NDDC: The illegal IMC challenges National Assembly oversight powers
In the last few days, the Interim management committee (IMC) of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) which is an illegal contraption unknown to the NDDC Act has carried on in a manner that openly challenges the legitimacy of the National Assembly. Never in the history of Constitutional Democracy in Nigeria has an agency of government spewed lies, propaganda, threats, abuses and blackmail to undermine the integrity of the Legislative arm of government! This is clearly unprecedented.
The campaign launched by the illegal IMC of the NDDC is brazen in that, aside from challenging the integrity of members and the two houses of the National Assembly, it seeks to destroy their reputation and reduce them before the Nigerian people. First the Ag. Executive Director of Projects, Dr. Cairo spoke for one hour on National TV on Monday making wild and unsubstantiated allegations and repeatedly describing our National Legislators as thieves. The next day, the Ag. MD, Prof Pondei addressed a Press Conference at the NDDC Headquarters in Portharcourt and repeatedly made wild unsubstantiated allegations describing our National Legislators as thieves.
He went further to say that “Fifty percent of NDDC’s inability to deliver its mandate is as a result of the stranglehold of the National Assembly on the commission.” He then went on to tell journalists that the NDDC has not been able to perform because of the corporate corruption disposition of the National Assembly. The whole mission of these NDDC interim executives is to unfairly diminish the reputation and esteem of the National Legislators in the eyes of the Nigerian people and weaken the resolve of the National Assembly to perform its constitutionally guaranteed responsibility under Section 88 of the Nigerian Constitution to hold organisations and officers of MDAs to account in the public interest.
Section 88 (1) of the constitution (as amended), confers on the National Assembly the power to “direct or cause to be directed investigation into – (a) any matter or thing with respect to which it has the power to make laws, and (b) the conduct of affairs of any person, authority, ministry or government department charged, or intended to be charged, with the duty of or responsibility for – (i) executing or administering laws enacted by National Assembly, and (ii) disbursing or administering money appropriated or to be appropriated by the National Assembly.” This is why the National Assembly has a responsibility to investigate the books of any Ministry, Department or Agency of Government including the NDDC at any time of its choosing.
In spite of these provisions of the Constitution that guarantees the responsibility of the Senate and House of Representatives to hold MDAs to account, the illegal IMC at the NDDC encouraged by the Minister for Niger Delta, Chief Godswill Akpabio have taken pleasure in ridiculing the National lawmakers, even generating spurious stories without any evidence to damage and destroy their reputations.
The IMC and the Minister have repeatedly made damaging and libellous statements against the National Assembly and have continued to insinuate that they cannot be questioned by the National Assembly. Nigerians are already beginning to wonder if the National Assembly has now become subordinate to the Executive and even its Ministries, Agencies and Parastatals. This is unprecedented. Our National Lawmakers must now reassert its place in Nigeria’s Constitutional Democracy.
The IMC is an illegal contraption. The law setting up the NDDC provides that it be managed by a Governing Board nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate. It was not envisaged that certain characters will be appointed and without passing through a Confirmation process of the Senate go-ahead to manage the funds of the Commission. The President indeed in October 2019 nominated members for the NDDC Governing Board who were screened and confirmed by the Senate. The Confirmed Board has been put on hold for an illegal IMC that is not provided for in the NDDC Act. It is time for the National Assembly to insist for the Governing Board to be put in place in line with the NDDC Act.
In the meantime, Nigerians are waiting to see how the National Assembly will react when it resumes Plenary to the abuse, defamation, character assassination and criminalization that it has been brazenly subjected to by the IMC of the NDDC in the last few days.
Briggs is the president of Niger Delta Accountability and Development Congress