Opinion

A Dispassionate Look At Dissolution Of Odubu-Led NDDC Board

It is not an exaggeration to say that one of the decisions that was reached by the federal government in December 2019, and which invariably gave Nigerians the privilege of knowing about the monkey business that has been thriving in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), thereby exposing the malodorous cesspit of corruption that the Commission is characterized with, is the dissolution of the Dr. Pius Odubu-led board.

It would be recalled that after the dissolution of the board that the President validated the existence of the Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the commission led by the former Acting Managing Director of the Commission, Dr. Joi Nunieh, and in a similar vein restated that the supervisory power over the commission would continue to rest with the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio.

It would be recalled that the Senate had in November 2019, confirmed 15 nominees to constitute the NDDC board, and after which the president refused to inaugurate the nominees, despite the clearance by the Senate. However, while the confirmation was expected by concerned Nigerians, the president ordered a forensic audit of the operations of the Commission from 2001 to 2019.

Curiously enough, before the nominees were cleared by the Senate, the Minister of Niger Delta, Godswill Akpabio, named an interim management committee for the NDDC.

The lawmakers had said there was no need for the interim committee and that they would not recognize them but to screen and confirm the recomposed board nominees.

However, prior to the foregoing developments, President Muhammadu Buhari has also directed that the IMC Team of the NDDC shall be in place till the forensic audit is completed, and that the supervision of the Commission shall remain under the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs.

The dissolved board had Dr. Pius Odubu, who represented Edo State as Chairman; Chief Bernard Okumagba from Delta State as Managing Director; Mr. Maxwell Omo from Bayelsa State as Executive Director, Finance and Administration; and Engr. Otobong Ndem as Executive Director, Projects.

It is not an overstatement to say that since the IMC was further endorsed by the president that a lot of water has passed under the bridge. For instance, the corruption allegation that was recently made against top officials of the IMC indicated that N81.5 billion was spent within 7 months, that is, from October 2019 to May 2020. The disclosed expenditure however contradicted media reports that the money was spent within 6 months; from January 2020 to July 2020. The disclosure was made in a tweet post by the Niger Delta Development Commission on its official twitter handle on Sunday, July 19, 2020.

The commission, while dismissing the media report as false, claimed that the N81.5 billion was allegedly mismanaged was spent by the two IMC’s constituted in the NDDC between October 29, 2019, and May 31, 2020.

At this juncture, and against the backdrop of the foregoing views, it cannot be wrong to opine that since the option of running the Commission on the pedestal of Interim management has being exhausted that it is expedient the Odubu-led board is inaugurated to stem the tide of sleaze in the Commission.

The reason for the foregoing suggestion cannot be farfetched as the level of corruption, financial recklessness with somewhat charm and talisman oaths that now seal loyalty at the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) under the IMC as alleged by Dr. Nunieh in the altercation that broke out between her and Akpabio literarily spilled the unpalatable beans that made many Nigerians to shudder. As widely reported, the mess was further taken to the hallowed chambers where Akpabio, Nunieh and Pondei variously appeared at a public hearing of the Adhoc Committee primarily constituted to investigate the corruption allegations.

Considering the fact that the expected merits which might have led to the constitution of the IMC to run the day-to-day business of the Commission is not forthcoming, not a few Nigerians are worried, and canvassing for the inauguration of the Pius Odubu-led board.

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Those that want the board to be inaugurated have been consistent in their argument that the president must straighten the affairs of the NDDC by inaugurating the Senate-confirmed board, which is the one that has Odubu as its chairman.

They have tenaciously buttressed that the inauguration of a properly constituted board will pave the way for sanity and stability to the Commission. The agitators have argued that since the formation of NDDC in 2000 by an Act of the National Assembly that it has had different leaderships. Talking about its leadership at various dispensations, names like Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba , Professor Brambaifa, Dr. Joi Nuneih and Professor Kemebradikumo Pondei ring bell. Not few Nigerians have flayed frequent changes in the leadership, and on that noted concluded that it is not good for the financial health of the Commission and the purpose for which it was established to achieve.

As asserted for the umpteenth time by public opinion analysts, the NDDC has not had a proper board for close to one year. The first interim management committee operated from January 2019 to August 2019, after which it was dissolved when the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) announced the names of the new 16-man board members and directed the most senior director in the commission, Dr. (Mrs) Anyia Akwagaga, to act as the managing director, pending the senate confirmation of the president’s nominees. Two months later, yet another ‘interim management committee’ was announced, in the evening of October 29th, five hours after the Senate president read President Buhari’s letter containing the names of 16 persons nominated for the NDDC board.

It is not an exaggeration to say that not few stakeholders are unhappy with the seeming unguarded resort to interim board every now and then. They have been unanimous in their views that duly nominated and confirmed board should be allowed to manage the NDDC.

Just some few days ago, the issue came to the fore when the leadership of the National Coalition of Niger Delta Ex-Agitators, NCNDEA called on President Muhammadu Buhari, to find reasons to inaugurate the Pius Odubu-led executive board as screened and confirmed by the Senate last year. This was made known in a statement signed by the Coordinator of the Coalition, Eshanekpe Israel. The statement read in part: “The President should see the current developments as an eye-opener for him to rescind himself and inaugurate the Odubu-led executives.
Ostensibly reverberating the call, the National leadership of the Host Communities of Nigeria Producing Oil and Gas, and other stakeholders from the 10 oil producing communities in the country held a meeting where they advocated the dissolution of the IMC that currently manages the Commission on grounds of the humongous level of corruption that it is characterized with.

Still in the same nexus, the Transparency and Accountability Advancement Group in April this year called on President to immediately disband the IMC of the Commission over scandal and ongoing corrupt activities.
National Coordinator of the group, Comrade Godknows Sotonye, stated that following the revelation of corruption allegations against the Minister of Niger Delta, Godswill Akpabio, and his involvement in corrupt activities in the commission, the President must as a matter of urgency bring order to the NDDC by disbanding the IMC”.

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