A Niger Delta social activist, David Ekuetafia (Esq.) has flayed the delegation of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), to the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs.
Ekuetafia also stated that the setting up of the Interim Management Committee (IMC) goes against the Act establishing the interventionist agency.
According to a statement made available to newsmen Monday, the activist declared the IMC illegal, noting that the Niger Delta Minister, Senator Godswill Akpabio, lacked the capacity to inaugurate any committee to pilot the affairs of the NDDC.
Calling for the immediate sack of the IMC, he explained that the board members of the Commission have the same status as the minister, being that they are screened by the Senate and only the President, as stipulated in the NDDC Act 2000 in section 2(1)(c), has the authority to appoint and inaugurate the Board.
Several controversies have trailed the NDDC, especially with the inauguration of the IMC by the minister. The Senate had concluded the screening of the presidential nominees to the NDDC last week, urging them to assume duties with immediate effect.
Emphasizing that the power to make appointment to fill any vacancy in the Board exclusively rests with the President, the lawyer said, “the NDDC Act 2000 does not make any provision for the President, to delegate his power to control, supervise or direct the affairs of the Commission, to any Minister, individual or group of individuals whatsoever.
“This position is clearly stated in section 7(3) of the law as follows: ‘the Commission shall be subject to the direction, control or supervision in the performance of its functions under this Act by the President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
He further stressed that the ministry only has liaising role with the agency to avoid duplication of projects, positing that like the North East Development Commission (NEDC), is under no ministry, the NDDC should not be an exception.
“However, let it be clearly stated here that by the Act of the National Assembly which established the Niger Delta Development Commission, it makes no provisions for an Interim Management Committee to be appointed and inaugurated by a Minister. This is because each member of the board is of equal status with a Minister having also passed through the Senate screening and confirmation.
“Therefore, let it be known and equally asserted here that by the enabling Act, no person is lawfully permitted to assume the role or perform the functions of the offices of the Managing Director, Executive Directors and other members of the Board of the NDDC without fulfilling the statutory requirements of screening and confirmation by the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
On the forensic audit, Ekuetafia pointed out that Senator Akpabio was “part of the alleged failure of the previous boards of the Commission sort to be investigated,” having been the state governor of Akwa Ibom and then, a Senator under the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
He posited that it will be unconstitutional for him to oversee, by virtue of his heading the NDDC, the forensic audit.
“Moreover, the law forbids the Hon Minister of being a judge in his own cause as the planned forensic audit by the Federal Government, when put in place, its terms of reference would cover the periods of 2007 to 2015 when Chief Akpabio was a member of the Niger Delta Development Advisory Committee created by section 11(1)(a) of NDDC Act 2000.
“It is therefore legally and morally wrong for the Honourable Minister to constitute and inaugurate a committee to oversee the investigation of the past boards (2001 to 2019) of the Commission of which he played prominent roles as a sitting governor and a leader of the Peoples Democratic Party in Akwa Ibom State. It was the PDP led Federal Government that constituted these Boards up to 2016.
“It is therefore the expectation of every well meaning Nigerian for the President, as a matter of urgency, to call, the Hon Minister of the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs (MNDA), Senator Godswill Akpabio, to order.
“Mr President should specifically direct him to stop arrogating to himself or usurping the statutory powers exclusive to the President under the NDDC Act 2000 by openly sacking the illegal interim management committee headed by Dr Joy or Joi Nunieh.
“We call on Mr. President to formally inaugurate the Dr Pius Odubu led Board which the Senate has successfully screened and confirmed, to enable them assume the duties of their offices without further delay,” parts of the statement read.