Senate confirms NDDC board members, rejects Akpabio panel

The  Senate on Tuesday confirmed  President Muhammadu’s   nominees for the  Niger Delta Development Commission  board.

The upper chamber cleared 15 nominees and rejected one.

Ex-Edo State Deputy  Governor Pius Odubu  was confirmed as Chairman of the board while Delta State’s Bernard Okumagba  was confirmed as Managing Director and Bayelsa State’s Maxwell Okoh as Executive Director Finance and Administration.

Others are  Prophet  Erue (Delta), Victor Ekhator (Edo), Otobong Ndem (Akwa Ibom), Nwogu Nwogu (Abia), Theodore Allison (Bayelsa), Maurice Effiwatt (Cross River), Uchegbu  Kyrian (Imo) and Ardo  Zubairu (North-East).

The rest are Olugbenga Elema Ondo), Aisha Muhammed (North-West), Victor Antai (Akwa Ibom) and Abdullahi Bage (North-Central).

However, the Senate rejected the nominee  for the board from   Rivers State, Dr Joy Nunieh, after she was absent from the screening.

Nunieh is the  Managing Director of  the  controversial  NDDC interim management committee  set up by the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs Godswill Akpabio.

The Chairman of the Senate Committee on the NDDC, Peter Nwaoboshi, while presenting the report of the screening,  said Nunieh  shunned the panel’s invitation.

The President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, told  the  new NDDC board  to take over the affairs of the agency immediately.

According to him, the law setting up the NDDC does not recognise any interim arrangement once a board is in place.

Lawan  was reacting to the concerns raised by a the Senate Minority Leader,  Enyinnaya Abaribe,  and former Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, who wondered what would be the fate of the new board  since there was  an interim arrangement in place at the agency.

He said they  would inform the  Presidency about their decision  on the new board.

Lawan  said, “With the completion of this process (confirmation), I am sure that any other structure that exists (in the NDDC) is vitiated. I don’t think we have anything to worry about, because this is one thing that is clearly established by the law.

“I want to urge the committee on the Niger Delta Development Commission that after this new management takes over the management of the NDDC,  we need to do a proper oversight. This goes to other committees but Niger Delta is a special case.

“We will recall that the President had cause  to ask for a total probe into what happened to the finances of the NDDC.

“This, I think, is not an indictment of us, but I think we are supposed to worry because we are supposed to continuously oversee wherever public funds are put for the development of our people.

“So, the committee on the NDDC has a lot of work to do. You must make sure that whatever is budgeted is prudently, effectively and efficiently put to use. I believe that in the next few days, we will communicate to Mr President the result of our confirmation.”

The Senate President urged the new board to  be  committed to the ideals for which the NDDC was set up in the first place.

Meanwhile, the Vanguard for Transparent Leadership and Democracy has commended    the Senate  for directing the new NDDC board  to immediately take over the affairs of the commission.

The group, in a statement on Tuesday by its National President, Igbini Emmanuel, described  Senate’s directive as “constitutional, lawful and in line with the spirit and letter of the provision of the NDDC Act 2017 as amended”.

Emmanuel said, “This (directive) has further vindicated our consistent position that it was never contemplated and it could never have been contemplated by the people of the oil producing states of the Niger Delta  and the leadership and members of the National Assembly  that an interim or a steering committee or any  ad hoc arrangement by whatever name called, be allowed to take over the affairs and management of the NDDC, even for one minute.”