Human rights activist and leader of the Itsekiri community in Delta State, Rita Lori-Ogbebor, has said she is confident that the Itsekiri community of Delta State will get justice at the Federal High Court, Abuja, in the case opposing 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.
Speaking during a press conference in Lagos, she said the nomination of both men contravenes the act that set up the Commission and urged the Senate and President Muhammadu Buhari not to be “swayed by selfish interests but to uphold the law” by rescinding on their nomination.
She said they were forced to take the matter to court to put a stop to their confirmation because according to her, 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.
“We vehemently protest the appointments made to the NDDC 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,” she said.
“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 a 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 candidate 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,” she said.