President Muhammadu Buhari has been asked to end the interim leadership arrangement in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) by inaugurating the duly nominated and confirmed governing council.
This is just as the excuse that a forensic audit of NDDC must be completed before the board is inaugurated was described as untenable.
In a statement by Chief Boma Ebiakpo,
National Chairman, the Niger Delta People’s Forum expressed sadness that for one and half years, the NDDC, supervised by Minister of Niger Delta Affairs Senator Godswill Akpabio, has been “run by a succession of interim managements while putting on hold the Governing Board nominated by Mr President and confirmed by the Senate in line with the NDDC Act.”
It said the NDDC, since 2019, has had three illegal Interim managements imposed on it, contrary to the provisions of the NDDC Act.
According to the group, “the first was headed by Joi Nunieh. The second by Prof Daniel Pondei and the third is the current Interim Sole Administrator in the person of Effiong Okon Akwa who was previously Akpabio’s staff while he was Governor of Akwa Ibom State.
“When he illegally brought in the first Interim Management Committee in October 2019, the minister said it was to supervise a forensic audit of the NDDC and will last for six months only after which the Governing Board will be inaugurated as required by the law – the NDDC Act. He said the audit would end in six months but by February of 2020 he sacked the acting managing director of that IMC in the person of Ms Joi Nunieh and appointed Prof Daniel Pondei (his former classmate at Federal Government College Port Harcourt) in her place with a fresh promise that the audit would be completed by December 2020, an extension of nine months.
“As that promised date approached he sacked the Interim Management Committee headed by Pondei and appointed his former personal aide, Effiong Okon Akwa, as Interim Sole Administrator with a renewed promise that the audit would be completed by the end of March 2021 and the Governing Board put in place on the first of April.”
The group said with the promised date drawing close, “Akpabio is now saying that the audit will end ‘in a few months’ after which the Board will be put in place. This duplicitous tendency has chronicled the manner in which the NDDC under Akpabio is run.”
The Niger Delta People’s Forum urged President Buhari to accede to demands if South South Governors Forum, which wants the governing board inaugurated.
“The governors were unequivocal in their demands in the statement read by the Governor of Delta State and Chairman of the South South Governors Forum, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa, who said that the running of the NDDC in over a year by an Interim Caretaker Committee, and now, an interim administrator is worrisome as it does not augur well for the people of the Niger Delta as opportunity for all states to be represented as they ought to be represented in the board of the NDDC does not exist,” the group said.
It said the governors’ strongly worded statement followed months of complaints, petitions and anger from the elders and people of the nine constituent states on the bleeding of the NDDC.
The group also said: “It also followed reports detailed in the National Assembly probe of the Interim Management Committee and other revelations by whistleblowers that several billions of naira have been squandered by the interim Managements with nothing to show on ground. At the last count, over N400 billion has been frittered away… with no visible projects apart from N10 billion expended on the headquarters building which was already 70% completed.”
It said forensic audit has been used to justify the illegality and fraud being superintended at the NDDC.
According to it, “in his flawed logic, an external audit cannot be carried out in an agency except the legally provided-for Board (whose members were never part of the NDDC during the audit period is put on hold). The reality is that Akpabio and a number of his interim managers have been deeply involved in the flawed management of the NDDC over the years which should ordinarily disqualify them from supervising the forensic audit of the operations of the NDDC for those years.
“Akpabio served as governor of Akwa Ibom State between 2007 and 2015 during which time he nominated a chairman, a managing director and NDDC state representatives. His Interim Sole Administrator, Effiong Okon Akwa who is supposed to oversee the audit was a key player in a past NDDC management facilitated by Akpabio when he was governor of Akwa Ibom State.
“Effiong Okon Akwa was first appointed as General Manager of Akwa Savings and Loans by Akpabio and then posted as Special Assistant on Finance to a former NDDC MD (Bassey Dan-Abia) who was nominated for the position by Akpabio. If, indeed, the idea is to supervise a credible forensic audit from its inception to 2019, which also covers the period of the Dan-Abia regime in NDDC (2013-2015), then Mr Effiong Akwa clearly cannot be the right person to supervise the conclusion of the forensic audit of the NDDC. That management was sacked by President Buhari on assumption of office in 2015. How then can the vomit become the saving meal?”
It said the Niger Delta people are sick and tired of manipulations in the NDDC , while calling on President Buhari to “listen to the voices of the Niger Delta people and put a halt to Akpabio’s charade at the NDDC by putting in place the Governing Board for the NDDC comprising the representatives from its nine constituent states in line with the NDDC Act.”