From Fred Itua, Abuja
A leading sociopolitical group in the Niger Delta, Network Advancement Programme for Poverty and Disaster Risks Reduction, has absolved the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, of masterminding the sacking of the acting Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Prof Kemebradikumo Pondei, and other members of the management team.
In a heavily worded press release made available to newsmen in Abuja, the President of the Forum, Al Mustapha Emem Edoho, and its Secretary, Aniekan Willie Akpan, said that the appointment of Mr Effiong Akwa by President Muhammadu Buhari was done in line with the Act setting up the NDDC.
They argued that Akwa Ibom State was yet to serve out its tenure before the then Norad was sacked in 2015 by President Buhari.
Part of the statement read:
‘In sacking the Pondei team, the Presidency had clearly stated that it took the decision because of the “plethora of litigation and a restraining order issued recently against the Interim Management Committee of the NDDC by a Federal High Court in Abuja,” and to avoid a vacuum while reconstituting the board.
‘The implication is that the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio had no hand in the decision to sack the IMC or in the appointment of Mr. Effiong Akwa as the Sole Administrator of the Commission. However, whoever gets appointed to a position will always be someone’s brother or sister.
‘The objection raised by the Minority Caucus of the House of Representatives has not introduced any fundamental or new issue that should stop the appointment of a Sole Administrator of the Commission for now.
‘The Minority Caucus is advised to pursue the payment of the trillion Naira arrears outstanding to the Commission to enable it fulfil its obligation to the Niger Delta region.’
The duo said recent threats by some ex-militants in the Niger Delta to resume hostilities are unnecessary, insisting that the ownership of the NDDC does not rest solely with the Ijaws.
‘Ordinarily, we would not want to join issues with the Reformed Niger Delta Advengers and their supporters, but we feel an urgent need to draw their attention and that of every well-meaning citizen of the Niger Delta region, Nigeria and the world to some basic truths which are self-evident and undeniable.
‘On December 21, 2015, President Buhari, who was barely six months in office, had sacked the Dan Abia-led management of the NDDC, an indigene of Akwa Ibom, and immediately replaced him with Mrs. Ibim Semenitari, an Ijaw woman and former aide to the Minister of Transport, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi.
‘The appointment of Mrs. Semenitari as the Sole Administrator of the commission not only robbed Akwa Ibom, a key component of the Niger Delta region of its legitimate turn to occupy the office of MD but also breached Sections 3 & 12 of the NDDC Act 2000 and the Federal Character Commission Act, 1996.
‘Right from the inception of the Commission, a robust precedent was set until December 2015, when it was changed at the expense of Akwa Ibom State.
‘Militant groups and Ijaw-based rights organisations did not find anything wrong when Akwa Ibom, which at the time was and is still the largest producer of oil in the country, was denied its legitimate right to occupy the position of MD of the NDDC,’ they stated.
‘We hereby appeal to the Reformed Niger Delta Avengers and the entire people of the region to support the new leadership of the Commission to deliver on its mandate and supervise to completion the ongoing forensic audit ordered by the Federal Government.
‘We also appeal to the Sole Administrator to apply global best practices in corporate governance, accountability and transparency in the day-to-day operations of the Commission.’