RUMBLES OVER CONSTITUTION OF NDDC BOARD, 5 MONTHS AFTER FORENSIC REPORT WAS SUBMITTED

There is disquiet in the Niger Delta over delay by the Federal Government to inaugurate a substantive board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).

Various groups in the region are agitated that in spite of appeals by prominent people and organisations from the zone, the federal government has not deemed it necessary to inaugurate the board.

President Muhammadu Buhari, on June 24, 2021 gave a firm promise to inaugurate the NDDC Board upon receipt of the Commission’s forensic audit report. The President is yet to fulfil the promise five months after.

The Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) described the development as   one of the low points of the Buhari administration.

National Publicity Secretary of the forum, Hon Ken Robinson, said: “The NDDC as it is, is under the control of the President and for obvious reasons or reasons best known to him, he has delegated powers to the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs who incidentally has made himself to become the de-facto managing director of the NDDC.  The Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs as it is, has become the Ministry of Niger Delta Development Commission.

“Someone who was governor of a state in the Niger Delta region, who was a senator and who is now a minister is conducting himself in this manner  and Mr. President unfortunately has continually remained an unconcerned spectator in the affairs of a critical interventionist agency like the NDDC.

“That we are still talking about a board for the NDDC over two years after the substantive board was dissolved and an interim management put in place clearly shows the disregard this presidency and its officials have for the Niger Delta region and its people. We have discussed this matter to a point that people have issued ultimatum, threats and all that, but it is insulting to the Niger Delta people that a statutory body created by an act of the National Assembly has been grossly abused in the management and running of the agency and no one can tell exactly what is happening in that place.”

He further said: “As we said earlier when the so-called forensic audit was made public, we challenged the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs to make it public. We challenged him to say there was truly a forensic audit because some of the statements that came out during the presentation of the forensic audit were completely outrageous intended to blackmail certain persons in the Niger Delta and even perhaps some people in their government. It is part of the frustrations of the Niger Delta people. As elders of the nation, we have continued to appeal to our people not to take the path of violence in ways that will further threaten the peace and security of our zone.”

Robison noted that the delay in inaugurating the board had brought untold developmental setbacks to the region. “The consequence of that is that developmental issues in the Niger Delta are not being addressed.  As bad as it is that the NDDC has not done what it was supposed to do, it has not delivered on its core mandate of fast tracking infrastructural development in the Niger Delta, at least some little things were done.  Some projects they were carrying out here are all abandoned.”

 

MOSIEND dare ex-agitators to speak up

The Ijaw Advocacy group, Movement for Survival of Ijaw Ethnic Nationalities in Niger Delta (MOSIEND) has queried the silence of former militant leaders, Government Ekpemupolo aka Tompolo, Ateke Tom and Victor Ben aka Boyloaf on refusal of the Federal Government to inaugurate the substantive board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).

Tompolo had on May 30 issued a seven-day ultimatum to the Federal Government to inaugurate the substantive Board of the Niger – Delta Development Commission, NDDC.

Then, the ex- militant leader in a statement, said: “I wish to call on Mr. President, members of the National Assembly and security agencies to work towards the constitution of the substantive board of the NDDC, within a few days, to avert a total breakdown of law and order that will equally affect crude oil exploration and exploitation activities in the region.

“I hereby proclaim a seven- day ultimatum starting the date of this publication to inaugurate the substantive board of the Commission.”

“Senator Akpabio’s temporal reprieve from the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) protest is a child’s play compared to what is to come in a few days. He is about to be awakened to the rage of the Niger Delta region,” he warned.

Little or nothing has been heard from Tompolo thereafter and that has got many stakeholders from the region worried.

MOSIEND in a statement signed by its National Vice-President, Thompson Fouye and National Director, Mobilization, Alhaji Abubakar Brown, dared the ex-militant to speak on the matter and give fresh ultimatum to President Muhammadu Buhari and the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio to inaugurate the board.

The group said: “We dare Tompolo, Ateke Tom and Victor Ben to give a joint seven-day ultimatum to the Federal Government and Sen. Godswill Akpabio concerning the composition of the NDDC board if they’re truly worried about the hardship the delay in the constitution of the board is inflicting on the masses.

“Their strange quietness is generating disquietness amongst groups who recognized their contributions in the struggle hitherto.”

The statement said MOSIEND believed that the recent hobnobbing between the ex-militants and Akpabio, who visited Okochiri, the Kingdom of Ateke Tom and Oporoza, the home of Tompolo should yield positive results instead of getting them dumb on issues disturbing the region.

It said: “Ordinarily, the recent hobnobbing between the former warlords and the Minister of Niger Delta Sen Godswill Akpabio from his visit to Okochiri and subsequently Oporoza should yield tangible results other than

Oporoza should yield tangible results other than getting them suddenly dumb and sleepy over matters bordering on the genuine welfare of their people.

“The recent happenings show ethnic nationalities in the Niger Delta lack the energy and synergy to collectively bargain a better deal for ourselves as a region.

“President Muhammadu Buhari should not be blamed for Akpabio’s selfishness and the docility of our political leaders and stakeholders. Any attempt to scrap NDDC will face stiff resistance. Akpabio is just flying a kite; it is an exercise in futility”.

 

Delay affecting operations of international oil companies

A Niger Delta-based group, the Ijaw Interest Advocates (IIA), also known as the Izanzan Intellectual Camp, has alleged that the refusal of the Federal Government to inaugurate a substantive board for the NDDC is taking its toll on the operations of international oil companies in the oil-rich region.

The group on  Saturday, also said the same situation had depleted the quantum of the nation’s daily oil production, adding: “This  was due to the rising agitations in many host communities across the Niger Delta region.”

In a statement by its Coordinator, Amb. Arerebo Salaco Yerinmene SNR, the group blamed Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, for the situation.

“Recently, most of Akpabio’s gimmicks over the NDDC board issue are adding to fuel the already battered discord between the multi- nationals and the oil producing communities.

“Abuja should not be carried away and be sharing the goodies and mouthwatering stories from Akpabio. Be informed, the silent damages been caused to multinationals in their respective host communities which if not quickly attended to, might majorly affect the entire country’s  economy,” it said.

The group noted that some major IOCs operating in the oil-rich region are on the verge of leaving the country, while others have been recording dwindling production due to the continuous agitations.

“Today, as we speak, Agip Oil Company is at the verge of collapsing following the reduction of production per day. Chevron is shaking, Shell is barely surviving and even threatening to exit Nigeria.

“As at 2015, Agip Oil Company was producing about 250,000 barrels per day. But today, they are producing less than 30,000 barrels per day.

Shell was producing about 600,000 barrels as at 2014 but today it has crashed down to the extent of threatening to pull out of Nigeria.

“There are many other factors but indisputably, the main reason has to do with communal challenges,” the group asserted.

IIA explained that the board members of the NDDC had been playing key roles between the host communities and the oil multinationals in the different states.

Ministry has failed to consider ensuring an enabling environment for oil operations to thrive, a role that the NDDC played until the establishment of the interim management in 2019.

Claiming that the minister’s sole interest is in the “allocation” that comes to the interventionist agency, the group insisted that “the oil producing communities too have lost total hope because Akpabio has moved all the activities of the only government agency, NDDC, around to far away Abuja, leaving the companies that came to do business in Nigeria to their fate.”

The statement called on the Federal Government to act fast before the current situation snowballs into “unimaginable economic chaos for the nation.”

It added that while the commission has never been perfect, things have gone worse in the past couple of years.

“Having gone around the Niger Delta region, we can authoritatively say that there are a lot of abandoned oil wells now in the Niger Delta region and not because they can’t produce but due to communal issues that have forced the companies to abandon them,” the statement said further.

But Akpabio in a statement personally signed by him, denied buck- passing on his responsibility to constitute the NDDC board. He stated that President Muhammadu Buhari is still studying the forensic audit report with a view to coming up “with a formula for a commission fit for purpose.

“That formula is what the board being put together will work with,” Akpabio stated.