We join voices to advise President Muhammadu Buhari to swear in the new Board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), which have been confirmed by the National Assembly and also direct the new NDDC Board to immediately take over the Management of the Commission as stipulated in the NDDC act. The management of the NDDC by the new Board, will not in any way affect/interfere with the forensic audit activities, which was ordered by the Presidency some few weeks back.
We are aware that the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, had set up an interim management team that would be in place in the NDDC for six months to oversee a forensic audit of the agency, but it has been established that the only condition for an interim board is when there is a delay in the screening of the NDDC board. Now that the said NDDC Board members have been legally screened and confirmed except just one person, we see no reason why the Board should not immediately take over the affairs of the NDDC, while the forensic audit is still ongoing.
The position of the Chairman, Dr. Pius Odubu, and the Managing Director (MD), Bernard Okumagba of the NDDC have been confirmed by the Senate. So, what is left now is for President Buhari to spring into action by swearing them in, and for them to start carrying out their statutory functions. And in my own view, since the Board members have been approved by the highest lawmakers in Nigeria, it means their appointments have been legally confirmed and approved. All that is needful is for them to start their legal duties according to the portfolios allocated to them as NDDC board members. The official swearing-in is just for formality. There is nowhere in the NDDC act that says they should be sworn in. The NDDC act authorizes the President to appoint NDDC Board members and has the list submitted to the National Assembly for screening and confirmation, and that ends the appointment processes.
This line of thought was also recently reiterated by the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, who has asked the newly confirmed NDDC Board members to take over the affairs of the agency immediately. Lawan who stated this after the upper chamber confirmed the appointment of the nominees forwarded to the Senate recently, said the law setting up the NDDC does not recognize any interim arrangement once a board is in place. He added that inaugurating the new board members would not affect the works of the forensic auditors. Lawan asked the senate committee on the NDDC to be alive to its responsibility by carrying out its oversight functions.
The only nominee that was not confirmed by the Senate, who is from Rivers State, Dr. Joy Yimebe Nunieh, is the current managing director of the said interim management board of the agency. And the Senate’s rejection of her nomination was actually no fault of theirs because the said Nunieh shunned the Senate screening. Chairman of the Senate Committee on the NDDC, Peter Nwaoboshi, while presenting the report of the screening exercise, said all invitations extended to the nominee, were turned down. The Senate, therefore, rejected her nomination.
However, regardless of this development, the crux of the matter is that the newly confirmed Board members, which has the Chaiman and Managing Director and other members intact, should be asked to immediately takeover the management of the NDDC without any delay. Just as required by the Act setting up the NDDC.
Zik Gbemre, a social and community activist, lives in Warri.