By Eric Teniola
Since 2000 every president in Nigeria has been unfair to Ondo and Imo States in terms of the appointments of the chairman/managing director/executive directors in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
It does not matter the quantum of oil produced in these two states, as long as they are still members of the NDDC, the rotation formula as contained in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) Act should be applied. Why do I say so?
On August 27, 1991, General Ibrahim Babangida (GCFR) created Delta State, along with other states. He then named Asaba as the state capital, a decision that is still regarded as crucial even till today. A few months later on June 25, 1992, General Babangida established the Oil Mineral Producing Areas Development Commission (OMPADEC). On July 9, 1992, General Babangida signed into law the OMPADEC Decree. The states covered by OMPADEC were Rivers, Delta, Akwa Ibom, Imo, Edo, Ondo and Abia States. Port Harcourt was named as the headquarters of OMPADEC in the decree. The decree states, among other things, that the chairman and all other members of the Commission shall be appointed by the president, commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces; the chairman and all members of the Commission shall be full-time members; the chairman shall be the chief executive of the Commission and the supplementary provisions contained in the Schedule to this Decree shall have effect with respect to the proceedings of the Commission and the other matters contained therein.
In establishing OMPADEC, General Babangida took a cue from Section 159 of the 1963 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. General Babangida should be commended for establishing OMPADEC. From 1966 till 1992, nothing was done by the central government to cater for the plight of the people of the region. Section 159 of the 1963 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria states that, “(1) There shall be a board for the Niger Delta which shall be styled the Niger Delta Development Board. (2) The members of the Board shall be —- (a) a person appointed by the President, who shall be chairman (b) a person appointed by the Governor of Eastern Nigeria; (c) a person appointed by the Governor of Mid-Western Nigeria; and such other persons may be appointed in such manner as may be prescribed by Parliament to represent the inhabitants of the Niger Delta. (3) A member of the board shall vacate his office in such circumstances as may be prescribed by Parliament. (4) The Board shall be responsible for advising the Government of the Federation and the Governments of Eastern Nigeria and Mid-Western Nigeria with respect to the physical development of the Niger Delta, and in order to discharge that responsibility the Board shall— (a) cause the Niger Delta to be surveyed in order to ascertain what measures are required to promote its physical development; (b) prepare schemes designed to promote the physical development of the Niger Delta, together with estimates of the costs of putting the schemes into effect; (c) submit to the Government of the Federation and the Governments of Eastern Nigeria and Mid-Western annual reports describing the work of the Board and the measures taken in pursuance of its advice; (5) Parliament may make such provision as it considers expedient for enabling the Board to discharge its functions under this section; (6) In this section, “the Niger Delta” means the area specified in the Proclamation relating to the Board which was made on the twenty-sixth day of August, 1959; (7) this section shall cease to have effect on the first day of July, 1969, or such later date as may be prescribed by Parliament.”
The objectives of the Niger Delta Development Board were the same as that of OMPADEC which was to “(a) to receive and administer the monthly sums from the allocation of the Federation Account in accordance with confirmed ratio of oil production in each State — (i) for the rehabilitation and development of oil mineral producing areas, (ii) for tackling ecological problems that have arisen from the exploration of oil minerals; (b) to determine and identify, through the Commission and the respective oil mineral producing States, the actual oil mineral producing areas and embark on the development of projects properly agreed upon with the local communities of the oil mineral producing areas; (c) to consult with the relevant Federal and State Government authorities on the control and effective methods of tackling the problem of oil pollution and spillages; (c) to consult with the relevant Federal and State Government authorities on the control and effective methods of tackling the problem of oil pollution and spillages;(d) to liaise with the various oil companies on matters of pollution control (e) to obtain from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation the proper formula for actual oil mineral production of each State, Local Government Area and community and to ensure the fair and equitable distribution of projects, services and employment of personnel in accordance with recognised percentage production; (f) to consult to the Federal Government through the President, the State, Local Governments and oil mineral producing communities regarding projects, services and all other requirements relating to the special fund; (g) to render annual returns to the President, Commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces and copy the State and Local Governments on all matters relating to the special fund; (h) to advise the Federal, State and Local Governments on all matters relating to the special fund; (i) to liaise with the oil producing companies regarding the proper number, location and other relevant data regarding oil mineral producing areas; and (j) to execute other works and perform such other functions which in the opinion of the Commission is geared towards the development of the oil mineral producing areas.”
General Babangida appointed Mr. Albert Korubo Horsfall from Buguma in Rivers State as the chairman of OMPADEC. Mr. Horsfall was the former founding director of the Nigeria Intelligence Agency and director general of the State Security Service. He also appointed six commissioners to work with Chief Horsfall, among whom was my friend, Dr. Juniad S. Mohammed. Between 1979 and 1983, Dr. Mohammed represented Kano West ward in the House of Representative. During the tenure of Chief Horsfall, OMPADEC received N11.48 billion naira, approximately $133,488,372, from government through monthly disbursements from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). During the tenure of Chief Horsfall, all the six states were allowed to appoint directors of the Commission. Mr. Ajose Ikudehinbo represented Ondo State and he was made director of Research and Planning. During that time, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan served as assistant director in the Fisheries section, under Mr. M.C. Kanu, who was then director of Environment. Other directors were Mr. Princewill Iwueze; Mr. Essien, director in charge of finance; Mr. A.I. Nnamani, director in charge of General Administration.
General Sani Abacha (GCFR) came to power on November 17, 1993. On October 1, 1996, he created Bayelsa State out of Rivers State, thereby increasing the membership of OMPADEC from six to seven. On February 22, 1996, General Abacha dissolved the board of OMPADEC and its commissioners were removed, on the basis of the claims of non-performance. The government claimed that the contractors performed below expectations. General Sani Abacha then appointed Professor Eric Agume Opia as the sole administrator of OMPADEC. Professor Opia is from Kwale, which is the headquarters of Ndokwa West Local Government Area of Delta State. Kwale has produced eminent citizens, including Rear Admiral Mike Onah, Senator Patrick Osakwe, Brigadier Godwin Alabi Isama (although his mum is from Ilorin), Rear Admiral Sunday Uguna – the minister of Finance in the old Mid-Western Region, Chief Ogoegbuname Idise Dafe, among others.
When General Abdusalam Abubakar (GCFR) came to power on June 9, 1998, one of the first thing he did was to fire Professor Opia. He then set up a five-man panel headed by the chief of air staff, Air Vice Marshall Nsikak Eduok, to probe the tenure of Professor Opia. On November 11, 1998, General Abdusalam Abubakar appointed the former chief of naval staff, Vice Admiral Dan Preston Omatsola to run the affairs of OMPADEC.
At the time President Olusegun Obasanjo took over on May 29, 1999, he handed the affairs of OMPADEC to his special adviser on utilities, Mr. Liyel Imoke (58). Mr. Imoke hails from the Agbo tribe in Abi Local Government Area of Cross River State. His father, Dr. Samuel Imoke was a medical doctor who became a cabinet minister and leader of Parliament in the former Eastern Region. Mr. Imoke’s mum, Comfort Imoke (nee Imoukhhuode) is from Sabo Gida Ora in Edo State, while his dad, Dr. Imoke, was a good friend of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo. In addition, Mr. Imoke was given the schedule of running the then National Electric Power Authority (NEPA) by President Obasanjo. Mr. Imoke was later elected governor of Cross River State in 2007. He served for eight years. Chief Opia was subsequently declared wanted by the police, following a petition by Ambassador Patrick Dele Cole requesting that N38.4 million allegedly taken from the OMPADEC coffers by Chief Opia to buy some equipment for a Port Harcourt base construction company should be investigated. Till date, the whereabout of Chief Opia is still unknown, but it was learnt that not less than N6 billion was released to Chief Eric Opia for the implementation of certain projects mapped out for the Niger Delta region.
In December 1999, President Olusegun Obasanjo (GCFR) sent a bill changing the status of OMPADEC to Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) to the National Assembly. On June 6, 2000, the Act was passed into Law by the Senate, after it has earlier been passed into law, on June 1, 2000, by the House of Representative. Alhaji Ghali Umar Na’Abba, the speaker of the House of Representatives signed the Act into law on July 11, 2000, while my late friend, Dr. Chuba Okadigbo, the then Senate president endorsed the Act on July 12, 2000. The clerk of the National Assembly at the time, Alhaji Ibrahim Sali (CON) endorsed the Act as a bill on August 15, 2000 and it was signed into law by President Olusegun Obasanjo (GCFR) on the same day. The bill states that:
“(1) There is hereby established a body to be known as Niger-Delta Development Commission (in this Act referred to as “the Commission”).(2)The Commission-(a) shall be a body corporate with perpetual succession and a common seal; (b) may sue and be sued in its corporate name. (3) The Commission shall have its head office in Port Harcourt, Rivers State and shall establish an office in each member state of the Commission. 2.(1) There is hereby established for the Commission a governing Board (in this Act referred to as “the Board”), which shall consist of – (a) a Chairman; (b) one person who shall be an indigene of an oil producing area to represent each of the following member States, that is, (i) Abia State, (ii) Akwa-lbom State, (iii) Bayelsa State, (iv) Cross River State,(v) Delta State, (vi) Edo State, (vii) Imo State, (viii) Ondo State, and (ix) Rivers State; (c) three persons to represent non-oil mineral producing States provided that such membership should be drawn from the remaining geo-political zones which are not represented in the Commission; (d) One representative of Oil producing companies in the Niger- Delta nominated by the Oil producing companies;(e)one person to represent the Federal Ministry of Finance; (f) one person to represent Federal Ministry of Environment (g) the managing Director of the Commission (h) two executive Directors. (2) The Chairman and other members-of the Board shall-(a) be appointed by the President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, subject to the confirmation of the Senate, in consultation with the House of Representatives.(b) be persons of proven integrity and ability.(3) The members of the Board referred to in paragraph (a-f) of sub-section (1) of this section shall be part-time members. (4) The supplementary provisions set out in the Schedule to this Act shall have effect with respect to the proceedings of the Board and the other matters contained therein. 3. (1) Subject to the provisions of section 4 of this Act a member of the Board, other than an ex-officio member, shall hold office for a term of 4 years at the first instance and may be re-appointed for a further term of 4 years and no more (2) A member of the Board other than ex-officio member, may resign his appointment by notice, in writing under his hand addressed to the President commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces, which resignation shall take effect only upon receipt by the President, Commander-in-Chief. 4. The office of the Chairman SHALL ROTATE amongst the member states of the Commission in the following alphabetical order. (a) Abia State; (b) Akwa-Ibom State; (c) Bayelsa State;(d) Cross-River State; (e) Delta State; (f) Edo State; (g) Imo State; (h) Ondo State; and (i) Rivers State, 5. (1) Notwithstanding the provisions of section 3 of this Act, a person shall cease to hold office as a member of the Board if – (a) he becomes bankrupt, suspends payment or compounds with his creditors; or (b) he is convicted of a felony or any offence involving dishonesty or fraud, or (c) he becomes of unsound mind, or incapable of carrying out his duties; or (d) he is guilty of a serious misconduct in relation to his duties; or(e) in the case of a person possessed of professional qualifications, he is disqualified or suspended, other than at his own request, from practising his profession in any part of the world by an order of a competent authority made in respect of that member: or (f) he resigns his appointment by a letter addressed to the President, Commander- in-Chief of the Armed Forces. (3) Where a vacancy occurs in the membership of the Board it shall be filled by the appointment of a successor to hold office for the remainder of the term of office of his predecessor, so however, that the successor shall represent the same interest and shall be appointed by the President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces subject to the confirmation of the Senate in consultation with the House of representatives. 6.
Eric Teniola, a former director in the Presidency, writes from Lagos.