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NDDC Board: Hope at last from Senate?

With barely a year to the expected exit from office of his lack-lustre  administration come May 29th 2023, it remains expedient for President Muhamadu Buhari…

With barely a year to the expected exit from office of his lack-lustre  administration come May 29th 2023, it remains expedient for President Muhamadu Buhari to commence a house clearing exercise, pursuant to leaving the stage on a clean slate, and salvaging as much residual credibility as possible.  It is in that context that the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), remains just one agency under his purview that demands a volte face from him to justify a positive rating for him, in the reckoning of posterity. Apparently goaded by some of his lieutenants, Buhari had since 2019, unprecedentedly attracted infamy for his administration by yanking this interventionist agency which was set up statutorily for transforming the oil-rich, perennially neglected and development starved region, off the track of legality as well as due process, and placed it most precariously in the terrain of arbitrariness in its management processes, when he snubbed the Senate approved board members, and adopted ad hoc management committees and later, a Sole Administrator. Needless however to add that all of these imposed leadership factors of the agency, remain known to the laws of the land, as their appointments defied the enabling law of the NDDC.   

However, recent tendencies in the Senate indicate that respite may be on the way for the Niger Delta region as sanity may soon reign in the interventionist agency. Apparently in flagrant disregard for the strident clamour for restoration of sanity in the running of the agency, through the institution of its statutory board of directors the Sole Administrator Mr Effiong Akwa, recently commenced surreptitiously the process of fast tracking the passage of the agency’s budgets for the fiscal years 2021 and 2022, by the National Assembly. This initiative of the Sole Administrator shares similarity with the same manner in which he and his co travelers had been running the agency as ad hoc and therefore illegal managers. 

However this brainwave may have hit a brick-wall as a resolve by the President of the Senate Dr Ahmad Lawan stating that further approvals of the budgets and related operations of the agency may remain in limbo until a substantive board of directors is in place. According to Lawan, the Senate was disposed to ensure the inauguration of the Commission’s substantive Board “without further delay”, as the matter remains “long overdue”. Speaking further Lawan had said that that the NDDC “is one interventionist agency that should be run much more efficiently. I believe now that the forensic audit is over, we should have the NDDC run properly. Let there be full-fledged management and the governing board so that our people in the Niger Delta will continue to get the attention that made the NDDC to be established in the first place”.

Lawan’s new advocacy is not unconnected with the promise of President Buhari who had severally premised the appointment of a new board on the completion of a forensic audit of the agency. However, since the forensic audit was completed in July last year all talk of a new board had gone into suspended animation, even as high level intrigues bordering on a fight to control the soul of the NDDC by vested private interests, had held sway.

It is therefore not surprising that the Senate President new stand has attracted applause as it constitutes a new vote for rectitude in respect of the management of the affairs of the NDDC, as such had been the thrust of public goodwill towards the fortunes of the agency. In fact, Lawan’s new take is a welcome face-saving dispensation for the National Assembly as an institution, if it is considered that the legislature had played a most disappointing role in conceding to President Muhamadu Buhari, the liberty of discarding his own 16 nominees after 15 of such were duly screened and cleared on November 5 2019, for appointment as substantive directors of the NDDC, to impose his contraptions of Interim Management Committees (IMCs). Hence, for the past two years the country had been disposed to tolerate the indiscretions and excesses of the ad-hoc leadership structures for this interventionist agency, with all the implications for compromise of its mandate for changing the narrative of the critical Niger Delta region.

 With the new signal from the Senate President, the coast is now clear for fresh and vigorous advocacy for a new board for the NDDC, as evidence abounds that it may not come from mere wishful thinking as there are tendencies that are not disposed for such a development. In the same vein it will amount to a shame of monumental proportions that the Niger Delta region continues in its failure to mobilise the wherewithal to ensure the coming of a proper board of directors for the NDDC, given the turn of development so far. 

At this point it needs to be recalled that the even the advent of the NDDC was not procured on a platter of gold but the enterprise claimed tremendous stock of sacrifices. Such a history should therefore impel on the political assets in the region to brace up for a sustained campaign, to facilitate the statutory and proper role of the agency in the development of the zone.

The expected campaign should see the political assets from the region comprising the Governors of the NDDC states who hitherto had been laid back over management of the agency, the Senators, and Members of the federal and state legislatures, respective advocacy groups, the youth and all other purveyors of political pressure to effect the desired outcome.  If history of the country is to be the guide, it needs to be recalled that mass-oriented political reliefs are hardly derived without a fight. 

Hence, against the backdrop of the hiccups along its trajectory, a new board of directors for the NDDC qualifies as another theatre for the Niger Delta region to assert itself with success —as this time, the support of the Senate itself seems guaranteed.  

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