Nigeria: NDDC - An Interventionist Agency Caught Between Two Power Blocs - - Pere Luke, Akugbene Monarch

16 January 2020
interview

Says agency has been hijacked by powerful forces

His Royal Majesty Pere Luke, Kalanama VIII (Ogiame), Pere of Akugbene -Mein Kingdom and Second Vice Chairman, Delta State Council of Traditional rulers, in this interview, speaks on recent fight over the leadership of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, calling on the Federal Government to make known to the region the duration of the current Interim Management Committee of the commission. Among other things he urges politicians from the region to stop the game of sycophancy and promote the good of the region.

On recent events at the leadership cadre of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC

The NDDC is an interventionist agency caught between two forces in the Villa. What is happening in the Niger Delta Development Commission today is an irony. An agency that is saddled with the responsibility of developing the region has been hijacked by powerful forces. When Mr President transmitted the names of the board to the Senate it was read on the floor of the House. On that same day the Minister of Niger Delta, Senator Godswill Akpabio also set up an Interim Management committee, which to many of us is an aberration.

For us, if the President had sent a list of nominees to the Senate for screening and confirmation we felt there was no need to set up another body at par with what the President had sent. But as the day went by it began to unfold in some settings that the President never authored the list that was sent to the Senate.

But if you look at what happened critically, if the President did not author the list that was sent to the Senate what punitive measure has been meted at those who authored it? If the President was part of it then what caused the reversal? Mind you they were screened by the Senate committee after which the Senate confirmed the list. Then the Senate President said the Senate will only listen to the Board on the budget of the Commission. If the President was not the author of the list why was it sent? Clearly, there are some persons working to impoverish the region. Otherwise this back and forth story won't be there

As a son of the region I will align myself with the forensic audit so that those who collect money for jobs but abandon them can face the law.

The way we are now, we don't know where the NDDC is going. Whether the Interim Management committee will last for one year, two years we don't know. The responsibility of an Interim Management Committee can be done by a substantive board. The interim management committee can also influence the forensic audit if the argument is that the board can influence the audit then interim management committee can influence it. We must call a spade by its name.

Does the NDDC Act recognize an Interim Management committee if no then why set up one? What is their tenure? I felt it is truly an interventionist agency caught in between two powerful forces.

Within two years the commission has had four Interim management committees, is it healthy for the region?

That is the sad narrative. During the campaign of the All Progressives Congress, APC, they came up with the slogan 'change.' The understanding of it was that those things the the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, were not doing right they were coming to correct them. But what they are doing is like worse than what they said the PDP had done. When the PDP was in power there had been substantive board except when you had Elder Power Aginighan. In the last four years, the instability in the commission is alarming. Niger Deltans have suffered neglect in this present government. Contracts have been executed and there is no payment in the last two years .

Any word to the Federal Government on the NDDC?

My appeal to Mr President is that he should tell Niger Deltans how long this interim body will last. Let us know so that when the time elapses we can call for a substantive board.

The Niger Delta has suffered deprivations, it is only the NDDC that is addressing some of these problems. When they say the NDDC is not doing anything, it is not true. In the last government there was impact from the NDDC on the region

My appeal to Mr President is that he should put a substantive board for the NDDC. The NDDC is one of the MDAs under Senator Akpabio's Ministry of Niger Delta. The energy he has put in the NDDC he should equally channel to others in his Ministry.

The East-West road is very bad. The road from Akwa Ibom to Calabar has been cut off. When we as traditional rulers had our meetings in December what we were told was that the people from Cross Rivers State could not attend the conference because the road is impassable. The Bayelsa to Port Harcourt end is also bad. He should channel the same energy to the roads in the region

Communities in Niger Delta

We lay the golden egg but deprived in sharing. They should concentrate on riverine communities. The bulk of the Nigerian revenue come from oil and from the riverine areas. The Federal Government should give us our fair share. Most of our politicians who should speak for us are politicking with the positions given to them. They play sycophantic role.

When Mr Patrick Akpobolokemi was Director General, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA he established a Maritime college in Okoloba, Bomadi local Government Area. That project is almost moribund. The school is left unattended to. Look at the Maritime University at Okenrokoko, the funding is poor. I heard because of the poor funding most of the non-academic staff have been relieved of their job.

We produce the money used to develop other parts of the country. What is wrong if they plough a percentage of what they get from the region back to the region?

This will be in their interest because when there is peace in the region the revenue will continue to soar. My appeal to the Federal Government is not to gag the press, the beauty of democracy is all about free speech. If there is no dissenting view the executive will not be put on check. Once you hold a contrary view to what the ruling party has they come after you, that is not democracy. We must be seen to run a democratic system of government. In the US, the House of Representatives impeached Donald Trump , no law maker was arrested not even on trump up charges. They were all free to drive their convictions. That is where we copied our democracy, so why must we deviate from the tenets of democracy?

Any word for the Minister of State for Petroleum, Chief Timipre Sylva

I congratulate him though I did that when he got the appointment. The Nigerian story is such that some positions are given and those who control it are somewhere else. Chief Sylva is just the Minister of State for Petroleum. He cannot take policy decisions in the oil industry. There are internationally acclaimed best practices as far as the oil industry is concerned. What is operational in the Gulf of Mexico, US should also be replicated here. What makes Huston Texas popular is because of the oil industries in Huston.

It is an aberration to have oil companies flaring gas here and taking the revenue to Lagos State, and have their head offices in Abuja. This is an anomaly. What is wrong if the International Oil Companies. IOCS have their head offices in Delta, or any of the core oil producing states , it will have multiplier effect on the economy. Can anybody pay a yearly rent of five million naira in Warri but they pay millions in Lagos, they pay 70,000 to 100,000 dollars annually in Lagos. But can they do that for an apartment in Warri?

They have taken our wealth to Lagos, Abuja. I support the call on the IOCs to relocate their headquarters to the Niger Delta.

If you go to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, more of the senior staff are from the North. Do they produce oil? No. When it was the groundnut pyramid, they controlled the entire wealth of their region. Because we are a minority they want to use their majority advantage to oppress us, and take what belongs to us. I want to appeal to Mr President that in this new decade he should give the region attention.

Chief Sylva should play the advisory roles right as Minister of State. He should speak up for the good of the region. Let it be on record that as Minister of State that these were his efforts.

Youths of the region

They should give peace a chance. Where there is no peace there can't be development. The Nigerian state has impoverished us but we should not go into any form of crisis. because they will capitalize on it to deny us our due.

They will say because of the crisis nothing can be done.

They should support the government. But this should not stop them from giving constructive criticism. Their suggestions should be constructive not to threaten peace.

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