By Duabo Epelle
For President Muhammadu Buhari, his commitment and altruistic mission to reposition the Niger Delta Development Commission and bring about the desired development to the people of the region, especially with the recent constitution of the NDDC Board, have deservedly earned him accolades. By all parameters, Mr. President is finishing strong in the region.
Although the President, is a man of little words, some of his recent actions, especially since he ordered for the forensic audit of the NDDC and the appointment of the current Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, have clearly shown that there has never been a time the Federal Government has shown so much commitment and political will towards the fulfilment of the mandate of the NDDC as it is under his administration.
Buhari’s determined steps to develop the region was reemphasized while inaugurating the 7th Governing Board of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, on Wednesday December 4, 2023 in Abuja. The Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Mr. Umana Okon Umana, charged the Board members to guard against award of what he described as “spurious and indiscriminate new contracts” and focus completing the numerous ongoing projects.
The Minister listed the task before the board to include: faithful implementation of the recommendations of the report of the Forensic Audit, looking into allegations of irregular employment from 2019 in order to ensure all cases of employment were done within extant rules and regulations of the Service.
On overseeing the commission, the Minister promised the ministry will not relent in providing and availing the Board and the Commission at large with necessary support and guidance needed for a successful tenure.
He promised to organize a retreat for the Board Members, their Aides and Management of the Commission, with the Honourable Minister of State and Permanent Secretary in attendance.
Umana commended Muhammadu Buhari for his unceasing love for the people of Niger Delta region, explaining that the President’s approval of the Governing Board of the NDDC was in line with section 2 (1) of the NDDC (Establishment) Act 2000.
“The tasks before the New Board shall include a faithful implementation of the recommendations of the report of the Forensic Audit. Besides the findings of the Forensic Audit, Government has received numerous petitions alleging irregularities in employment in the Commission. The New Board will have to look into these allegations of irregular employment from 2019 and follow up on the ongoing personnel audit in the Commission to make sure that all cases of employment during the period under review were in accordance with extant rules and regulations of the Service.
“In executing the mandate of the Commission, the Board and Management of the NDDC are to note that in a letter of 29 September 2019 the President had: “(a) Delegated to the Honourable Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, the powers and duties conferred on the President by section 7(3) of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) Act” [and] “(b) Directed the Board and Management of the NDDC to carry out their activities under the supervision of the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs.” I believe the intent of the President’s letter as quoted above is self-explanatory.
“On our part as the overseeing Ministry, we will not relent in providing and availing the Board and the Commission at large with the necessary support and guidance needed for a successful tenure. Accordingly, we shall organize a retreat for the Board Members, their Aides and Management of the Commission, with the Honourable Minister, Honourable Minister of State and Permanent Secretary in attendance.
“The New Management is to further note that it must strictly adhere to the relevant provisions of the extant rules, particularly compliance with procurement thresholds as enshrined in the Public Procurement Act of the nation, and abide by the operating financial regulations to ensure prudence in the management of the limited resources. Every contract above the threshold of Management is to be referred to the Ministerial Tenders Board and the Federal Executive Council. Any breach of contract approval limits will attract severe sanctions.
In her comments, the chairman of NDDC Governing Board, Lauretta Onochie, commended president Buhari for ensuring a new board is set up for the NDDC, adding that the president’s actions on any national issue is always based on the interest of the country.
Across the Nine States of region, there was excitements as the Federal Government inaugurated the Board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) in fulfilment of President Buhari’s promise to set up the board after the conclusion of the forensic audit he ordered in the interventionist agency.
Dr John Douglas, the Director of Media and Publicity of a Civil Society group that champions the development of the region, Niger Delta Network (NDN), in an interview with pressmen at the venue of the Board’s inauguration, thanked President Muhammadu Buhari for appointing and inaugurating the best hands to manned the commission despite pressure and unpatriotic acts by some individuals to scuttle the constitution of the NDDC board.
He said from the antecedents of the people that have been appointed to oversee the administration of the agency, he was sure they will deplore their expertise in public sector management to bring the desired peace, development and stability to the Niger Delta region.
Prof (Mrs) Aniekan Johnson, a Development Economist and a Lecturer in the University of Port Harcourt, commended President Buhari for inaugurating the NDDC Substantive Board and urged the Board members to make the development of the Niger Delta region a priority.
She said: President Muhammadu Buhari deserves special commendation for listening to the agitations of the people of the Niger Delta on the constitution of a Substantive Board for the NDDC. It is what we have been hoping for “.
“The inaugurated Board Members should shun political and other parochial sentiments and focus on the development of core infrastructure projects for the benefits of the people of the region “.
Thankfully, Mr. President had appointed a competent administrator and technocrat as the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs. It is our expectation that the board will work in synergy with the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs to bring the much desired development to our people, despite the fact that the Buhari’s administration has a few months to wind down “.
For Dr. Ibinabo Duabo of Niger Delta University, Abraka, the people of the region should shun all divisive tendencies and support the NDDC Board to interpret the vision of the Federal Government for the people of the region.
She commended the recent steps taken by the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs to institutionalize transparency and accountability in the NDDC through the publication of the list of completed projects by the Buhari administration in the Niger Delta through the NDDC.
The University Don urged President Buhari to order for the publication of the outcome of the forensic audit conducted in the Commission as part of his reforms and institutiozaling transparency and accountability in the Commission.