In shocking volte-face that jolted the entire Niger Delta region last week, Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, in what apparently amounted to blaming his boss, President Buhari, for the inexplicable delay in inaugurating the NDDC Board, announced boldly that “it’s not part of my job to constitute NDDC Board,” contradicting what he has publicly said in the past two years on the saddle as supervising Minister of NDDC, writes Nseobong Okon-Ekong
Not knowing who to blame for the inexplicable continued delay in inaugurating the substantive board of NDDC after two months of President Buhari’s receipt of the forensic audit report, coupled with Mr. President’s earlier promise to inaugurate the Board on receipt of the audit report, embattled Senator Akpabio, last week distanced himself from the NDDC Board impasse, which he created in the first place when he wrote a memo to President Buhari in 2019 to suspend the inauguration of the Senate confirmed Board until the conclusion of the forensic audit.
In a shocking volte-face the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, as reported in a national daily on November 2, 2021, under the headline “It’s not part of my job to constitute NDDC Board,” is now distancing himself from the continued delay in the inauguration of the Board of NDDC.
In the above report, the Niger Delta Affairs Minister, Godswill Akpabio, who spoke through his Media Adviser, Jackson Udom said “he will not meddle in the issue of the constitution of the Board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC). He said it is not within his purview as the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs to do so.”
Senator Akpabio was reacting to the overwhelming and widespread agitations from youths, men and women, political and traditional leaders and civil society organisations, including the latest threat by the Wailing Women of Niger Delta (WWND), who threatened to march on the streets and headquarters of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) if after seven days, President Muhammadu Buhari refuses to inaugurate the substantive board of the commission. According to them, “we hold Senator Godswill Akpabio, the supervising minister of the Niger Delta Affairs, responsible for the grave degeneration and irregularities in the region and the NDDC.”
The Minister’s futile attempt to exonerate himself from the inexplicable delay in inaugurating the NDDC Board, is embarrassingly puerile because it contradicts what he has publicly said and done in the past two years on the saddle as supervising Minister of NDDC.
Obviously aware of the fever pitch tension the inexplicable continued delay in inaugurating the substantive board of NDDC is causing in the region after two months of President Buhari’s receipt of the forensic audit report, coupled with Mr. President’s earlier promise to inaugurate the Board on receipt of the audit report, embattled Senator Akpabio, now attempts to distance himself from the NDDC Board impasse, which he created in the first place when he wrote a memo to President Buhari in 2019 to suspend the inauguration of the Senate confirmed Board until the conclusion of the forensic audit.
Senator Akpabio as supervising Minister of the NDDC, through an official memo in 2019 recommended to the President the suspension of the inauguration of the substantive Board, which President Buhari had appointed, and which was confirmed by the Senate in November of 2019. The Minister instead in that same memo recommended to the President the running of NDDC with illegal interim management/sole administrator contraptions until the completion of the forensic audit.
Further checks on what the Minister has said in the past two years firmly contradict his lame claim that “It’s not part of my job to constitute NDDC Board.”
On January 6 this year, Senator Godswill Akpabio, had disclosed that a substantive board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) will be inaugurated by April 2021 after the forensic audit of the commission. Akpabio stated this in Abuja while receiving the interim report of the commission from the forensic auditors. Said he, “By April this year, when we are done with the forensic audit, we will inaugurate a board for the Commission.”
On the 4th of June this year, following the ultimatum by Niger Delta militants including Government Ekpemupolo (alias Tompolo), Niger Delta Affairs Minister, Godswill Akpabio stated that the process of inaugurating the NDDC Board starts with him as the supervising Minister and that he would fast-track the process of inaugurating the substantive Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) board. He stated this after an emergency consultative visit to Oporoza, headquarters of Gbaramatu Kingdom in Warri Southwest of Delta State.
Akpabio had travelled to the creeks and met with stakeholders including the Deputy Governor of Delta state, Deacon Kingsley Otuaro, youth leaders and traditional rulers from Delta, Bayelsa, Edo and Ondo states at the palace of the Pere of Gbaramatu kingdom in Delta state.
The minister said: “There is a process and that process starts with me as the Minister of Niger Delta. The major thing is that we have committed to work together to make sure that we give what the people want. We have agreed that government through me, through my office will work very hard to fast-track the process. The consensus of stakeholders is that there is a need for more representation in the NDDC and so a board is needed”.
It will be recalled that at the above meeting, the Fiyewei of Gbaramatu kingdom, Chief Godspower Gbenekama told the minister that “anything that happens to the oil industry if the NDDC board is not inaugurated, you (Akpabio) should be held responsible.”
Also on June 29 this year, The Minister, who spoke while appearing on a live Radio Nigeria Audience participatory programme organized as part of the activities marking the second term of the Buhari Administration at the Radio House in Abuja stated that the “recommendations and outcome of the forensic audit of the activities of Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, would be implemented by the new board to be inaugurated soon.”
The following day, June 30, Senator Godswill Akpabio, who fielded questions from State House correspondents at the Presidential Villa, Abuja said that action had been expedited on the process of inauguration of the board of NDDC. He said he was hopeful that the new board would use the recommendations of forensic audit to work and reposition the commission.
Stakeholders in the Niger Delta region are therefore understandably shocked and disappointed in what now appears to be an apparent attempt to blame his boss, President Buhari, for the inexplicable delay in inaugurating the NDDC Board when he gleefully states that “it’s not part of my job to constitute NDDC Board,” contradicting what he has publicly said in the past two years.
Presently, across the length and breadth of the Niger Delta region there are unending calls, demands and peaceful agitations of youths, men and women, political and traditional leaders and civil society organisations that the inauguration of the board of NDDC will ensure compliance with the law, ensure equitable representation of the constituent states, and thereby promote and sustain peace, equity and fairness, transparency and accountability, good governance and rapid development and transformation of the Niger Delta Region, and douse the tension of militancy as well as curtail the menace of insecurity in the region.
According to prominent Niger Delta groups, the non-inauguration of the board negates a promise by the President to inaugurate the board after the forensic audit.
The groups that have expressed their dismay include Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), the Ijaw National Congress (INC), the Ikwerre People’s Congress (IPC) Worldwide, Isoko Development Union (IDU), the Movement for the Survival of Izon Ethnic Nationality in the Niger Delta (MOSIEND). They have warned against further delay of the NDDC board inauguration.
Rather than hide under a finger, Senator Akpabio should hearken to the urgent call of South-East and South-South Professionals of Nigeria, SESSPN, which is representative of the legitimate demand of Niger Deltans, to undo the damage which he has done to the Niger Delta region, and get President Muhammadu Buhari to inaugurate the NDDC Board without further delay, a move they said is the only way for him to prove that he is truly part of the solution and thereby “open a new chapter in the Federal Government’s avowed quest to emancipate the peoples of the Niger Delta region.”