A civil society group, Niger Delta Integrity Group (NDIG), has taken a swipe at activist Rita Lori-Ogbebor for making, what it called, false claims about the board of the NDDC screened by the senate and for pushing an ethnic agenda alien to the laws setting up the Commission.
In a statement signed by its President Akpoebide Okotiene and Secretary, Edet Ekpenyong, NDIG condemned her for allegedly republishing a one-month old interview in a national daily on Thursday, "in what is clearly a desperate agenda to cramp the public space with falsehood in the hope that she can achieve her ethnic agenda, which she has been openly canvassing."
The group noted with dismay that, "in the recycled interview of Rita Lori Ogbebor she, in her usual style, made several false and unsubstantiated claims regarding the substantive Board of the NDDC, chief among which is that the Board, which was appointed by President Buhari in October 2019 and confirmed by the Nigerian Senate on November 5 2019 and is currently awaiting inauguration was disbanded in 2019 based on a court case instituted by her against its inauguration".
NDIG said that "this is not only false but disgraceful."
According to the group, "the fact of the matter is that there was neither a dissolution of the Senate-Confirmed NDDC Board, nor was there a court order or judgement anywhere against its inauguration. What happened in the case of the NDDC Governing Board, which was appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari in October 2019 is that after the appointees were vetted by all relevant agencies of the federal government, screened and confirmed by the Nigerian Senate on the 5th of November 2019, Mr President asked that the inauguration of the Board should be put on hold pending the completion of the forensic audit, for which an Interim Management Committee was appointed for the NDDC."
NDIG further stated that the Federal Government announced during the inauguration ceremony of the IMC in November 2019 that the Senate-confirmed NDDC Board will be inaugurated after the forensic audit.
It said the decision to step down the inauguration of the board was not due to any court case, adding there was no dissolution of the Senate-confirmed board as it had not been inaugurated, and was therefore not disbanded.
The group also recalled that on the 24th day of June 2021, while receiving the Ijaw National Congress at the State House in Abuja, President Buhari said that the NDDC Board would be inaugurated as soon as the forensic audit report was submitted and accepted.
NDIG quoted the President as having said that "I want to assure you that as soon as the forensic audit report is submitted and accepted, the NDDC Board will be inaugurated".
Drawing attention to what it described as her typical fashion, NDIG maintained that "Lori-Ogbebor has deployed lies and innuendos in her dubious narrative, as published in the interview and other such campaigns. This particular interview was first published a month ago and has now been republished in what is clearly a desperate agenda to cramp the public space with falsehood in the hope that she can achieve her ethnic agenda, which she has been openly canvassing."
On the issue of representation on the Board of NDDC, the group asserts that "Rita Lori-Ogbebor is labouring and propagating the exclusion of legally qualified Deltans from the NDDC Board by proposing that any appointment into the leadership of the NDDC Board should only come from her Itsekiri tribe. This open act of subterfuge, callousness and desperation is shameful and indeed despicable."
Drawing attention to the enabling Act, the group emphasized that the NDDC Act did not recognize ethnicity as a basis for appointing its board because to project ethnicity is a call to disharmony and anarchy, noting that the makers of the NDDC Act in their wisdom clearly avoided this path which can only lead to conflicts and hate in the States of the Niger Delta Region.
"The NDDC Act, which is the law that governs appointments into the NDDC Board, in Part 1, Section 2(1) B only requires a member of the NDDC Governing Board to come from an "Oil Producing Area. An area is a definite geographical space bound by its recognition in the constitution as an administrative space.
"Thus, an area can be a state, a local government area or a senatorial district. In the context of the NDDC act, an oil producing area is coterminous with an oil producing local government area. All indigenes of Oil Producing Local Government Areas in the Niger Delta States are eligible," NDIG said
Niger Delta Integrity Group alleged that "People like Rita Lori Ogbebor have deployed falsehood to build a nest of unearned and undeserved privileges over the years by feasting in falsehood, acrimony and division," and admonished that "a decent society cannot allow her to continue to spew lies to deliberately interfere with the legitimate process of governance. All her claims are lies and are intended to fraudulently ambush the legitimate process. Her strategy is to throw up inaccurate, unfounded, claims with the aim of misleading the public and institutions."
The group therefore urged President Buhari "to keep his promise to inaugurate the NDDC Board without further delay to ensure fair representation of the nine constituent states, accountability in the utilisation of the NDDC funds, checks and balances and due process in the Commission in compliance with the NDDC Act."