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Rumbles in Niger Delta over NDDC board nominees

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Ndoma-Egba

Ndoma-Egba

Fresh crisis is brewing in the Niger Delta over the appointment of some persons into the board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) by President Muhammadu Buhari.

A bitter battle has been raging, as groups from oil producing areas are at daggers drawn with the Federal Government over perceived miscarriage of justice in the appointment of persons from non-oil producing areas into NDDC board in sheer violation of the NDDC Act.

Section 2(b) and (c) of the NDDC Act says: “There is hereby established for the commission a governing Board (in this Act referred to as ‘the Board’),
which shall consist of: (a) a Chairman, (b) one person who shall be an indigene of an oil producing area to represent each of the following member states… (c) three persons to represent non-oil mineral producing states provided that such membership should be drawn from the remaining geo-political zones, which are not represented in the commission.”

Members of the newly constituted board awaiting Senate confirmation are: Senator Ndoma Egba (Chairman), Mr. Nsima Ekere (MD/CEO), Adjogbe Ajenakevwe, Executive Director in charge of projects (Delta State).

Others are Mene Ienyie Derek (Executive Director/Head, Finance and Administration (Rivers state), Frank Samuel George (Akwa Ibom State), Brambaifa Nelson (Bayelsa state), Sylvester Effefiom Nsa (Cross River State), Ogaga Ifowodo (Delta state), Harry Iboroma Dabibi (Rivers State), Igo Weli (Niger Delta region), amongs others.

The appointment of former deputy governor of Akwa Ibom State, Ekere who hails from Ikot Abasi and Frank George (both from Akwa Ibom) into the NDDC board, had infuriated people from Eket and Oron areas of the state.

In a bid to seek redress, an aggrieved group under the aegis of Incorporated Trustee of Oron Union had filed a suit at the Federal High Court, Abuja, seeking an interim order to stop the Senate from confirming the duo on the basis that their appointment as the Managing Director and Commissioner in the board of NDDC respectively, contravened the NDDC Act, which lucidly specifies that nominees must come from oil producing communities.

In a suit No. FSC/ABJ/CS/603/2016, the President General of the incorporated trustee of Oron Union, Dr. Effiom Eduna, claimed that the nominations of Ekere and George were wrongly made, as both of them were not from the oil producing areas of Akwa Ibom State.

Eduna stressed that the NDDC Act is unambiguous about those qualified to be MDs and Commissioners of the board. He contended that the appointment of the two Akwa Ibom nominees was done without regard to the provisions of Section 171 (5) of the 1999 Constitution and the provision of the NDDC establishment Act 2004.

The trustees argued that: “The appointment may, (thus), threaten peace and development in the region due to ethnic and sectional marginalization.”

Similarly, Concerned Ndokwa Patriots (CNP) has filed a suit at the Federal
High Court, Asaba, Delta State, seeking for an order to compel President Buhari to appoint an Ndokwa person into the board.

CNP in suit no. FHC/ASB/CS/47/2016, argued that Ndokwa /Ukwuani area of Delta State has being producing about 12 per cent of the total oil and gas explored in the Niger Delta region and host to the largest oil and gas recycling plant in the whole of West Africa, but they have been excluded from appointment into the NDDC board since its inception in June 2000.

“A declaration that the non-inclusion of any indigene of Ndokwa/Ukwuani ethnic group as members of the 5th governing board of the NDDC pursuant to section 2(1)(b)(v) and 2(2)(a)(b) of the NDDC Act of July 12, 2000, amounts to discrimination against indigenes of Ndokwa/Ukwuani ethnic= group in Delta state,” the suit read.

Recalled that CNP had in a petition signed by its national coordinator and secretary, Victor Okwuepusu and Ben Ellu, said they are saddened over the non-inclusion of an indigene of the area on the list of NDDC board nominees submitted to the Senate for confirmation.

The Ndokwa/Ukwuani grouse is hinged on the fact since the inception of NDDC in 2000 and despite its board reconstituted about four times, past and present governments have not deem it appropriate on the basis of equity to nominate an Ndokwa/Ukwuani indigene, as either chairman or member of the board of directors.

“Ndokwa/Ukwuani Federal Constituency of Delta State consists of
Ndi-Oshimili-Ukwuani speaking people who are indigenous to Ndokwa West, Ndokwa East and Ukwuani Local Government Areas of Delta State. These three local government areas have within their geographical areas oil-bearing and producing communities that contribute 12 per cent of the total oil and gas produced in the Niger Delta region.

“It will be proper to state that different foreign and indigenous oil-producing and servicing companies are operating without hindrance in Ndokwa land. These companies include: Nigeria Agip Oil Company (NAOC), Sterling Energy Exploration Company (SEEPCO), Midwestern Oil and Gas Limited, Energia Oil J.V., Chorus Energy, Pillar Oil and Gas, Platform Petroleum Limited.

“It is apposite to state that since the reconstitution of the NDDC board in four previous occasions, including the recent list submitted to the National Assembly for screening and confirmation. The Urhobo, Ijaw, Isoko and Itsekiri have been appointed time and again except Ndokwa,” they said.

Meanwhile, irrespective of the avalanche of protest hinged on perceived violation of the NDDC Act, Ekere’s kinsmen under the aegis of the Ibibio Elders’ Forum, Chairman, Dr. Okon Akpan Uko and Secretary-General, Dr. Emmanuel Akpanobong, have hailed the President for nominating Mr. Ekere as the NDDC Chief Executive and Mr. Samuel Frank as Commissioner representing Akwa Ibom State in the commission, arguing that both appointments are well-deserved.

The forum described Mr. Ekere as a seasoned professional and astute administrator with decades of experience, having served Akwa Ibom State in various capacities, including as a Deputy Governor.

“With Nsima Ekere on the saddle of the NDDC affairs, we are confident in his ability to deliver the long-expected development and transformation of the Niger Delta oil-producing region, as well as create employment and empowerment for the unemployed youths of the region,” the forum said.

Similarly, another group, Esu Nlap Oro, with Ulap Joseph Okon as President and Secretary, Ulap Victor Joe, have described Mr. Ekere, as a patriot with light hearted disposition and a true statesman. And irrespective of misgivings by some, the group expressed hope that he will extend programmes and projects to every part of Niger Delta region without ethnic consideration.

Groups and individuals in Cross River State have declared support for and against President Buhari’s recent nominations of Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba and Obong Nsima Ekere, as the Chairman and Managing Director of Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).

Shortly after the announcement of board members by the presidency, the following groups and their leaders: Ekpo Ekpo of the Niger Delta Volunteers (NDV); Hart Bradford of Niger Delta People Liberation Fighters; Kobo Jack of Joint Niger Delta Liberation Fighters; Okorochas Victor of Niger Delta Strike Force; Debekme Jackson of Niger Delta People’s Salvation and Ifeanyi Kalu of Niger Delta People’s Liberation Movement, in a joint statement called on the National Assembly not to confirm the names of Senator Ndoma-Egba and Ekere as the NDDC nominees for the top offices.

The petitioners said, the President should withdraw the nomination of the Chairman and the Managing Director of NDDC from the Senate and replace same with technocrats of proven integrity, who have no corrupt record.

The group went further to say that these individuals who could not perform in their previous elected/appointed offices and are eyeing 2019 gubernatorial positions in their states, described Obong Ekere as a self-centred person.

“He has held different positions of trust, but has failed to bring anything good to his people. His constituency is crying for development despite the fact that he received huge sums of money as constituency development projects during his16-year tenure as a Senator. His main objective is to become Governor of Cross River State in 2019, but not to develope Niger Delta,” they said.

A public affairs analyst, Peter Briggs told The Guardian that the appointment of Ndoma-Egba is worrisome in the sense that he is not even from an oil-producing state. He took a swipe at the nomination of Mene Derek, who happened to be a former caretaker committee chairman of Khana Local Government Area of Rivers State. He questioned the justification of Derek into the board, owing to the fact that not even a barrel of crude oil has been produced from Ogoni since 1993 till date.

He contented that with the ceding of Bakassi Peninsular to Cameroon, Cross River State ceased to be an oil-producing State in Nigeria. To this end, he said it would be an act of injustice to allow Cross River to continue to benefit from NDDC because it has lost all the prerequisite credentials of an oil-producing area.

On the contrary, former governor of Cross River State, Mr. Clement Ebri, has described the appointment of Ndoma Egba as a clear example of putting a square peg in a square hole by President Muhammadu Buhari. According to him, it is a step taken in the right direction because of his wealth of experience in public and community service.”


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