Human rights activist and leader of the Itsekiri community in Delta State, Rita Lori-Ogbebor, has said that the appointment of Bernard Okumagba and Pius Odubu as the Managing Director and Chairman of the Board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), respectively contravenes the act that set up the commission.
Speaking during a press conference in Lagos, she said that the law which set up the commission takes cognisance of the oil and gas producing communities/states in the appointment of the chairman and MD of the commission but that this practice was not followed in the recent appointment.
She accused the All Progressives Congress (APC) national chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, and former governor of Delta State, Emmanuel Uduagan, of being behind the appointment of Okumgba and Odubu.
The former, it was learnt, was Uduaghan’s Commissioner for Finance, while Odubu was the deputy governor to Oshiomhole during his administration in Edo State.
“We vehemently protest some of the recent appointments made to the NDDC board because of the non-compliance with the NDDC law, lack of equity, fairness, and justice to the Itsekiri people. We know that President Muhammadu Buhari stands for these same values and it is also important that he addresses this continuing and arduous impunity being undertaken by some persons acting on behalf of the Federal government to deprive us of our rightful dues.
“The NDDC law was intended to fast track the development of the region, which underdevelopment has been identified and confirmed by the Willinks Commission report as far back as 1956. The law designed an intervention agency as an organisation to be run by qualified indigenes of the oil and gas producing communities /states.
“The NDDC by law and in practice takes cognisance of the oil and gas producing communities/states in the appointment to its boards and its staffing appointment of the chairman of the commission. Indeed, one provision of the NDDC law for the appointment to the office of the chairman is that, this time, the letter E’’ is taken before the letter ‘D.’ Why is it considered expedient to appoint a candidate from Edo State at a time when it is lawfully the turn of Delta State?
“Assuming that the appointment of a chairman from Edo State was necessitated by appointment of the Managing Director from Delta state, why should the proposed candidate be Bernard Okumagba who does not come from an oil-producing community? Is there paucity of candidates from oil and gas-producing communities? I say an emphatic no. Okumagba is from Okere-Urhobo in Warri which is not an oil and gas-producing community or even at least from one of the ‘’impacted’’ communities, as defined by our laws and practice.
“Somebody who is not from the oil and gas-producing communities cannot know or feel the pain and anguish the people are passing through and therefore, cannot solve their problems. The Itsekiri have been short-changed in all matters relating to our dealing, rights and entitlement. It is our obedience to the laws of our land, coupled with being a minority group that has made others deal with us with impunity.
“We therefore demand that the recent appointment to the boards of the NDDC be canceled and a new appointment in tune with the rule of law, equity, fairness, and justice be made,” Ogbebor said.