The tenure of the board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) is again in the news, but for the wrong reason.
This time, it essentially has to do with the misunderstanding of the provisions of the Act of parliament on which the whole issue resides. There are arguments regarding the term ‘serve out’ as it affects the present board. Was it appointed to serve out a truncated tenure or was it appointed on its own merit?
There is an argument that when the Muhammadu Buhari administration came into office, the NDDC board was dissolved and Mrs Ibim Seminatari was appointed in acting capacity pending the reconstitution of the board.
When that board was eventually reconstituted, there was a mix-up in the presidency following two memoranda from the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), one signed by Babachir Lawal at the time and another by his successor. Dr Habiba Lawal.
In one of those memoranda, Babachir Lawal indicated that the appointments of Senator Ndoma Egba and Nsima Ekere as chairman and Managing Director respectively were to serve out the tenure of their predecessors in office. However, in another memorandum signed by the then acting SGF, Dr Habiba Lawal, the Presidency reversed itself when it stated that the appointment of Ndoma Egba had been renewed for another term of four years.
This second memorandum was said to have been written after due consultation with the office of the Attorney General of the Federation.
It is this apparent contradiction in the letter and spirit of these memoranda that is generating needless controversy.
But the truth is that Ndoma Egba and Nsima Ekere were appointed on their own merit in compliance with Section 3 of the NDDC Act which states: Where a vacancy occurs in the membership of the Board, it shall be filled by the appointment of a successor to hold office for the remainder of the term of office of his predecessor, so however, that the successor shall represent the same interest and shall be appointed by the President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces subject to the confirmation of the Senate, in consultation with the House of Representatives.
However this without prejudice to Section 5 which says inter alia: (5) (I) notwithstanding the provisions of section 3 of this Act, a person shall cease to hold office as a member of the Board if –
a)He becomes bankrupt, suspends payment or compounds with his creditors;
b)He is convicted of a felony or any offence involving dishonesty or fraud;
c)He becomes of unsound mind, or incapable of carrying out his duties;
d) He is guilty of serious misconduct in relation to his duties;
e)In the case of a person possessed of professional qualifications, he is disqualified or suspended, other than at his own request, from practicing his profession in any part.
What this entails is that at the time the Ndoma Egba board came on stream, there was a vacancy after the acting management of Ibim Seminatari had served out the tenure of Rivers State.
The federal government, therefore, felt obliged to fill that vacancy in keeping with the extant laws guiding the commission. The first memo from the office of the SGF was wrong ab initio and had to be corrected subsequently.
So the argument by a section of the catchment area suggesting that there was a miscarriage of justice in bypassing Bayelsa State in the appointment of the managing director, is not supported by the relevant laws, and should be seen for what it is, an attempt to return the commission to the era of ineffectiveness.
Already there are veiled threats to the effect that the region may experience instability if the President and the authorities fail to rescind this action, and investigate all those involved in what is assumed to be “fraud and injustice that is capable of denting the image of the administration, and cause a breakdown of law and order in the region, since the people of Bayelsa State will not fold their arms to be short changed in a broad day robbery of their right.”
Those behind this threat also claim that, the “Niger Delta region has been relatively peaceful for sometime and we do not expect actions from those who are expected to keep the peace, to suddenly derail the calm we enjoy by acts of imposing their selfish will on the people.
This is being done in collaboration with some persons outside the region, who are ready to accept any amount of money just to do the bidding of anybody without gauging the consequences of their actions and the damage on the image of administration.”
It must be noted that Akwa Ibom and Cross River States are bona fide entities in the area referred to as the Niger Delta. Actually, when onshore and offshore resources are put together, Akwa Ibom could pass as the richest in oil resources in the country. Yes, oil was first discovered in Oloibiri in present day Bayelsa State, but that is clearly beside the point in the face of present realities.
There is always a misperception of what constitutes the Niger Delta. Certainly it is not only the Ijaw speaking areas. This may explain why candidates from that area had dominated the board since inception with not much to show in terms of development.
It is sad that the unruly politics of the assumed owners of the Niger Delta is rearing its ugly head at this time, as some elements from that geographical area are threatening to let hell loose if their wishes are not met.
We hope the government will not succumb to this simmering blackmail and remove an administration that is performing very well in office, through the execution of meaningful projects that touch on the lives of the people.
The ordinary people of the area are more interested in development projects that will alleviate their debilitating economic circumstances and which the present management has proved competent in providing.
They may wish to confront those playing the Ijaw card to point to their record when they were at the helm of affairs. Akwa Ibom is a key resource zone when it comes to the natural distribution of hydrocarbon in the country.
They deserve to produce the Chief Executive. Even more, Nsima Ekere must be allowed to complete his term of four years.
By Princewill Finebone