Group to Buhari: Halt the charade at NDDC
We have just read in the press of the planned inauguration of the Advisory Committee of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) by President Muhammadu Buhari for Tuesday March 10th 2020 and wish to register our displeasure at the clear distortion of the NDDC Act, which the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs Chief Godswill Akpabio has perfected of late in his design to maintain his illegal interim management committee in office. This is coming on the heels of the inauguration two weeks ago of a monitoring committee for the same Commission. Yet, there is no substantive Board in place, which both Committees are supposed to work with as stated in The NDDC Act, since the commission is still run by an illegal interim management committee. For the avoidance of doubt, the NDDC Act makes provision for a Board nominated by the President and Confirmed by the Senate to manage the affairs of the Commission. This has not been done, yet Committees whose work is predicated on the activities of the Board are being inaugurated!
The government has found it convenient to ignore the NDDC Act in respect of the inauguration of a substantive Board but has conveniently latched onto the Act to inaugurate the Monitoring and Advisory Committees as provided for in the Act. We find this dubious and intended to give an impression that it is following the law when it is selectively applying it. This travesty is even more complicated when the Act states clearly that the two Committees are meant to monitor and advise the Board. In this instance what we have in place is an illegal interim management committee, not a substantive Board. What the Federal Government is doing is to use measures of hook and crook to try to legitimize an illegitimate interim management committee.
The NDDC Act provides for three institutions. The first is the Governing Board, which is provided for in Part 1 Section 2 of the NDDC Act. This Board is nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate, with representation from all the states and other interests as provided for in that section of the Act. The operative word is the confirmation process by the Senate in conjunction with Federal House of Representatives, which is set for a clear reason to ensure that due process is followed in the appointment of the Board and that it represents the best interest of the people of the Niger Delta. Part 3 Section 11 provides for a Niger Delta Development Advisory Committee to consist of the Governors of the member-states of the Commission and two persons nominated by the President. It states clearly that, “The Advisory Committee shall be charged with the responsibility of advising the Board and monitoring the activities of the Commission…” Also, Part 6, Section 21 provides for the establishment of a Monitoring Committee for the Commission, ‘which shall consist of such number of persons as the President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces may deem fit to appoint from the public or civil service of the Federation.” The task of the Monitoring Committee is to ‘monitor the management of Funds of the Commission’, among others.
From the above it is clear therefore that the condition predicate for the inauguration of the Committees, which is the inauguration of a substantive Board has not met. What then is the purpose of establishing these Committees if it is not a fraudulent design to put a veneer of acceptance and normality in the actions of the illegal interim management committee?
The federal government seems very comfortable in the selective application of NDDC Act but what it is doing is building legality on illegality and putting the actions of the Commission in great danger. In constituting the Advisory Committee the Federal Government conveniently cited the NDDC Act. But when it constituted the illegal Interim Management Committee in contravention of the Act, it still went ahead to defend the illegality as necessary in order to conduct a forensic audit. What then would the committees do? Monitor the forensic audit and advise the forensic auditors? It is very clear that the proper thing to do if these Committees are to have legal teeth to work and be relevant is for Mr. President to as a matter of urgency follow the Act to the letter by inaugurating a substantive Board for the Commission.
If the Federal Government thinks that it can hoodwink us by the inauguration of the Advisory Committee, it however falls short of the expectation of our people who desire fundamental representation at the level of the Governing Board as provided for in the Act setting up the NDDC. What we want to see is the inauguration of the NDDC Board so that we can have representation for all the constituent states of the commission in line with the law.
The events playing out in the NDDC are truly bizarre and requires for the President to act and restore the law in its entirety. We ask our governors not to allow themselves to be used to put a stamp of approval on the charade being orchestrated by the Federal Government on the prompting of Akpabio; they should demand the immediate inauguration of the substantive Governing Board of the NDDC in line with the NDDC Act and the disbandment of the illegal interim management committee.
Comrade Johnson Ebelo
Niger Delta Progressive Front
Freedom House, Swali Waterside, Yenagoa, Bayelsa State