The reconstitution of the new board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) is raising dusts among critical stakeholders of the Niger Delta region.
President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday last week nominated new board members for the Niger-Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
The board has as managing director designate, Mr. Bernard Okumagba from Delta State while Chief Pius Odubu from Edo State will serve as chairman.
Other members include; Engr. Otobong Ndem – Executive Director, Projects, (Akwa Ibom), Mr. Maxwell Okoh – Executive Director, Finance (Bayelsa), Prophet Jones Erue -representative (Delta), Chief Victor Ekhatar-representative (Edo), Dr. Joy Yimebe Nunieh-representative (Rivers), Mr. Nwogu Nwogu-representative (Abia), Mr. Theodore A. Allison-representative (Bayelsa), Hon. Victor Antai-representative (Akwa Ibom), Mr. Maurice Effiwat-representative(Cross River), Mr. Olugbenga Elema-Representative (Ondo), Hon. Uchegbu Chidiebere Kyrian-representative (Imo), Aisha Murtala Mohammed-representative (North-West), Mr Ardo Zubairu-representative (North-East), Engr. Badmus Mutalib-representative (South-West). The board members are expected to undergo Senate screening and confirmation.
With the nominations, Professor Nelson Brambaifa who was the head of the interim management of the NDDC, is to handover to the most senior director.
Expectedly, Mrs. Lelegima Enyia Akwagaga, the Edo State representative, has assumed office as acting managing director, promising to bring positive change to the commission.
“I have been charged to do things right and we will start to do things right by the grace of God. By the time I am through with my assignment, there will be a positive change in the NDDC. I believe God will help me,” she said.
She urged the management and staff to play their own parts in facilitating the rapid development of the Niger Delta region.
“If everyone does his or her bit, we will succeed in turning things around for good in NDDC,” She noted.
Akwagaga, a specialist in Marine Biology, became a substantive director in April 2010 and was in charge of the Agriculture and Fisheries Directorate.
Shortly after the appointments were announced, stakeholders from the region kicked against it, saying the appointments were lopsided.
First to react were governors of the oil producing states who claimed that they were not consulted before the appointments were made by President Muhammadu Buhari, saying it was lopsided and resolved to meet with the president.
The governors who spoke to journalists through Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State in Abuja at the end of their meeting, said there were protests over the appointments but urged all stakeholders to remain calm.
Dickson said there was no consultation or collaboration with the governors before the appointments were made.
“We reviewed the current development pertaining to the NDDC. We are concerned about the governance process. We are concerned about the way and manner recent appointments were made. We call for calm among the oil producing states and region. We are critical stakeholders but we have not seen much collaboration between the presidency and the governors in the oil producing states.
“So, we need to have an audience with the president to discuss issues for more effectective repositioning, strengthening and operations of the NDDC”, he said.
Governor Emmanuel Udom of Akwa Ibom State, Rotimi Akeredolu (Ondo), Godwin Obaseki (Edo) and the deputy governors of Imo and Abia were at the meeting.
Apart from the position of the governors, other stakeholders of the region from the grassroots are also not happy.
Hundreds of protesters from Ndokwa and Oshimili communities in Delta North stormed the state’s Government House and House of Assembly in Asaba, urging the governor and the state legislature to intervene.
In the letters presented to the governor and speaker, they urged President Muhammadu Buhari to reconsider the appointments and allow Ndokwa people to produce the managing director of the board.
The protesters also demanded that the board chairmanship position be returned to Delta State in line with the spirit and letter of the Act setting up the NDDC board, arguing that it was yet to be the turn of Edo State.
The protesters who carried placards regretted that since the inception of the NDDC 19 years ago, Ndokwa has never had any representative in the board.
A letter addressed to Governor Ifeanyi Okowa signed by the Organising Chairman of the communities, Mr John Obi and the Secretary, Barr. Ben Elu, said other ethnic nationalities like the Urhobos have had five position including the managing director, executive directors and commissioners; the lsoko had four positions, ljaw four positions, Itsekiri three while Ndokwa-Ndoshimili had none.
The group also recalled that the deputy president of the senate, the minister of state for Niger Delta Affairs, chairman of NSITF and the out-going executive director of NDDC are all Urhobos, adding that Ndokwa is next to Urhobo in terms of population in the state.
Receiving the protesters at the Government House, the Senior Political Adviser to the governor, Rt. Hon. Funkekeme Solomon, said government was not oblivious of their plights.
He stressed that traditional rulers from the protesting communities had met with him and expressed their grievances on the matter, disclosing that the governor had mandated his office to articulate the grievances for onward transmission to the presidency.
Similarly, members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Abia State have also protested against the appointments. The party is particularly angry over the appointment of the state representative, Nwogu Nwogu.
It said in a statement issued by it’s Publicity Secretary, Comrade Benedict Godson, that the nominee does not have the requisite experience to represent the state in the board.
Godson said they would not allow mediocres and outsiders who he said know nothing about both the party, Abia State and Ukwa where a large chunk of oil is deposited, to sabotage the development efforts of the APC-led federal government.
The board positions have been rotating among the nine oil producing states since the NDDC was inguarated by former President, Olusegun Obasanjo in 2001. The first chairman was Chief Onyema Ugochukwu from Abia State while the managing director position was occupied by Mr Godwin Omene from Delta State. Subsequently, Delta produced the managing director in the person of Emmanuel Agwariawado and late PZ Aginaghan. Bayelsa State produced Ndutimi Alaibe and Professor Nelson Brambiafia as managing director. Akwa Ibom had Mr. Nisima Ekere and Dan Abia and Rivers had Mrs. Ibim Semenitari as acting MD. Edo, Abia and Cross River have not produced a managing director of the commission, but Cross River has produced a chairman, Ndoma Egba.