitted to investigations by the Ad hoc committees. The then acting Managing Director of NDDC IMC, Prof. Kemebradikumo Pondei, had fainted in one of the sessions of the lawmakers.
Meanwhile, agitations for substantive appointment of substantive NNDC board persist in line with the continuous demands for the development of the Niger Delta states.
The drama between the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, and a former Managing Director of the NDDC IMC, Prof. Joy Anunieh, at the senate investigation of the alleged mismanagement of N40 billion, raised more suspicion or disaffection over perceived diversion of NDDC funds from the goals of the commission under the interim managers.
Meanwhile, Akpabio at the meeting requested for time till the end of June to follow up on the inauguration of substantive board of the NDDC.
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