South-South Elders Progressive Forum, SSEPF, has urged President Muhammadu Buhari to follow the path of statutory provisions in the appointment of a new Board to run affairs of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC.
The elders described calls for the inauguration of a new Board for the interventionist agency as germane and patriotic.
In a statement on Tuesday jointly signed by its chairman, Dr. Promise Okpolo and Coordinator, Community Relations, Chief Anderson Etiewo, the SSEPF however noted that any clamour for the inauguration of a Board comprising nominees earlier screened by the Senate in 2019, but jettisoned due to procedural irregularities in the selection process was antithetical to the interest of people of Niger Delta.
The group whose membership consists of elders cutting across states in the oil-rich Niger Delta region, expressed its confidence and support for strict adherence to the NDDC Establishment Act by the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, in the nomination of fresh candidates for the new Board expected to be inaugurated soon, with Dr. Cairo Ojougbo as chairman and Elder Deinyanbofa Dimaro, managing director, among others.
While expressing conviction that the composition of a substantive Board for the NDDC would provide the needed representation and participation of the nine states captured in the NDDC Act in the decision making process of the Commission, the elders contended that anything else, whether an Interim Management Committee (IMC) or an Interim Sole Administrator, was an aberration and should be discouraged to sustain the fragile peace in the region.
“A critical look at the Board whose members got screened by the Senate in 2019 but was jettisoned revealed certain anomalies in the composition. This applied specifically to the position of the chairman and the three executive directors, namely MD, EDFA and EDP.
“The Act says the position of Chairman shall rotate in an alphabetical order amongst the nine states. The first Chairman of the Board was Chief Onyema Ugochukwu from Abia State who was succeeded by a candidate from Akwa Ibom State, and then Air Vice Marshal Larry koinyan (retd) from Bayelsa State.
“Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba (SAN) from Cross River State was the last to occupy the position of chairman from 2016 to 2019. From the list of states, it is now the turn of Delta State, which was illegally denied by political shenanigans who presented Dr. Pius Odubu from Edo State”, the SSPEF said.
Part of the statement further read: “The Act also unambiguously outlined the process in which the three executive directors, namely the position of the Managing Director (MD), the Executive Director, Finance and Administration (EDFA) and the Executive Director, Project and Monitoring (EDP) shall be appointed.
“It provides that the positions shall rotate amongst the four major oil producing States, namely Akwa-Ibom, Delta, Rivers and Bayelsa States. Delta State had the first shot at the position of the Managing Director, followed by Rivers and Akwa-Ibom, being the last in the person of Mr. Nsima Ekere.
“It is now the turn of Bayelsa State to produce the Managing Director. Instead, Dr. Bernard Ogumagba from Delta State was nominated and screened by the Senate. The same errors were committed in the case of the positions for EDFA and EDP which should go to different states other than the states from which they were nominated.
“It is worthy to state that those in acting capacities do not count; it counts only if they were the substantive occupants of those positions.These anomalies gave credence to the suspension and disbandment of nominees hitherto presented to the Senate for screening, including Dr. Pius Odubu and Dr. Bernard Okumagba, hence there was public applause and a seeming silence over the creation of an IMC though it was a misnomer in itself.
“These errors are fundamental and should be corrected to reflect the statutory provisions in the Act establishing the NDDC in the composition of a new Board. If media reports are anything to go by, the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Chief Godswill Akpabio has gotten a list approved by Mr. President containing the list of nominees with Dr. Cairo Ojougbo as Chairman and Elder Denyanbofa Dimaro from Bayelsa State as Managing Director, correcting previous mistakes, a move that has been roundly applauded.
“Majority of the people in the Niger Delta region are highly elated over the commendable reversal and Mr. President should without any hesitation make the appointments and inaugurate the Board”.