The Niger Delta Integrity Group has picked holes in an interview granted by Chief Rita Lori Ogbebor, wherein she said that the substantive Board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) appointed by President Buhari in October 2019 and confirmed by the Senate on November 5 2019 was disbanded in 2019 based on a court case she instituted.
In a statement by Akpoebide Okotiene, President and Edet Ekpenyong, Secretary, the group said there was no dissolution or disbandment of the Senate-confirmed NDDC Board, as claimed by Ogbebor.
According to the group, the board was not inaugurated and there was also no court order or judgement against its inauguration.
It accused Ogbebor of ploy to create acrimony and ethnic division in Niger Delta by her claims.
“Rita Lori Ogbebor claimed that the Governing Board of the NDDC which was appointed by the President in October 2019 and confirmed by the Nigerian Senate on November 5, 2019 was stood down on account of the claims made by her clique following lawsuits launched by them. This is capital falsehood. The truth is that the so-called claims made by her and her cohorts have not been upheld anywhere because they are false. All her claims do not hold water and are intended to ambush the legitimate process. Her strategy is to throw up inaccurate and unfounded claims with the aim of misleading the public and institutions,” it said.
The Niger Delta Integrity Group said the facts were clear and indisputable as “what happened in the case of the NDDC Governing Board, which was appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari in October 2019, is that after the nominees were screened and confirmed by the Nigerian Senate on the 5th of November 2019, Mr President asked that the inauguration of the Board should be put on hold pending the completion of the forensic audit, for which an Interim Management Committee was appointed for the NDDC.
“The Federal Government announced during the inauguration ceremony of the IMC that the Senate-confirmed NDDC Board will be inaugurated after the forensic audit. The decision to step down the inauguration of the Senate-confirmed Board was not due to any court case. There was no dissolution of the Senate-confirmed Board as it had not been inaugurated, nor was it disbanded.”
The group said those working against the inauguration of the board want the exclusion of legally qualified Deltans from appointment into the NDDC Board by proposing that any appointment into the leadership of the NDDC Board should only come from Itsekiri tribe.
“This open act of subterfuge, callousness and clannishness viciously violates the enabling law of the NDDC,” it said.
The group stated that the NDDC Act, which governs appointments into the NDDC Board, in Part 1, Section 2(1) B requires a member of the NDDC Governing Board to come from an “Oil Producing Area.”
According to it, “an area is a definite geographical space bound by its recognition in the constitution as an administrative space. Thus, an area is a state, a local government area or a senatorial district. In the context of the NDDC act, an oil producing area is coterminous with an oil producing local government area. All indigenes of oil producing Local Government Areas in Delta State (whether they are Urhobo, Ijaw, Isoko, Itsekiri or Ndokwa) are eligible. Nobody can be excluded on the basis of tribe as long as he or she is from an oil producing local government area in Delta State.”
It said that President Muhammadu Buhari had already nominated a Board for the NDDC in October 2019 whose members were vetted by all relevant agencies of the federal government following which they were screened and confirmed by the Nigerian Senate on November 5 2019.
“They are only now waiting to be inaugurated. Mr President has restated his intention to inaugurate the Board on the completion of the forensic audit by the end of July 2021,” it said.
The Niger Delta group urged the general public, stakeholders and Niger Deltans to ignore any “deception, anti-people statements and meddlesome outbursts as we await the earnest inauguration of the NDDC Board to ensure fair representation of the nine constituent states, accountability in the utilisation of the NDDC funds, checks and balances and due process in the Commission in compliance with the NDDC Act.”