Findings by Saturday Vanguard show that the opposition championed by top personalities and other critical elements in the region, including a section of militants, were finally overwhelmed when President Muhammadu Buhari, last month, ordered reconstitution of governing Board of the Commission already screened and approved by the Senate, giving the IMC the imprimatur to continue in office.
Many, who all the while thought IMC was purely a contrivance of the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio gave up soon after, as the Senate which they had relied on its non-recognition of the Interim Management Committee to further accentuate their stand was found powerless in stopping the directive of the Presidency on NDDC.
Though a powerful Niger Delta leader stated that he neither backed the IMC nor maintained that the governing Board technically dissolved by President Buhari be sworn-in, we learnt that he assisted in no little way in drumming support for the interim management, as he directed militants, who threatened to return to the creeks if Mr. President refused to swear in the former Edo Deputy Governor, Dr. Pius Odubu-led board to simmer down.
A militant leader confided in Saturday Vanguard, “We actually wanted to fulfill our threat of shutting down NDDC headquarters in Port Harcourt over the development, but the respected leader (names withheld) called us and said we should not do it, as it will cause further unrest in the region.” We also gathered that Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, the umbrella body of traditional rulers, leaders and stakeholders of the coastal states of Niger Delta was not against the action of the Federal Government on NDDC.
Deputy National Secretary, PANDEF, Mr. Ken Robinson, told Saturday Vanguard on Thursday, “PANDEF has no particular interest in who becomes board chairman, member and managing director of the Niger Delta Development Commission, provided decisions are made in line with exact provisions of the law establishing the Commission.” “However, we would insist that appointments into NDD board should not be for rewarding partisan loyalty or political patronage.
Only people of proven integrity and track records of performance should be given responsibility to run the affairs of the Commission. And considering the importance of the Commission to the development of the region, it would not be out of place to add that those to be appointed to the Board should be people of demonstrable commitment to community development matters in the past,” he added.
Former national chairman of Traditional Rulers of Oil Mineral Producing Communities of Nigeria, TROMPCON, and Pere of Seimbiri Kingdom in Delta state, His Royal Majesty Charles Ayemi-Botu and ex-Secretary General of the body, Mr. Maikpobi Okareme, were concerned about the composition of the governing board to be reconstituted by Buhari when they spoke to our reporter, last week.
Both insisted that it was the turn of Delta state to produce both the Chairman of the Commission and Managing Director respectively based on alphabetical order of rotating the chairmanship of the agency and oil production quantum. Secretary, Warri Consultative Forum, WCF, Mr Amechi Ogbonna, asserted, “Our stand is that Mr. President should base his appointment on the Act establishing the Commission and equity should also play a role.
Ogbonna is in cahoots with the contention that Delta state should produce the next managing director, but he said, “What makes Delta state the highest oil producing state is because of the Itsekiri production that covers the operation of Chevron, Shell (Nekonde) and Elf (Conoil), while in gas production, the Okpai of Ndokwa nation is the highest in West Africa.
Our stand is that Itsekiri production makes Delta state number one because we produce 52 per cent in Delta state. C’ttee seals pact with youth leaders Apparently aware of the power of youths in the region, the IMC, early in the day, parleyed with youth leaders in the region and seemed to have established a working rapport that made it difficult for agitators to permeate the youth groups. Dr Nunieh, also a Niger Delta campaigner, in an interactive session with youth leaders in Port Harcourt, Rivers state, promised bring all stakeholders on board to chart a new course for the region.
The interim management committee under her leadership seems to be keeping to the deal, as youth leaders are not complaining about the management. At the meeting were the President of Ijaw Youth Council, IYC, Mr Pereotubo Oweilaemi, Chairman of IYC, Eastern Zone, Mr. Sammy George; representatives from Isoko, Ogoni, Ikwerre, among others.
The NDDC boss underlined the need to have a sense of direction to help quicken the pace of development in Nigeria’s oil-rich region. In this vein, Nunieh said: “We are promoting the ‘Charity Begins at Home’ programme, meant to inspire companies and individuals to give back to their communities.
We want companies to buy into the programme and adopt different communities for the provision of infrastructure. For instance, the Reynolds Construction Company, RCC, has responded to the campaign and is now fixing the failed sections of the Akpajo-Onne axis of the East-West Road in Rivers State.” Nunieh said that henceforth, NDDC contractors would be required to adopt communities where they would execute a project such as water, electricity or health facility. She added: “What we are trying to do with this programme is to mobilise people to give back to our communities.”
The Acting Managing Director urged Niger Delta stakeholders to support the efforts of the Federal Government to clean up the polluted environment in the region, noting: “We must realize that the essence of the Niger Delta struggle is more for environmental security.” She said that NDDC would encourage the various communities to keep their villages and beaches clean and appealed for all hands to be on deck. According to her, “all of us have roles to play to make our region safe, clean and economically viable.” Nunieh observed that oil companies operating in the Niger Delta had through their exploration and exploitation activities degraded the environment.
To make matters worse, she said: “Our youths who are engaged in illegal refining of crude oil, have joined in this despoliation by polluting the environment with soot. The United Nations Environment Programme, UNEP, report shows that one in eight persons from Ogoni will die of cancer. This is frightening and we must do something now to correct the problems.
We need to carry out an epidemiological study to determine what ails us and how to address the challenges they pose.” The NDDC boss said that the Commission was going to replace its Post Graduate Foreign Scholarship programme with a broad-based one that would cover the over 6,700 wards in the nine states of the region.