The Senate on Tuesday criticised the executive arm of government for having two parallel management boards in place for the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
While the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, last month inaugurated an Interim Management Committee headed by Dr. Joy Nunieh for the NDDC, the upper legislative chamber early this month confirmed 15 out of the 16 nominees sent to it by President Muhammadu Buhari for approval.
The Senate has, therefore, directed the president to swear-in the recently confirmed board members.
The issue of the parallel boards came to the fore at the Senate plenary when the Senate President, Dr. Ahmad Lawan, read to the hearing of his colleagues the 2019 and 2020 budget proposals of the NDDC forwarded to the Senate for approval by Buhari.
Hardly had Lawan finished reading the letter when the Senate Minority Leader, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, came under Order 43 of the Senate Standing Rules to observe that members of the NDDC board duly confirmed by the Senate were yet to assume duty.
According to him, the failure to swear in the board members may threaten early consideration and quick passage of the 2019/2020 budget of the NDDC. He added that the Interim Committee of the NDDC, led by Nunieh, is an “illegal contraption” that lacks the backing of the law to defend the commission’s budget before the Senate.
“Having regard to the fact that this Senate has confirmed members of the board of the NDDC and they are yet to resume office, I fear that we may run into a problem of delayed budget again since nobody will come to defend this budget.
“This Senate, having confirmed the board of the NDDC, will not countenance any illegal contraption coming to represent NDDC. To prevent a late budget for NDDC that is helping Nigeria on revenue and development of the region, it will be better for us to prevent this issue from coming,” he said.
Lawan, while sustaining Abaribe’s point of order, said: “We are receiving the budget of the NDDC for the year 2020 at the right time.
“This is the first time ever, and this is a good sign that we are operating on the same frequency with the executive arm of government; that we are in a hurry to deal with matters of the budget because it is an issue that will bring about development in the country.”
Reiterating that the Senate had confirmed a 15-man Board for the NDDC on November 5, Lawan stressed that “as far as we are concerned, this Senate knows that we have confirmed the request of Mr. President on the board membership of the NDDC, and we have communicated that.”
He added that the next logical thing to do by law is for the appointments of the members of the board to take immediate effect.
“I believe that the executive arm of government will attend to that quickly so that we have the right people to defend the appropriation request of Mr. President”, Lawan said.
The Senate president had earlier read out a letter from Buhari for the consideration and passage of the 2019/2020 budget estimates for the NDDC. The letter dated November 21 reads: “Pursuant to Section 18(1) of the Niger Delta Development Commission Establishment Act, I forward herewith 2019/2020 budget estimates of the Niger Delta Development Commission for the kind consideration and passage by the Senate.” The Senate had on November 5 confirmed 15 nominees for the board of the NDDC. The confirmation of the16th nominee, Dr. Joy Nunieh, was, however, due to her failure to appear before the Senate Committee on Niger Delta Affairs headed by Senator Peter Nwaoboshi, which earlier screened the nominees. The confirmed NDDC members include former Deputy Governor of Edo State, Dr. Pius Odubu (Chairman); Mr. Bernard Okumagba (Delta), Managing Director; Mr. Otobong Ndem (Akwa Ibom)-Executive Director, Projects; Mr. Maxwell Oko (Bayelsa)-Executive Director, Finance and Administration; Mr. Jones Erue (Delta); Mr. Victor Ekhator (Edo); Mr. Nwogu Nwogu (Abia) and Mr. Theodore Allison (Bayelsa).
Others are Mr. Victor Antai (Akwa Ibom); Mr. Maurice Effiwat (Cross River); Mr. Olugbenga Edema (Ondo); Mr. Uchegbu Kyrian (Imo); Ms. Aisha Muhammed (North-west); Mr. Shuaibu Zubairu (North-east) and Mr. Abdullahi Bage (North-central).