By Tamuno Phil Brisibe
Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) has been in the news of late for not very good reasons. A faceless group has been round about town sponsoring media publications with the intent of casting the action of President Muhammadu Buhari in appointing the Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba SAN led board in bad light, and this is very worrisome. It is worrisome because the interventionist agency came into being to heal the wounds of the past, assuage the feelings of the inhabitants of Niger Delta area, help calm the restive youths that have taken to militancy due to the age long neglect and degradation of the environment occasioned by the exploration activities of oil companies and address the infrastructural deficit in the region. Over the decades, the oil companies have carried on with little or less recourse and adherence to global acceptable standards and best practices for such operations elsewhere the world over. Air, water and land pollution to mention but a few. Endless decades of struggle which has resulted in death of frontline activists from the area, youth militancy, armed struggle and agitation gave rise to the enactment of Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) by the government of Olusegun Obasanjo.
As a growing boy, my father bought us a football. There were 11 of us in the family, 6 of which are boys and the football was meant to do us good, but in no distant time fight ensued over who keeps custody of the ball after each day’s play. The fight was so severe that we ended up tearing the ball apart with razor. This didn’t go down well with our father whose ultimate aim for purchasing the football was to provide means of play for his sons. He never bothered replacing the torn football for us as we have disappointed him in no small way by showing that we can’t handle and manage our affairs without squabbles.
Will this become the fate of Niger Delta Development Commission? Hell No. We shall not allow this to happen. This faceless group that is playing this bad politics which has injected bad blood into the fabric of Niger Delta should henceforth sheath their swords before they do further damage to the fragile peace in our region.
Before I digress further, let me delve into the bone of contention. “Appointment of Chairman, Managing Director and Board Members of NDDC” . To serve as guide, I refer us to the relevant sections of the NDDC Act. The enabling law that guides the operation of Niger Delta Development Commission. In Part 1, Section 3 (1) states as follows,@ Chairman and Members of the Board 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.
Section 5 sub-section 3 also states that “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”. The law is very clear on this and there’s no ambiguity as evidenced above.
Since it says here that where vacancy occurs in the membership of the board, it is crystal clear that there was no vacancy in the board because there was no board. Be mindful that the Senator Ewa Henshaw led board ceased to exist weeks after President Buhari was sworn as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Thereinafter Messrs Ibim Semenitari was appointed as sole administrator of NDDC. She ran the Commission solely without Board, until a substantive Board was appointed and inaugurated on November of 2016. You therefore cannot stand something on nothing. The present Board led by Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba SAN is not a continuation of the former Board. It is a brand new Board. Except if the dramatis personae in this dirty politics are trying to perhaps make us believe the government of President Muhammadu Buhari is a continuation of former President Goodluck Jonathan’s government. Or that APC led Federal Government of Change is a continuation of PDP’s inglorious administration. And since this can’t be so, the present Board cannot be a continuation of the former Board appointed by former government.
Nigeria is a Country of laws and procedures, reason we have our law courts which stretched up to Supreme level.
Because the champions of this ignoble act knows that it is an exercise in futility, they resorted to use of threats, militant actions and media war, else I will advice them to test this enabling law of NDDC in the relevant court of competent jurisdiction for further interpretation. We cannot toy with the already existing peace in the Niger Delta, which has seen the increase in oil production and stability in National economy. I implore my brothers from Niger Delta to focus more on how to help the present Board to achieve it’s aim clearly evidenced in it’s unprecedented developmental strides which was fostered by transparency in the manner the Board conducts it affairs.
Tamuno Phil Brisibe resides in Port Harcourt Rivers State.