South-South governors have called on President Muhammadu Buhari to inaugurate the board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) or, in its absence not release funds for the commission beyond the payment of salaries.
They said NDDC funds should be put in an escrow account until the constitution of the board.
Revealing the outcome of their meeting, held in Port Harcourt, Rivers State capital on Monday night, chairman of the South-South Governors Forum and Governor of Delta State, Ifeanyi Okowa, said, in a statement by Kelvin Ebiri, Special Assistant (Media), Rivers State Governor, it was worrisome that the NDDC has been run by, first, an Interim Caretaker Committee, and now, an interim administrator.
He said such set up does not augur well for the people of the Niger Delta as an opportunity for all states to be represented on the board of the NDDC does not exist
According to him, ‘it means that the NDDC is run in such a matter that it is actually not truly beneficial to our people because there is no stakeholders input in the running of the affairs of the NDDC.
‘We do know that there is a forensic audit taking place and if that is the reason the board has not been constituted, our advise is that monies being sent to the NDDC should be put in an escrow account until a board is constituted and then proper processes are followed in the expenditure of the money in such a way it will be visibly accountable in the best interest of the peoples of the Niger Delta.’
The governors demanded that whenever the board of the NDDC is constituted, the advisory council must be called upon to play its role to ensure there are checks and balances in such a matter that the states will truly have value for money expended by the NDDC.
Okowa said: ‘A situation where we begin to have emergency projects that possibly will not last three to six months is not right. We don’t feel happy about it and we are urging Mr President to ensure that if the board is not going to be immediately constituted, then funds for the NDDC beyond the payment of salaries should be put on hold until he constitutes the board and the board can now run the finances of the NDDC as per the law creating the NDDC.
‘We feel already short-changed as a people in the Niger Delta and we believe that we do not wish to see this kind of situation continue going forward into the future because our people feel the pains; we do not want a situation where there is an abuse of processes, neither should we have a situation where we have abuse of funds.
‘We believe that it is best for both the country, the states of the Niger Delta and the people of the Niger Delta when the due process is followed by the reconstitution of the board and also in reconstituting the board, that the reconstituted funds should come in and have funds to spend as per the law.’
He stressed that the demands of the governors have been made based on the interest of Nigeria, the states and more importantly in the interest of various communities of the Niger Delta.
Present at the meeting were governor of Rivers State Nyesom Wike; governor of Edo State Godwin Obaseki; governor of Bayelsa State Douye Diri and Deputy Governor of Akwa-Ibom State Mr Moses Ekpo, who represented Governor Emmanuel Udom.
President Buhari had, in the exercise of one of his constitutional powers, forwarded to the Senate for confirmation appointments of a 16- member board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) via a letter dated October 18, 2019.
Buhari in the letter sought the Senate’s confirmation for Dr Pius Odubu, former Edo state deputy governor as chairman of the NDDC; Chief Bernard Okumagba as Managing Director and 14 others as members of its board.
The Senate’s standing committee headed by Senator Peter Nwaoboshi (PDP Delta North), carried out the screening exercise on 15 out of the 16 nominees on Thursday, October 31, 2019, upon which the Senate confirmed their appointments on Tuesday, November 5, 2019, based on the report tabled before it by the committee.
The confirmed board is yet to be inaugurated.