By Christiana Ekpa and Ikechukwu Okaforadi
Senate yesterday considered the bill for an act to amend the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC “so as to remove obvious impediments, particularly in the area of funding and reposition the commission to carry out its mandate effectively”.
This was sequel to the adoption a report on the bill by the Senate Committee on Niger Delta chaired by Senator Peter Nwaoboshi (PDP Delta North) and 18 other members.
The bill was read for the first time on July 26, 2017 while senators deliberated on its general principles on July 27 and thereafter read for the second time and referred to the committee for further legislative action.
Presenting the report, Senator Nwaoboshi said “the main objective of the bill is to clarify certain provisions in the Principal Act and to provide for prompt remittance of funds due to the Niger Delta Development Commission, as well as penalties for delay or default”.
The senate maintained that in order to reposition the NDDC for more effective service to the Niger Delta region, the committee said it has become necessary to review the Principal Act in order to rid its provisions of ambiguities.
It explained that with the clarification of some provisions in the bill, representation on the board of NDDC will henceforth be clearly defined, adding that the financial burden of the commission would be reduced with the provision of new subsections to ensure prompt remittances to the commission.
The Upper Chamber noted that “with the strengthening of some provisions, the contributors that failed to fulfill their statutory obligation to the commission will be made to do so”
It added that “it is imperative to amend the Niger Delta Development Commission (Establishment etc.) Act 2000 so as to remove obvious impediments, particularly, in the area of funding and reposition the commission to carry out its mandate effectively”
The senate observed that the NDDC Act, 2000 has been in operation for 17 years and has never been reviewed, adding that the amendment was in consonance with the observations of senators while considering the confirmation of Presidential nominees for the Governing Board of the NDDC and debate on the general principles of the bill.
It added that “as a result of weaknesses of certain provisions and gaps in the Principal Act, some of the contributors have not paid anything to the fund of the commission till date, while others are underpaying by not declaring their total annual budget to the commission”.
According to the report, “this lack of payment by some contributors and underpayment by others has led to huge debts owed contractors by the commission”.
The senate had on October 11, 2016 while considering the request of President Muhammadu Buhari for the confirmation of chairman and members of NDDC found that some of the provisions in the Act establishing the commission were ambiguous.
Consequently, the Upper Chamber mandated the committee to carry out a review of the Niger Delta Development Commission (Establishment, etc.) Act, 2000.