The battle for the control of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) took a dramatic turn during the week with President Muhammadu Buhari allegedly jettisoning the nominees whose names were confirmed by the Senate on October 29 for the board of the commission.
The Senate-approved board whose members had been waiting to be inaugurated by the President, was constituted with inputs from Niger Delta leaders, including the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Comrade Adams Oshiomhole; the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege; former Bayelsa State governor, Niger Delta minister Senator Goodwill Akpabio and Chief Timipre Sylva.
As earlier reported, some Presidency officials had told Senator Omo-Agege, who is said to be very close to the Villa, that President Buhari needed upright and competent people to run the affairs of the NDDC because he believed that the huge sums hitherto pumped into the commission had not been well utilised by its managers.
It was on the foregoing basis that the President called for forensic audit of the commission when the governors of the states that make up the NCDC, led by Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State, paid him a courtesy visit at the Presidential Villa in October.
Senator Omo-Agege, however, felt that it would not be fair for him to nominate the commission’s members without inputs from other Niger Delta leaders. He therefore contacted Oshiomhole, Sylva, Akpabio and some other Niger Delta leaders who nominated a name each.
With members of the Commission’s board nominated, the bone of contention became whose candidate would occupy the key positions in the board, particularly the chairman and the managing director.
As it turned out, the nomination of Dr. Pius Odubu and Bernard Okumagba, the candidates of Oshiomhole and Omo-Agege as nominees for the chairman and managing director positions on the board did not go down well with Akpabio, who felt that as the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, his candidate deserved to occupy one of the two positions.
Rather than engage Oshiomhole and Omo-Agege in a confrontation, Akpabio decided to play a fast one by announcing the appointment of a three-man interim management committee to manage the affairs of the commission while the newly constituted board awaited confirmation by the Senate.
Asked what would happen to the new board when confirmed by the Senate, Akpabio said they would have to wait to be sworn in after the interim management committee’s work was done.
Realising how dear Buhari holds the idea of forensic audit to heart, Akpabio also moved quickly to declare that his interim management committee would oversee the forensic audit ordered by the President.
To further win Buhari’s heart, Akpabio was said to have demanded from his interim management committee details of how the former managers of the commission ruined the place.
He was then said to have found his way into the Presidential Villa and paraded the details before Buhari.
While President Buhari nodded in approval of Akpabio’s professed disposition to forensic audit of NDDC, the Acting Managing Director of NDDC, Gboene Nunieh and member of her interim management board, announced the suspension of the Commission’s monthly payment of N1 billion to a consultant whose job with NDDC was merely to collect money from international oil companies (IOCs) on its behalf.
Speaking with reporters at the NDDC headquarters in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Nunieh said the commission did not need middlemen to collect statutory funds due to it.
She said: “We have a consulting firm engaged as a collection agent. We have another company that also collects three per cent whenever money is paid by the International Oil Companies.
“We don’t need a middle man to collect three percent for gas. The money should just be paid into NDDC accounts with the CBN.
“That is why I have suspended the contract of a collection agent. We are no longer going to pay anyone N1 billion every month. That is wicked.
“That money can put mono pumps in rural communities in the Niger Delta. It can buy books and set up primary health centres. The three per cent for a consulting firm is over.”
The acting MD said things were beginning to look up as many contractors have gone back to site since she took charge.
She said: “We have about 57 contractors that have gone back to site. I am encouraging everyone to go back to site so that things will be done properly. Those that actually execute their contracts will be paid.
“No big contractors. We will get the locals who are plumbers to get the mono-pumps to work.
“We are going to take development to the people and that is why you no longer see the young men hanging around our gates. We have asked them to go back to their communities and we will meet them there.”
Former Rivers State governor and Minister of Transportation, Hon. Chibuke Rotimi Amaechi, is said not to be happy about the goings on at the commission because the dissolved board of the commission headed by the former Managing Director Nsima Okere, was his brainchild.
Apparently disappointed that the former governor has been sidelined, his people are said to be compiling dossiers on Akpabio’s people who allegedly got contracts in billions but did not execute them.
They are alleging that Akpabio’s people have been major players in the commission since it was set up about 18 years ago.
They are claiming that as Akwa Ibom governor, Akpabio nominated a chairman, a managing director and several state representatives to the NDDC board between 2007 and 2015. “How did they run the place?” they asked.
In their view,” the people there now should be sacked as well for a thorough forensic job to be done. ”
“The President means well for the Niger Delta. He should get an international firm of auditors to look into the books of the commission. What will be unearthed will shock Nigerians,” a leading politician from the region said in Abuja.