By Felix Khanoba
A civil society organisation, Vanguard for Transparent Leadership and Democracy (VATLAD), has expressed concern that President Muhammadu Buhari, was yet to address the core demand by the Niger Delta people on the inauguration of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), despite such claim by Presidency.
VATLAD said the continuous delay in inaugurating the Board has become a major issue in the oil producing region, prompting a militant group, Niger Delta Avengers, to threaten attack on oil installations.
A statement signed by National President of the group, Comrade (Engr) Igbini Odafe Emmanuel and made available to newsmen on Tuesday, faulted report credited to presidential spokesman, Femi Adesina, that Buhari has resolved the issue on NNDC board that led to the threat by the militants.
“It is with deep sense of sadness that we read the Statement issued on behalf of President Buhari by Mr Femi Adesina, being a response to the recently widely published threat issued on Thursday by a group called Niger Delta Avengers, to resume attacks and destructions of strategic Oil and Gas Producing Installations in the Oil-Rich South-South Region of Nigeria over what the group claims is President Buhari’s continued failure to address the demands of the people of the region particularly the refusal by the President to inaugurate the Senate confirmed Governing Board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) since 2019.
“The claim by Mr Femi Adesina that President Buhari has addressed these demands of the Elders and Youths of South-South Region particularly the core demand to immediately inaugurate the NDDC Board is very far from the truth. The direct opposite is sadly and undisputedly, the case as can be easily confirmed by anyone.
“Has the President inaugurated the substantive Board of NDDC confirmed by the Senate that he has unfortunately been misled to unjustly place on standby for ongoing forensic auditing of the Commission? No! Yet this is the major demand of the people of the region, ” the group said.
VATLAD lamented that the President seemed to be ignoring advices on how to ensure lasting peace in the Niger Delta due to the action of some selfish politicians who are bent on misguiding him.
Its statement further read : “We feel so sad and pained in our hearts because if only President Buhari heeded our group’s several widely published advice to him on this NDDC Board this brewing crisis with devastating effect on Nigeria, would have been averted.
” We are very disturbed that President Buhari is yet to heed our advice to be very wary of some of his political associates, appointees, and the APC Leadership of the House of Representatives and few APC Chieftains of the South-South Region who continue to mislead him to act against the clear decision of the Nigerian Senate and the desire of majority of the patriotic people of the South-South Region as demonstrated recently by peaceful protests staged by the youths of the Region against continued hijack of NDDC by some few individuals opposed to inauguration of the substantive Board.
“Could this opposition against inauguration of the NDDC Board be a deliberate plot by enemies of President Buhari and Nigeria to provoke anger in the South-South Region to crumble the Economy of Nigeria under the watch of President Buhari?
“Mr President should recall that in year 2015 after his swearing in as President, we wrote advising him to retain the position of Minister of Petroleum Resources because of our strong confidence in his unquestionable integrity and knowledge of the Nigerian Petroleum Sector and understanding of the decades of environmental devastation and destruction of the oil producing South-South Region as a result of exploration and exploitation activities of the Oil and Gas Companies, so as to help address the injustices suffered by the people of the Region.
“We are happy he heeded our advice to be Minister of Petroleum Resources but we are not happy that this has not yet brought expected justice, progress and development to the people and South-South Region.
“The recent comment credited to the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs (Mr Godswill Akpabio) reneging on his promised June 30th deadline to conclude the process for the inauguration of the Substantive Board of NDDC after he pleaded with High Chief Tompolo, Elders and Youths of the South-South Region for a 30-Day Extension after the expiration of the earlier 7 days ultimatum given, raises suspicion of a hidden agenda against the desire of the people of the Region.
“Why should Mr Akpabio turn around to claim that the promised inauguration of the NDDC Board latest the end of June is no longer realistic until end of July and also insisting on sending a so-called new list of nominees to the Senate for screening and confirmation to replace the members of the Substantive Board put on standby since 2019?
“What is the rationale for provoking a new warfront or crisis in the relatively peaceful South-South Region at a time when our Nation is yet to able to put an end to the deadly attacks by foreign and local terrorist groups operating in Nigeria and other forms of rising Insecurity in other parts of Nigeria? People are now tempted to believe that there is indeed an agenda to instigate crisis in the South-South using the NDDC otherwise what has an Incorruptible President Buhari got to lose allowing the same Board of NDDC he nominated and got Senate to confirm, to resume their lawful duties since 2019 for the interest of people of the Niger Delta Region?
“President Buhari is not known to be a man who is corrupt and therefore not interested in appointing people into critical Ministries, Department and Agencies of Government with a view to using them to loot the treasury of our Nation as many Nigerian top political office holders do.
“What is clearly and undisputed fact going by the embarrassing public Show of Shame by those President Buhari was misled to unlawfully appoint as Interim Management Committee (IMC) and Sole Administrator of NDDC in the past two years is that those misleading him are bent on destroying his enviable proven record of unquestionable Integrity and leadership quality and to cause instability and crisis in the South-South Region under his watch ahead of 2023 General Elections.
“Only few days ago we issued a widely published statement accusing the APC leadership of the House of Representatives of wanting to pitch the people of the South-South against President Buhari when it passed a Resolution asking President Buhari to jettison the NDDC Board screened and confirmed by the Senate and to remove the core and major Oil Producing States from the critical positions of Managing Director, Executive Director of Finance and Administration and Executive Director, Project, and have them replaced by States with oil production level far less than that of the four core and major producing States of Rivers, Delta, Bayelsa and and Akwa-Ibom. What can be more provocative than this?
“Is APC leadership of House of Representatives not aware that it has rightly been the tradition and practise since the establishment of NDDC in year 2000 that the positions of Managing Director and the two Executive Directors are exclusively reserved for these four core and major oil Producing States of Niger Delta and rotated amongst them?
“Is this practise not in tandem with the practice in the United Nations Security Council where only the five leading superpower Nations have the exclusive right to Permanent Seat in the Council and with Veto Power due to their leading and huge contributions to global security and victory in the World War 11?
“Nigerians should be reminded or informed that even the position of the Chairman of the Board of NDDC was initially demanded to also be reserved for the four core and major oil producing States until a compromise was reached to allow the other five low oil producing States be appointed only into the Chairmanship position and be rotated in alphabetical order among all the nine member States of NDDC.
“In conclusion, we restate our previous Advice to President Buhari to without further delay, inaugurate the Board of NDDC nominated by him and confirmed by the Senate in 2019.
“We also wish to remind him of the recent interview he had on Arise TV where he acknowledged and specially appreciated the Elders and Youths of the South-South Region for providing and maintaining the Peace that has continued to guarantee smooth and uninterrupted production of oil and gas in the Region for the sustenance and survival of Nigeria.
“Finally, we wish to restate that the ongoing forensic auditing of the NDDC though welcomed but should not continue to be used as reason for not inaugurating the Substantive Board of the Commission as the functions of the Board and the ongoing forensic auditing of the Commission are not mutually exclusive. They can operate simultaneously and independent of each other and should be so.”