Niger Delta: Call for urgent intervention
I write this as a concerned indigene of the Niger Delta region with sufficient stake to comment on and contribute to any discourse on matters affecting the overall interest of the Niger Delta and its people.
It is against this background that I have resolved to express this view, through this medium, to draw the attention of President Buhari to the naked dance of shame being promoted by the Interim Management Affairs Committee, the illegal contraption in charge of the NDDC when there is a legally confirmed board for the Commission whose members were duly nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. This has created a state of confusion, tension and agitation that threatens the fragile peace in our region.
My submission is based on the following grounds:-That the Interim Management Committee lacks legitimacy as it flagrantly violates all the provisions of the NDDC Act, 2000. The first provision in consideration is Section 7(3) which places NDDC under the President’s “direction, control and supervision” in the Commission’s performance of its statutory functions.
To avoid any ambiguity, Section 30 of the said Act, defined the word ‘president’ as the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. There is therefore no doubt who under the NDDC Act is empowered to exercise supervisory control, direction and supervision over the performance of the functions of the said Commission. It is most instructive to state, without any fear of contradiction, that there is no provision in the said Act empowering the President to delegate any of his statutory functions hereto. If the framers of the Act had contemplated a situation whereby the President can share the statutory powers vested in him by way of delegation, the Act would have expressly said so. There are a number of our laws which give the President the powers to delegate.
A case in point is Section 145 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) which empowers the president in some circumstances to delegate the constitutional functions vested in him to the Vice President. Consequently, the contention that your Excellency has, in the absence of expressed and unambiguous provision in the NDDC Act, the inherent power to delegate the statutory functions thereto conferred on you is erroneous. The point must be stressed that the cession of functions credited to a President under NDDC Act is clearly predicated on the assumption that the custodian of such power is a person that the Nigerian people have carefully selected through the electoral process as being capable of discharging the functions spelt out in the NDDC Act.
If by the most liberal interpretation of the Act, the President has the implied power to delegate his supervisory functions to anybody including the Hon Minister for Niger Delta Affairs, the latter must exercise such delegated powers/functions in conformity with the spirit and express provision of the NDDC Act, and certainly not in conflict with it. It is in this connection that I’m impelled to bring to the President’s kind attention Section 10 of the Act in focus which establishes the Management Committee to be chaired by the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Commission and two other Executive Directors, and the Director responsible for the directorates as members.
The members of the Board of Directors of the Commission are to be appointed by Mr. President and confirmed by the Senate in consultation with the House of the Representatives. All procedural hurdles under the aforestated Act have been completed. The President, has in his wisdom appointed the Board which also received the confirmation of the red chamber (Senate) in consultation with the lower house.
Sadly, the expectation of all well meaning indigenes of the Niger Delta that the new board will, without delay, inject new life into the Commission has been dashed by the emergence of the incongruous interim Management committee. I have in the foregoing paragraphs, made it crystal clear that the interim Management committee is an indefensible illegality contrived by its architects to achieve objectives which are everything but wholesome and transparent. In their efforts to cover their spurious hidden agenda, they have sold this falsehood that the said interim committee was set up to assist the forensic audit ordered by Mr. President over the activities of the NDDC.
While I fully endorse the engagement of auditors in the task of cleansing the palpable and incontestable rot in the Commission, over the years by the gang of unconscionable and callous looters, I oppose, in the strongest terms, the usurpation by the Interim Committee of the supervision of the audit, because it is akin to having an interested party in the audit supervising the process. If indeed, Mr. President wants to probe the activities of the NDDC since 2001, then Akpabio cannot appoint people to supervise the audit, because he was a key godfather to several appointees in the Commission while he was Akwa Ibom State governor, including a past Chairman, Managing Director and state representatives. I posit, with all required emphasis, that the rot in the system cannot be cleansed by the same people whose acts of commission and omission may have contributed to bringing the Commission to its present hapless state.
Are these persons who are currently branding themselves as Puritans not the same people who, as former Chief Executive Officers of their States, influenced the appointment of key appointees of the agency, and used such appointees for their own personal gains? At the background of this well packaged deception by the Interim Committee, is the resonating sound of Mr. President’s philosophy of change, the clincher that, against all odds, brought the President to democratic governance in Africa’s most populous nation.
How does one convince any skeptic, in the wake of the ongoing highly embarrassing drama, that our President who once had our confidence by his professed adherence to the rule of law, due process, transparency and probity is unable, with the firmness of an Executive President, to forthwith order the disbanding of the Interim Committee?
In as much as we do not share the view, being widely orchestrated by cynics, that the President is not fully in charge of the nation’s affairs, this is the time to prove them wrong and to reaffirm his love for Nigeria and, in this particular case, his commitment to the welfare and development of the Niger Delta Area.
It is an understatement that Mr. President’s inaction in this matter has sent, and is still sending disturbing and disquieting signals to local and international community. It is unheard of and in fact unprecedented, that a political appointee, and worse still, one who is acting illegally can, without sanction, dare to undermine his President and appointor; and in fact the National Assembly, which has clearly asked that the Committee be disbanded.
The truth must be said, and this has been reiterated, the buck stops on Mr. President’s desk. Mr. President is the only principal person to be judged by history during and after his administration. Hence it is wisdom on the part of Mr. President to ignore the invisible and unknown forces hell bent, wittingly or unwittingly, in causing his administration to err.
The time to inaugurate the board of the NDDC carefully selected to breathe life into the NDDC for maximum performance is now. This is my passionate plea in the overall interest of the people of the Niger Delta.
Barrister Rume M. Akiri writes from