By #Sam Ekpe
A RECURRENT feature of the politics of in this country is petition writing at all levels of Government – Local Government, #State and Federal.
There is no government Agency, no matter how good intentioned that is not unduly criticised, harassed or blackmailed by petition writers.
The ridiculous thing about most of these petitions is that the allegations contained therein are false when investigated and sometimes, fabricated.
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Another noticeable feature of the petitions is that they are written with pseudo or non-existent names. A close scrutiny of the names of the organizations which author of the petitions come from will reveal that they are not registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission and their addresses are either fake, or they cannot be traced.
This writer feels deeply concerned about the present destructive attacks on the NDDC, because he watched with keen interest and admiration the early stages of the struggles, intrigues and positive developments that gave birth to the organization.
For instance, the struggle for the emancipation of the grossly marginalised and underdeveloped Riverine communities of #Nigeria was initiated by the #late Chief Harold Dappa Biriye who made a case for a better deal for the area at the Lancaster Conference in 1957.
Following deliberations at this Conference, the Willinks Commission was set up in 1958 to address the case of the Niger Delta minorities of Nigeria.
It was discovered that the Niger Delta area was “underprivileged, forgotten and underdeveloped”. This gave rise to the establishment of the Niger Delta Development Board (NDDB) soon after, which though under-funded, co-ordinated economic activities in the Niger Delta area until the outbreak of the Nigeria Civil War in 1967.
This writer was a witness to the historic role #Jasper F. Jumbo – (then called The Prince)”, played in the Niger Delta Struggle in the Second Republic.
While serving as the Public Relations Officer to late Dr. K. O. Mbadiwe, then, #President Shehu Shagari’s Special Adviser on National Assembly Matters, Jasper F. Jumbo visited our office at the State House, Marina on many occasions, seeking support for his well-researched and documented solution to the Niger Delta problem, from various political heavyweights of the period.
Dr. K. O. Mbadiwe gave him a note to the late Dr Pius Okigbo, of the Skoup Group, Enugu, the then Chairman of the Federal Committee for the Review of Revenue Allocation. Dr. Okigbo’s appreciation of Jasper’s confidential submission and positive response, was one of the reasons behind the allocation of 1.5% of Federal Revenue to the Mineral Producing Areas.
During the Military Regime, Chief Biriye floated the AMPARS – Association of Mineral Producing Areas of #Rivers State”, which wanted the Mineral Producing Areas Fund used for a “Mineral Areas Bank” and Commy Tax for Niger Delta Chiefs.
Chief Dr Jasper Jumbo disagreed with him and on principle, formed the National Association for Mineral Producing Areas Development Commission (NAMPAD) which for over seven years peacefully carried the Niger Delta struggle to fruition.
As National Co-ordinator and later, National Chairman of NAMPAD, he in 1986, led a few of the Niger Delta titans to formally negotiate with the Federal Government to establish another Commission for the development of the Niger Delta since the NDDB had virtually became moribund.
In 1992 the Oil Mineral Producing Areas Development Commission (OMPADEC) was finally set up by His Excellency, President I. B. Babangida, after the Armed Forces Ruling Council’s sub-Committee headed by Major General Paul Omu considered its confidential Blueprint written by Jasper Jumbo’s Policy Research firm – Jaspic Associates.
Obasanjo Administration following the blueprint written by Chief Jasper F. Jumbo and harmonised by Nze Akachukwu, Sen. Fred Brume, Hon. Ipiganson, Chief Ufot Ekaete, PZ Aginighan, His Excellency, Chief Melford Okilo, Chief G. S. Sikoki, Gen. Gusau, – then National Security Adviser, Col. G. O. Musa (Rtd) and Major Lancelot Anyanya), later renamed the Commission NDDC and gave it a bigger structure, with greater impetus, greater resources and greater funding from the Federal purse to develop the #Niger Delta Region.
There have been many Boards and Managements in the Commission since 2001. However starting from the Chief Onyema Ugochukwu-led Board, (from the inception of the Commission), to the present Board led by Sir Barrister Bassey Dan #Abia as the Managing Director; the Niger Delta Development Commission has not known peace.
There would always be petition writers ready and willing to distract the Board of Directors and Management of the Commission with one false allegation or the other. These unnecessary petitions and calls for probes have resulted in the sacking and reconstituting of the Boards and Management of the Commission thrice in the six years Administration of President Goodluck Jonathan.
With this circle of instability, one wonders how the Management of the Commission will devote time and attention to fulfill the Aims and Objectives of the Commission. They will rather give such attention to fighting for their survival.
The present management of the Commission is as usual, being distracted by frivolous petitions to both the President and President-elect, calling on them to sack the Board Members and apparently replace them with the cronies of the sponsors of the petitions.
One such petition was from a so-called Niger Delta Integrity Group, with no locatable address and without the telephone numbers of the authors. The petition was published on page 52 of Daily Trust newspaper, edition of Thursday April 30 2015.
A close analysis of the contents will result in its being easily dismissed as hogwash, as many unreasonable and unsubstantiated allegations were made by the authors. They include;
Expenditure of sums in excess of three hundred billion #naira (N300,000,000,000.00) within one year with almost nothing to show for it.
This story should be told to the marines, as in the present day Nigerian bureaucracy, with DUE PROCESS in place, no agency of the Federal Government can afford to do so. The NDDC has a budget approved by the Federal Executive Council, with oversight roles by both the House of Representatives and Senate Committees on the NDDC.
The Management could not have ‘wasted’ N300,000,000,000.00 and yet appeared before the Senate Committee on NDDC to successfully defend its 2015 Budget estimates a few days ago.
It could only have done so with verified proofs of expenditures and executed projects from previously-approved budgets.
Only on Thursday May 14, 2015 the Senate approved a budget of N299,526,463.12 for the Commission for 2015.
With the approval of this figure by the Senate, it becomes inconceivable how the Commission could have spent N150billion i.e. over half of both its approved capital and recurrent expenditure budget in the past one year without seeking approval of both the FEC, the National Assembly and BPP.
This is simply a figment of the imagination of the fiction writers!
It also cannot be true that almost 2000 new projects were awarded to ‘emergency contractors’ without budgetary provision and that many of the contracts have been fully paid for, even when the “emergency contractors” have not moved to site.
It is also unbelievable that the Commission that reports to the Presidency has awarded new contracts in excess of (N150,000,000,000.00) One hundred and Fifty Billion Naira in the last one year but has avoided or evaded seeking Federal Executive Council (FEC) approval or having any recourse to National Assembly or the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP).
Any commentator on national issues will easily determine the fallacy of the above claim. N150 billion expenditure without FEC approval, National Assembly mandate, or BPP due process. HABA!
These and other spurious allegations by the Niger Delta Integrity Group against the Management of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) coming at this time can only serve one purpose for the authors – sacking of the Management of the Commission. And such a sack will be one too many and one wonders what could be the genuine reasons for such action.
The Niger Delta Integrity Group should occupy itself at this period with suggestions and reflections on Ways and Means of bringing about CHANGE in the psyche, politics and economy of Nigeria in keeping with the change mantra of the incoming Administration for peaceful co-existence and accelerated development.
Such Groups, Niger Deltans and indeed, the in-coming Administration should concern themselves with helping the Niger Delta Development Commission receive accumulated and outstanding portions of the 50% of the Ecological Fund due the NDDC member States, as stipulated in the NDDC Establishment Act – 2000 Section 14(2)(2) now totaling over N746 billion on which only the sum of 20 billion was recently appropriated by the Senate in the Commission’s 2015, Budget approval.
They should put all hands on deck to enable the Commission succeed. Resorting to the business as usual style of petition writing, false accusations and blackmail of innocent and hardworking public officers will only be an unnecessary distraction to the in-coming Administration.
Observers and genuine development protagonists from the Region have even commended the present administration of the NDDC for having made the most meaningful impact in the nine constituent states of the Commission since its inception.
Projects executed in the nine states and ongoing ones are there for everyone to see. They should be appreciated and the current Commission’s management applauded for job well done.
This cycle of petitions based on unfounded allegations should become something of the past, as we move forward in the new dispensation.
As one who has been an admirer of the NDDC since the days of its predecessor agencies, NDDB and OMPADEC, I feel seriously pained that successive Boards and Management of the Commission have not been allowed to realize their full potentials.
The present Management led by #Sir Bar. Bassey Dan Abia from all accounts, is performing exceptionally. It should be allowed to serve out its term and its tenure even extended, to fulfill its vision and mission for the long neglected people of the Niger Delta Region.
Mr. Sam Ekpe, a former Press Secretary in the State House, wrote from Abuja.
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