APC group alerts Buhari, APC over alleged illegality in NDDC

…Warns on implications for APC in 2023 elections

Less than forty eight hours after the emergence of former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, as the presidential candidate of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), a group of concerned APC members in the Niger Delta region has raised alarm on the looming consequences of the ruling party’s ill-treatment of the region, especially what it described as the “ongoing illegality in Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).”

In a letter to President Muhammadu Buhari and the APC national leadership, the APC group, “Committed members of the APC from the Niger Delta Region,” whose letter was signed by the trio of Ebibomo Akpoebide, Menegbo Nwinuamene and Itam Edem, cautioned that “as it stands, the APC cannot win an election in the region” except the missteps in NDDC are remedied and the NDDC substantive Board is inaugurated in accordance with the law setting up the commission.

According to the APC group, “we dare say that Chief Akpabio, a two-time governor of Akwa Ibom State and Senator until 2018 under the PDP, came to our party as a fifth columnist to destroy the APC and reverse the bold moves to cement the party in the Niger Delta states. He has set the party back in many respects but we are hopeful that with concerted efforts by stakeholders we can regain our footholds before the next general election, which is very crucial.

This is why we are glad that his resignation offers a chance to correct the ills and win back the trust of our people.”
Akpoebide, Nwinuamene, and Edem stated in their letter that “the resignation of the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Akpabio, offers your administration the opportunity to reboot and reclaim its connection with the Niger Delta people after three years of the former Minister’s manipulation of the NDDC, which has angered all stakeholders in the region. His tenure has been the most disastrous for the people of the oil producing states who make up the NDDC. He has been especially disagreeable even in advancing the interests of the people of our region, not to talk of the damage he has done to your reputation.”
In urging Buhari and the APC leadership to correct the ills committed and make amends for the damage done to the APC in the region, it restated that “as it stands, the APC cannot win an election in the region except these missteps are remedied.”
The Niger Delta APC members recalled that another group, known as the Niger Delta Rescue Movement (NDRM) has already vowed not to back APC in the 2023 elections following the delay to inaugurate a substantive board of the NDDC. The spokesman of NRDM, Jonathan Okwa, speaking in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, stated that following the prolonged delay of President Buhari to give the Niger Delta people what is rightfully theirs, in accordance with the law, the NDDC Act, the group would ensure the mobilisation of the people of Niger Delta region to vote against the APC in the 2023 presidential and general elections if the board is not inaugurated, noting that “Akpabio’s actions have indeed imperilled our party in the Niger Delta states.”
The group further noted that in October 2019, in exercise of his powers as spelt out in the NDDC Act of 2000, President Buhari appointed a Board for the NDDC which was duly confirmed by the Nigerian Senate on November 5, 2019. However, through “subterfuge, before the board could be inaugurated, Akpabio came up with the idea of an audit to be supervised by an interim management, so the Board was asked to be on standby for inauguration after a forensic audit originally planned to last three months.”
He trio regretted that “Akpabio then ill-advised you and came up with a grand scheme to suspend the inauguration of the board which was confirmed by the Nigerian Senate on November 5, 2019 and instead employed some interim officials in breach of the NDDC Act, people he relied on to fleece the NDDC of its resources and the NDDC nine constituent states of their commonwealth through an orchestrated scheme to conjure an unending audit of the Commission. From three months, he extended the audit to last two years! After contrived delays over two years, the report of the forensic audit of the Niger Delta Development Commission was finally submitted to you, Mr. President on September 2, 2021, eight months ago, yet the substantive Board you unequivocally promised to inaugurate is yet to be inaugurated.”
They recalled that the President, had specifically on June 24, 2021, while receiving the leadership of Ijaw National Congress (INC) at the State House in Abuja, promised that the NDDC Board would be inaugurated as soon as the forensic audit report is submitted, wherein he said that ‘‘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 APC group reminded Buhari that “not only have you not fulfilled your promise eight months after, the Ijaw National Congress (INC) which you received in audience when you made the above promise to Nigerians has been compelled to describe the delay in the inauguration of the NDDC Board as a “clear betrayal of trust and display of state insensitivity on the Ijaw nation and Niger Delta region.”
The Niger Delta APC group is disturbed that “despite further assurances that the submission of the report would see to the inauguration of the board, it has not ended the delays, manipulations and hijacking of the NDDC by vested interests. This foremost federal government agency set up to right the wrongs in the Niger Delta over the years is still being run by a sole administrator appointed in breach of the NDDC Act.”
It observed that for a government that prides itself for adherence to rule of law, this administration conversely continues to administer the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) in “flagrant violation of the NDDC Act. As a Commission established in 2000 by an Act of Parliament, the ongoing national embarrassment at NDDC should be of grave concern to you, Mr. President, about your legacy when you leave office in 2023 and thereby should persuade you to put an end to the illegality of further administering NDDC with a Sole Administrator that is not known to the law setting-up the commission.”
The group went down memory lane to recount what it described as a “pattern of illegalities instituted by the current administration to undermine accountability at the NDDC in a way that no other federal agency has been so treated in the last seven years of the Buhari Presidency. In the 15-year history of the NDDC, prior to your administration coming in 2015, an interim appointment had never been made outside of the law, even when the Governing Boards were dissolved.”
They stated that “prior to your coming to power in 2015, in the absence of a Board duly constituted in line with the NDDC Act, the most senior civil servant in the NDDC took over as Managing Director in acting capacity for a brief period until a Board was constituted in line with the NDDC Act. The NDDC Act does not permit the appointment of any external persons from outside the Commission to act as Managing Director or Sole Administrator without compliance with the Act which requires nomination by the President and Confirmation by the Senate. This is the same requirement for Ministers of the Federal Republic. The Law does not permit for anyone to be appointed as Acting Minister in any Ministry. If there is no Minister in a Ministry, the most senior civil servant – i.e. the Permanent Secretary holds forth until a Minister is appointed by the President and duly confirmed by the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
Akpoebide, Nwinuamene, and Edem further went on to state that the orderly succession in NDDC was only “breached in 2015 when your administration dissolved the Bassey Henshaw led Board with Dan Abia as Managing Director, and appointed Mrs. Ibim Semenitari as sole administrator, a position she held for over one year. The illegality in NDDC continued in January 2019 when the two-year old Victor Ndoma-Egba led Board was dissolved and replaced with an Interim Management team led by Professor Nelson Brambaifa. It was not until August of 2019 that your government ended the illegal Brambaifa interim management team and then, in accordance with the law establishing NDDC, forwarded the list of nominees for the NDDC Governing Board to the Senate for confirmation, and then dutifully appointed the most senior civil servant at that time in NDDC, Mrs. Akwaghagha Enyia, as Acting Managing Director pending the Senate confirmation of the President’s nominees as NDDC Board members, which list you, Mr. President personally signed and forwarded to the Senate on October 18, 2019.”

But unfortunately, according to the group, again this administration “relapsed to its recourse to illegality in administering NDDC, because as the Senate dutifully screened and confirmed the nominees sent by you in exercise of your powers, as Board and Management of NDDC on November 5, 2019, this same government under the obvious manipulation of Chief Akpabio who has previously boasted that the NDDC was his ‘settlement’ for joining the APC, embarked on another spree of interim managements/sole administrator contraptions, while the Board confirmed by the Senate has been on hold since November 2019.”

It observed that since October 2019 this government has appointed two interim management teams led by Joi Nunieh and Professor Keme Pondei, respectively, and presently the commission is led by a sole administrator, Effiong Akwa.

The APC group also drew President Buhari’s attention to the alleged reported financial infractions committed by the “illegal interim managements/sole administrator contraptions.”
Quoting Professor Benjamin Okaba, President of Ijaw National Congress (INC), under the interim management/sole administrator contraptions, “over N600bn payments have been made for emergency contracts without due process; the 2020 budget was passed in December and N400bn was voted for the NDDC but the commission had spent over N190bn before the budget was passed, thereby violating the Procurement Act.” The group lamented that for all the “big money spent by the interim managements under Akpabio’s control not one Naira has been spent on critical infrastructure in the Niger Delta states. Federal roads and other facilities are in terrible shape.”

The group also recalled the Senate probe of NDDC in June/July of 2020 which revealed how the NDDC Interim Management Committee (IMC) ended up in breach of extant financial and public procurement laws for which the Senate passed a resolution recommending that the IMC should refund the sum of N4.923 Billion to the Federation Account, and that the IMC should be disbanded, while the substantive board should be inaugurated to manage the Commission in accordance with the law.

The APC group restated that “the Federal Government, by its numerous illegal actions in the NDDC in the last three years has been de-marketing the APC in the Niger Delta region.”
Godspower Tamunosusi also noted that there is increasing anger against the APC in the Niger Delta region “as a result of the very poor, biased and provocative actions of the Federal Government in the handling of matters concerning the NDDC and the Niger Delta region.”

The group therefore drew the attention of the President, the federal government and the APC to the danger in continuing with the interim contraption as this administration winds down. According to them, “the NDDC Act provides that each of the nine oil producing states have a representative on the board. In addition, there is one representative for all oil producing companies in the country and one person each from non-oil-producing geopolitical zones. All the members of the Board listed above are on part time basis as clearly stated in Section 2(3) of the NDDC Act.

The only full time members of the Board as clearly stipulated in the NDDC Act are three – the Managing Director and two Executive Directors – who are responsible for the day-to-day administration of the Commission. However, for close to three years this has been ignored by the Buhari Administration. This has given rise to tension in the Niger Delta region.”

According to Akpoebide, Nwinuamene, and Edem, “against the relentless legitimate demands of stakeholders, it is in our best interest to keep a good legacy by abiding by the law establishing NDDC, especially as we are in a contest to select your successor.

The government’s breach of the laws guiding the establishment of an agency created to develop an impoverished region is not in good taste.
The group urged the President “to now rise to the occasion to save the Niger Delta region from this sorry state, from those who have deliberately decided to exacerbate the palpable tension in the region. Kindly heed the call of Niger Delta leaders, governors, youths, women, traditional rulers, civil society organisations, and other stakeholders, comply with the law setting up NDDC, and also fulfill your own promise of June 24, 2021, and inaugurate the board of the Commission to ensure accountability, checks and balances, probity and equitable representation of the nine constituent states. This, Mr. President, is the minimum your government and the APC can do to win back the trust of the Niger Delta people.”

According to the Niger Delta APC group, “a first step, Mr. President, is to immediately reset the leadership at the NDDC to conform with the law by inaugurating the Governing Board of the Commission, which has been confirmed by the Senate and has been on standby since 2019 following Akpabio’s endless shenanigans.”




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