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Akpabio is wrong, appointment of NDDC interim sole administrator is illegal

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The Niger Delta Peoples’ Forum is shocked at the puerile attempt to turn truth on his head, in an incoherent statement of fallacies credited to the Honourable Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, published in Vanguard newspaper of December 18, 2020, captioned “Akpabio justifies appointment of sole administrator for NDDC.”

In unwinding and contradictory statements Akpabio falsely averred that “the appointment of a sole administrator for the NDDC today cannot be regarded as illegality” because according to him, it is based on precedence. Nothing can be further from the truth.

In the statement as reported by Vanguard, Akpabio stated that “even the first executive director of finance and administration acted as sole administrator of NDDC at various times, we have also had a sole administrator from Rivers State in the person of Semenitari, we have also had one from Cross River State, as well as Mrs. Enyia from Bayelsa while awaiting the confirmation of a board”

To be sure, any precedence based on the violation of a subsisting law, and in this case, NDDC (Establishment etc) Act 2000 No. 6 (As Amended), does not confer legality on such action, because the NDDC Act is very clear in the procedure for constituting the Management and Board of the Commission.

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But to also put the records straight, the first executive director of Finance and Administration of NDDC, Timi Alaibe, who was already confirmed by the Senate, acted as Managing Director in 2002, following the resignation of the pioneer Managing Director, Engineer Godwin Omene, and pending the appointment of another substantive MD in accordance with the provisions of Part 1; Section 5; Subsection 3 of NDDC Act, which states, inter alia, that “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 subject to the confirmation of the Senate.” Senator Emmanuel Aguariavwodo, was subsequently appointed substantive Managing Director and confirmed by the Senate. Senator Aguariavwodo also resigned his appointment and Timi Alaibe again stepped in as Acting Managing Director, pending the appointment of a substantive Managing Director.

Prior to Buhari’s coming to power in 2015, in the absence of a Board duly constituted in line with the NDDC Act, the  most senior Civil servant in the NDDC took over as Managing Director in acting capacity until a  Board was constituted in line with the NDDC Act.

The NDDC Act does not permit the appointment of any persons from outside the Commission to act as Managing Director or Sole Administrator without compliance with the Act which requires nomination by the President and Confirmation by the Senate. This is the same requirement for Ministers of the Federal Republic. The Law does not permit for anyone to be appointed as Acting Minister in any Ministry. If there is no Minister in a Ministry, the most senior civil servant, that is the Permanent Secretary holds forth until a Minister is appointed by the President and duly confirmed by the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

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The orderly succession was only breached in 2015 by the Buhari Administration, which dissolved the Board of NDDC and appointed Ibim Semenitari as Sole Administrator from outside the Commission. Other breaches included the appointments of Professor Brambaifa’s interim team in February 2019; the Joy Nunieh and later Professor Pondei led Interim Management Committee in October 2019 and February 2020, respectively; and now the imposition of Effiong Akwa as sole administrator, all of which appointments were in violation of the NDDC Act. Only the appointment of Dr. Akwagaga Enyia, the most senior civil servant in August 2019 as Acting Managing Director followed due process, because as the most senior civil servant in NDDC, she was so named to hold forth pending the confirmation of substantive Board nominees forwarded to the Senate by President Buhari.

Senator Akpabio stated in the Vanguard report that interim administrators are normally appointed while “awaiting the confirmation of a board”. However, in the present circumstance, starting with the IMC imposed on Niger Delta in October 2019, and the interim administrator announced on December 12, 2020, there has been a substantive 15-member Board appointed by President Buhari since August 2019, and duly confirmed by the Senate on November 5, 2019, awaiting to be inaugurated.

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So, why has Akpabio serially stalled the inauguration of a Board that guarantees proper corporate governance, accountability, checks and balances, and overall, fair and equitable representation of the constituent states of the Niger Delta region?

In his unrelenting tirade in the statement as reported by Vanguard, the Minister remarked that “the board is just a conglomeration of appointees from politicians.” But Nigerians should also note that this same Akpabio who is a politician has just unilaterally imposed his protégé and confidant, Mr. Effiong Akwa, as the interim sole administrator of NDDC for an indeterminate period under the bogus guise of supervising a supposed ongoing forensic audit that has been weaponised by the Minister and his surrogates.

Mr Effiong Akwa was Special Assistant on Finance to Mr Bassey Dan-Abia, who was Managing Director of the NDDC between 2013 and 2015, a period to be covered by the forensic audit. Mr Dan-Abia himself was a former Commissioner in Akpabio’s cabinet in Akwa Ibom State, while Akpabio was Governor of Akwa Ibom State. Governor Akpabio nominated Dan-Abia as MD of the NDDC and sent Effiong Akwa to work with him as his Special Assistant on Finance during this period. Akwa’s new imposition is yet another evidence of Akpabio’s agenda to run the NDDC as his personal estate.

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Well-meaning Nigerians and Niger Deltans can therefore deduce from the litany of Senator Akpabio’s conflicting comments that he prefers to run NDDC as his personal fiefdom, when in one breadth, as reported by Vanguard, he “assured that a board of NDDC was still coming”, and then hiding under a finger he later asserts that “the board is just a conglomeration of appointees from politicians.”

It is increasingly clear that Akpabio prefers to run the Commission through proxies, first by manipulating the imposition of the illegal IMC in October 2019 and now by installing his protege as Interim Administrator.

Since October 2019 when the IMC was imposed, over N187 billion, as has been variously reported in the media, has been spent on frivolous payments, including fake contracts and dubious executive allowances. Not one project of value has been executed within this period.

In imposing Effiong Akwa, the Minister has perfected his agenda to stretch the opaque forensic audit for as long as he desires to corner the NDDC resources for himself and his collaborators.

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Consequently, the Niger Delta people are being robbed of representation in the Commission, through a properly constituted Board that guarantees proper corporate governance, accountability, checks and balances, and which effectively provides for broad representation of the nine oil producing states and other geopolitical zones and institutional interests.

We therefore call on President Buhari to reverse this illegal appointment of an interim sole administrator and put in place a substantive Board for NDDC as required by the NDDC Act.

This article is promoted by Chief Boma Ebiakpo, the national chairman of Niger Delta Peoples’ Forum


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