The NDDC is a creation of an Act of National Assembly, in accordance with the provisions of Section 58(5) of the constitution. This Act is cited as Niger Delta Development Commission Act 2000. It repealed the Oil Mineral Producing Areas Development Commission, Decree 1998 and among other things, established for more effective use of the sums received from the allocation of Federation Account for tackling of both ecological and infrastructural problems arising from oil exploration in the Niger Delta Areas and for connected purposes.
Sixteen years after the enactment of the Act and the existence of the commission, neither the mandate of the commission nor compliance to the provisions of the enabling Act has been achieved. The laws and operational policies have been implemented in breach. The NDDC Act 2000 is a masterpiece of legislation, which, if vigorously implemented, will bring smiles on the faces of the people.
The hallmark of any true democracy all over the world is the rule of law. The conscience of the rule of law is that our laws must prevail at all cost. But this is never the case, especially in the NDDC where universal principles of fairness, equity, morality and justice have been thrown to the abyss. Executive lawlessness, impunity and nepotism have placed one branch of government above the law and public officials act arbitrarily or unilaterally outside the law.
Abia State is a member state of the Niger Delta Development Commission by virtue of Section 2(1)(b)(i) and enjoyed the pioneer chairmanship of the Governing Board by the rotational clause of Section 4(a) in alphabetical order. This feat was made possible by the enabling Act and not by might or lawlessness. It, therefore, from this historic fact, behoves on all Abians to uphold absolute predominance or supremacy of ordinary law of the land over all citizens, no matter how highly placed. We must embrace “Truth” – knowledge of things as it was, as it is and as it will be.
This same Act that blessed our state provides in Section 2(1)(b) that “one person who shall be an indigene of an oil producing area to represent each of the following member states: Abia State; Akwa Ibom State; Bayelsa State; Cross River State; Delta State; Edo State; Imo State; Ondo State and Rivers State.”
What is the spirit and intent of this section of the Act? It is to define the qualification and origin of the representative, regulate activities of the commission, protect the people, enforce the rights and resolve conflicts. It is meant to deter people from behaving in a manner that negatively affects the quality of life of other people.
The recent nomination of Hon. Donatus Nwankpa, as the Abia State representative on the Governing Board of NDDC, pursuant to Section 2(2)(a) is an absurdity and at variance with the rule of law. “The Chairman and other members of the Board shall be appointed by the President and Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces, subject to the confirmation by the Senate, in consultation with the House of Representatives.” Mr. President, in fulfilling this function, erroneously appointed Nwankpa, who is not an indigene of oil producing area.
To put the records straight, this is not the first time a president has erroneously nominated someone outside of the oil producing area. It is only human and, as in the past, Mr. President can still correct himself.
The present Abia State NDDC imbroglio can be resolved following the rule of law and relying on existing information from the Office of the Surveyor General of the Federation and Department of Petroleum Resources (NNPC ). The map from the OSGOF clearly shows oil wells and their location in Abia State; it reaffirms Ukwa West as the only oil producing local government area, with the following oil fields and flow stations: Imo River 1, Imo River 111, Isimiri and Ozaar. There are two capped wells in Ukwa East. The coordinates, depth and deviations of all the wells are defined in the said map from OSGOF.
We as a people, have found solace in the fact that though we suffer numerical inferiority when compared with the opposite host in view, but an unseen power will aid us in this glorious cause of truth. We have replaced fear with the faith and have confidence reposed in our representatives in the National Assembly. The real intent of section 4(2)(a) is to serve as a check on the Executive and ensure total compliance. We want to rely absolutely on the doggedness of our representative in Federal House of Representatives, Hon. Uzoma Nkem-Abonta, with a high sense of patriotism, legislative prowess and strategic wits. Our distinguished senator, representing Abia South, Senator Enyi Abaribe, who has a mastery of the intrigues in the screening process by virtue of his experience, will not leave his good people desolate. He declared both in writing and in a gathering, that only an amendment to the Act, shall qualify an Osisioma indigene to represent Abia State on the NDDC Board. He is not cheap and a man of his words.
Abia State is not the only state where an indigene of non-oil producing area was nominated to represent the state, as manifested in Imo and Ondo states. The Imo nominee demonstrated a sense of leadership and honour by writing to the President, Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces of Federal Republic of Nigeria, declining his appointment, as the representative of the state because he is simply not from the oil producing area. One would ordinarily expect Hon. Donatus Nwankpa to toe this path of rectitude and save the state this embarrassment.
God warned us in His Holy writ, Exodus 20:17- “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house nor any thing that is thy neighbor’s.” This includes his oil wells and his position in government. The Lord of Heaven also through the mouth of His great Prophet Isaiah, warned against evil works, lawlessness and lopsidedness. Isaiah 5:20 – “Woe unto them that call evil good and good evil.” It is, therefore, my sincere prayer that superior argument would prevail and that truth shall triumph over evil.
•Nwubani is the pioneer Commissioner for Abia State in NDDC.