Again, Niger Delta Group Knocks Akpabio over Non- inauguration of NDDC Board

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Mr. Godswill Akpabio

Again, Niger Delta Group Knocks Akpabio over Non- inauguration of NDDC Board

…… Says minister’s projection for commission in 2022 assault on Niger Delta

Civil Society Organisation, Niger Delta Peoples’ Forum, Monday, flayed Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, for embarking on another round of diversionary tactics that was not in tandem with the wishes of Niger Deltans regarding NDDC.

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According to the group, “Senator Akpabio in his hogwash message deliberately chose to throw up his roundly-rubbished, archaic, and anti-Niger Delta views that violate the law setting up the NDDC, all in a futile attempt to change the narrative of the collective desire of the region, which is that the Board of the Commission should be in place without further delay as we enter 2022.”

In a statement signed by Chief Boma Ebiakpo, National Chairman of Niger Delta Peoples’ Forum (NDPF), the “provocative and diversionary statement” by the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, appeared in Daily Independent of Sunday, December 26, 2021, under the headline, “Akpabio Says 2022 Year of Positive Beginning For Niger Delta Region.”

According to the group, it is rather unfortunate and disheartening that Akpabio, who has been Minister of Niger Delta Region and supervising Minister of NDDC since July 2019 is now praying that the “year 2022 will usher in a positive beginning for the Niger Delta region…cause all abandoned projects in the region to be completed.” NDPF therefore queried what Akpabio been doing for “two and a half years on the saddle, with National Assembly approved budgets of N799 Billion for 2019 and 2020, for NDDC?”

According to Ebiakpo, “one of the ludicruous and unacceptable diversionary comments by Akpabio in the Daily Independent newspaper report through a statement signed by his chief Press Secretary, Jackson Udom, include his touted “new development road map…through NDDC.”

The group reminded the Minister that “the point has been made by Niger Delta stakeholders, and needs to be restated, that President Buhari needs to redeem himself now that the Forensic audit report has been submitted to him (President Muhammadu Buhari) since September 2, 2021. The President should do well to heed the call of Niger Delta leaders, governors, youths, women, traditional rulers, civil society organisations, and other stakeholders, comply with the law setting up NDDC, and also fulfill his own promise of June 24, 2021, and inaugurate the board to manage the Commission for the benefit of the people of the nine Niger Delta states.”

NDPF therefore urges Niger Deltans to “condemn without equivocation” the latest diversionary attempt by Akpabio to introduce “a new narrative that is against the law setting up NDDC, The NDDC Establishment Act of 2000, which is not in tandem with the collective wish of the people, and which contradicts President Buhari’s promise of June 24, 2021 to inaugurate the NDDC Board upon receipt of the forensic audit report, which report he has received since September 2, 2021.”

The group further recounts that Godspower Tamunosusi, in an article published in ThisDay Newspaper of December 17, 2021, noted that “what has happened at the NDDC under the President’s watch is clearly the Capture of the Commission by a cabal, who are deploying its resources to whatever pleases them. Niger Deltans are disillusioned and angry. A broad assemblage of prominent leaders of the Niger Delta including statesmen, top lawyers, civil society organisations, sociopolitical groups and ethnic groups have condemned the continued occupation of the NDDC by these illegal managements yet the President has refused to do the right thing.”

Ebiakpo recalls that in tandem with the legitimate demands of stakeholders across the Niger Delta region, on November 13, 2021, the Conference of Presidents-General of Niger Delta Ethnic Nationalities (CPGNDEN) met in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State and in the Communique issued after its meeting called on President Muhammadu Buhari “to keep his promise and inaugurate a substantive board for NDDC following the submission of the forensic report, and in line with the law establishing the agency,” noting that the Niger Delta was in dire need of development which the absence of the board has so far stalled.

NDPF quotes CPGNDEN President, Professor Benjamin Okaba, contending that the running of the NDDC by a sole administrator was contrary to the law establishing the Commission, adding that “the general feeling is that the region has been auctioned off to one man to do with it as he pleases.”

The group also drew attention to the position of Delta State Governor, Dr Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa, who is also Chairman of the South South Governors Forum, who also recently stated that “we have made our position clear as South-South Governors. We have spoken about how we feel and it is very unfortu­nate that where we are at the moment, it ought not to be so. We have not had a proper board for over two years now and that is not right. Whatever situation the NDDC is operating with now is unknown to the law of this country”.

As Okowa noted: “No matter what is going on, there is a law and there is a need for the Federal Government to do what is right. The provision in the law ensures that there is equity and that no state is short-changed. States are now be­ing deprived of opportunity of having their representative at the board because the various state representatives on the Board are supposed to ensure that the budget of the NDDC is run in the way it ought to be run, with what is due to each state getting to them. That has not been the sit­uation for quite some time. That is why we have always complained. We were told by the Presidency that as soon as the forensic report was submitted, the board will be put in place”.

NDPF recalled that “all the negative actions by the Buhari administration in the management of the NDDC in the last two years were recommended by Senator Akpabio to President Buhari for approval including the administration of the NDDC by Interim management committee / sole administrator which is illegal.”

The group has advised that “whatever imaginary “roadmap” that Akpabio dreams about, he needs to be reminded that The NDDC Act has no provision for the ongoing illegality in the Commission’s administration. The NDDC Act only provides that the Board and Management of the NDDC at any point in time should follow the provisions of the law which states that the Board and management is to be appointed by the President, subject to confirmation by the Senate.”

NDPF therefore cautioned that “beyond Senator Akpabio’s puerile attempt at red-herring and unnecessary distraction to change a region’s collective narrative, what is needed at this point is for the Federal Government to redeem itself now that the Forensic audit report has been submitted to President Muhammadu Buhari since September 2, 2021.”

The group advised President Buhari to heed the call of Niger Delta leaders, governors, youths, women, traditional rulers, civil society organisations, and other stakeholders, “comply with the law setting up NDDC, and also fulfill his own promise of June 24, 2021, and inaugurate the board to manage the Commission for the benefit of the people of nine Niger Delta states.”

Chief Ebiakpo recalled that while receiving a delegation of the Ijaw National Congress in Abuja in June this year, President Buhari had said that the Board will be inaugurated once the forensic audit report was submitted.

The group noted the President had said: ‘‘Based on the mismanagement that had previously bedeviled the NDDC, a forensic audit was set up and the result is expected by the end of July, 2021. I want to assure you that as soon as the forensic audit report is submitted and accepted, the NDDC Board will be inaugurated.”

It added that report had been submitted to the president since September 2, 2021, yet he has failed to inaugurate the board.

According to NDPF, “on the threshold of 2022, Senator Akpabio should turn a new leaf, desist from unnecessary red-herring, undo the damage he has caused to the region since 2019, hearken to the urgent call and legitimate demands of Niger Delta stakeholders, and get President Muhammadu Buhari to comply with the NDDC Act and inaugurate the NDDC Board without further delay to ensure accountability, checks and balances, probity and equitable representation of the nine constituent states of the Niger Delta region in line with the NDDC Act.”

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