By Ibiba DonPedro
Chief Godswill Akpabio, Minister Niger Delta Affairs, chats with Barr. Kingsley Otuaro, Deputy Governor Delta State during visit to Oporoza Headquarters of Gbaramatu Kingdom Delta State late May 2021
As the June 30, 2021 deadline for the naming of a board for the Niger Delta Development Commission NDDC approaches, anxiety rules the waves in the Niger Delta. Chief Government Ekpemupolo also known as Tompolo had issued first, a one week deadline which should have expired on June 7, then a June 30 2021 deadline for Chief Godswill Akpabio Minister, Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs to announce a board for the troubled Commission.
Following a hasty trip by Akpabio who travelled in a small aircraft for the journey to Oporoza, headquarters of the influential Gbaramatu Kingdom, Delta State to meet stakeholders which included Delta State Deputy Governor, Barr Kingsley Otuaro, an extension of the deadline to June 30 had been secured. To underscore the concerns of people of the Niger Delta and politicians eyeing positions and the resumption of business at the Commission, all manner of lists filled with names of politicians of the ruling All Progressive Congress party, perceived to be close to the presidency have been flying around the social media space in the past weeks.
The NDDC was created in 2000 by the Olusegun Obasanjo administration, through the impact of sustained agitation by Niger Delta youth, activists, traditional rulers and members of the political class following the scrapping of the Oil Mineral Producing Areas Development Commission, OMPADEC. OMPADEC was created in 1985 by the Ibrahim Babangida led Military regime to address the paucity of infrastructure and address human capital development imperatives in the Niger Delta and to douse growing agitation in the critical oil bearing communities in the 1980s.
The NDDC impact has been crippled, plagued by deleterious politicking and massive corruption as the agency has been reduced to an Automated Teller Machine, ATM to fund the hedonistic lifestyles of its operators as well as influential politicians in Abuja. The NDDC has been reduced to the money pot to fund the elections of key politicians of whichever party is in power. It has further become an open bank vault to feed the unquenchable appetite for more looted money by the unelected wives of leading politicians in the Niger Delta. These realities have rendered the development intervention agency unable to drive its mandate of providing a structured response to the challenge of human and infrastructure development of the Niger Delta which has provided sustenance to Nigeria since the 1970s.
An Interim Board for the NDDC with Prof Nelson Brambaifa as Managing Director was appointed in January 2019 and sacked in August 2019 by the Presidency. A new board for the NDDC announced since 2019by the Buhari administration and screened by the Senate of the National Assembly, has been in limbo unable to take off as Akpabio whose Ministry controls the NDDC set up a process ostensibly to carry out a forensic audit of the NDDC, announced during the process of screening and clearing of the Odubu led board. That Board has Dr. Pius Odubu from Edo State as Chairman, Bernard Okumagba, Delta State as Managing Director. Maxwell Okoh from Bayelsa State was announced Director of Finance among other appointees.
In the meantime, Senator Godswill Akpabio, Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, has declared that the final report of the forensic audit of Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) will be ready by the end of July, 2021.
Akpabio, who fielded questions from State House correspondents on Tuesday at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, said the final report would be submitted to President Muhammadu Buhari for implementation.
The Federal Executive Council (FEC) had in February 2020 approved the appointment of a lead consultant for the forensic audit of Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).