November 27, 2017.
Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, GCON,
Federal Republic of Nigeria,
INEQUITY IN THE NIGER DELTA DEVELOPMENT COMMISSION (NDDC)
The Administration of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo sponsored the bill for the creation of Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) as soon as government was put in place in 1999.
When the bill was passed into law, the people of Niger Delta region heaved a sigh of relief that the challenges facing them in terms of infrastructural development would become a thing of the past. Although some critics have criticized the activities of the NDDC, it is incontestable that the commission has somewhat brought some measure of succor to the people of the Niger Delta Area.
The major challenge that is however, facing the commission now is the lopsidedness in the appointment of the top management members of the commission. It is on record that since the establishment of the commission over seventeen years ago, only four states have rotated the top three management positions among themselves. They are: Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Delta and Rivers States.
The monopoly of the three top management positions, namely the Managing Director (M.D), Executive Managing Director Finance & Admin (E.D.F.A) and the Executive Director Projects (E.D.P) is currently causing very sharp division between the four states mentioned above and the remaining five states (Ondo, Edo, Imo, Abia and Cross-River) that make up the commission. The data below portray the inequity that has been entrenched in the NDDC for the past seventeen years.
Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, SAN,
Governor of Ondo State,
ILLEGAL EXTENSION OF THE TENURE OF THE NDDC 4TH BOARD IS UNACCEPTABLE.
When the board of Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) is constituted, by the provision of section 3 (1), the members are to enjoy a four-year tenure. At the expiration of the tenure, they may be re-appointed for another term of four years and no more. The section provides:
“subject to the provisions of section 4 of this Act, a member of the Board, other than an ex official member, shall hold office for a term of 4years at the first instance and may be re appointed for a further term of 4years and no more “
Section 5 (2) deals with a situation where a vacancy occurs in the membership of the board. This section requires Mr. President to appoint a successor from the area where the vacancy occurs to hold office for the remainder of the term of the predecessor. The section provides:
“where a vacancy occurs in the membership of the board, it shall be filled by the appointment of a successor to hold office for the remainder of the term of office of his predecessor, so however, that the successor shall represent the same interest and shall be appointed by the President, Commander in Chief of the Armed forces, subject to the confirmation of the Senate in consultation with the house of representatives”
The entire 31 sections of the Act did not envisage a situation where the entire board will be dissolved; and therefore did not make provision as to what is to be done when the entire board is dissolved. It must be noted however, that the membership of the board, be it the Chairman, Managing Director, Executive Directors and State Representatives is tied to the interest of each state that makes up the Niger Delta Region. Where the tenure of a member is shortened, it is submitted that it is interest of the State that is shortened. Where on the other hand, the tenure of a member is illegally extended, it is also submitted, that the interest of the state where the member comes from is being illegally extended.
It is therefore submitted that when a board commences its tenure for a period of four years and something happens that makes the government to terminate the term of years midstream, the appointment of new persons to replace the old members must be for the remainder of the years left unutilized.
This, therefore, explains why the new board members cannot have a fresh term of four years until they have completed the first four years and a request made by Mr. President to the National Assembly to renew their tenure for another four years.
To elongate or extend the tenure of the members of the board that takes over from the dissolved board is not only illegal and illogical it is against the spirit, letter and content of the NDDC Act 2000. The new members so appointed must complete the term of four years of the previous board members.
The above was the position Government took when the third governing board of NDDC was dissolved in 2011. The AVM Larry Koinyan- led board began its term in July 2009 and the board was sacked in September 2011. When the Federal Government constituted the Dr. Thebepa board thereafter, the members of the board were made to serve the remainder of the term unutilized by the Larry Koinyan board and consequently vacated office in 2013 as Larry Koinyan board would have done if it had continued in office. Government considered and took into consideration the implication of a backdoor extension / elongation of the term of office and therefore refused to buy in the propositions of illegal tenure extension.
It is therefore submitted that the tenure of Senator Henshaw (Chairman) / Dan Abia (MD) which began in 2013 will of necessity end by December 2017. It will be illegal and against the precedent already set by the Federal Government in the Senator Henshaw’s board to now depart from same and grant a new 4-year term for the people who are meant to complete the tenure of Senator Henshaw’s led board. The implications of this illegal tenure elongation are as follows:
1. Akwa Ibom would have six years to serve as Managing Director as against the 4years enunciated in the NDDC Act.
2. Rivers would also have six years to serve as Executive Director Finance & Administration.
3. In the same vein, Delta State would also have six years to serve as the Executive Director, Projects.
4. And in a very worrisome manner, Cross River State would have served as Chairman of the governing board for six years!
It is contended that this would rather escalate crisis among the states that are meant to take over from the states mentioned above. The tenure of senator Henshaw representing Cross River State would ordinarily terminate in December 2017. Since that was what Senator Ndoma Egba inherited, his tenure would therefore terminate in December 2017. In the same vein, the tenures of Nsima Ekere (M.D), Mene Derek (E.D.F.A) and Engr. Adobe Ajenakuwe (E.D.P), representing Akwa-Ibom, Rivers and Delta States respectively will end December 2017.
If government is desirous that the current board should continue in office after the expiration of their tenure in December 2017, Government can only do this by re-presenting their names to the National Assembly for confirmation and not through the back door extension.
As at now, the next state to produce the Chairman of the Commission (NDDC) is Delta State. This is in accord with section 4(1) of the NDDC Act 2000. In the same vein, the next state to produce the Managing Director of the NDDC is Ondo State. This is so because Ondo State is the fifth largest Oil Producing State in Nigeria. The first four States with higher Oil production have produced the Managing Director at various times since the inception of the NDDC.
It is submitted that to extend or elongate the tenure of the Chairman, Managing Director, Executive Director Projects, Executive Director Finance & Admin would be to deprive Delta State of its slot of producing the Chairman and dislodge Ondo State of its rightful position to produce the next Managing Director. The same also goes for other States that are meant to produce the E.D.F.A and E.D.P respectively.
We implore government not to create crisis where there is none. The Senator Idoma Egba led board should and must vacate office in December 2017. This is the way this administration can show that it follows the rule of law.
Comrade Alex Omosehin Kalejaye,
Cc; The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice.