What has been happening recently at the NDDC has been nothing short of embarrassing, even bewildering to most neutral observers in the country. A few weeks after President Buhari nominated members of the governing board of the agency and submitted their names to the senate for clearance, Chief Godswill Akpabio, minister of the Niger-Delta ministry, announced and “swore in” what was rumoured to be his hand-picked favourites to operate an interim management system in the NDDC. Several days after Akpabio’s daring, the senate screened and confirmed the NDDC board members duly sent to it by the president for confirmation. And the instruction of the senate was very clear: “Go and resume duty immediately.”
And here the questions and confusion began. Why did Akpabio inaugurate a three-man management committee to oversee NDDC when President Buhari had already nominated people into the NDDC board to manage the same agency? Why was Akpabio in a hurry to “swear” them in? The search for the answers to these questions has left Niger-Deltans and indeed many Nigerians baffled, even dejected, and have portrayed President Buhari and APC in bad light. The word on the street is that President Buhari is not in control of what is happening in his administration, so, strong-willed ministers like Akpabio are attempting to manipulate their way and circumvent the rules to ensure the promotion of their personal agenda, instead of the collective policy of the administration. And talking about rules, while clearing the newly confirmed board of the NDDC, the senate pointed out that the laws governing the establishment and operation of the commission did not allow for an interim management committee once there is a duly confirmed management board in place as we have presently. The arguments, counter-arguments and confusion continue.
In light of the circumstances, President Buhari will need to step forward immediately and resolve this logjam for very serious reasons. There have been reports of confusion and tension at the NDDC headquarters in Port Harcourt where the Akpabio inaugurated interim management committee members are said to be facing-off with the President Buhari-nominated and senate-confirmed management board led by Dr Pius Odubu and Mr Bernard Okumagba. Even in the creeks and estuaries of the region, harsh words are beginning to emerge in support or against the interim committee or the management board. This is a region filled with dry gunpowder and it would take little to ignite it into a consuming conflagration that might hurt oil production and consequently, government revenue.
The question must be asked that if sometime in the future, the duly nominated and confirmed board led by Dr Odubu and Okumagba will be allowed to take control and operate the agency, why not effective immediately? The so-called interim management committee would have to be paid probably hundreds of millions of naira for hotel bills, allowances and salaries to oversee the audit of the agency, when in actual fact, several notable accounting firms have already been contracted to do the auditing. In other words, the members of the interim management committee are not doing the audit. Moreover, none of the members of the newly confirmed management board served in NDDC previously, so, they have no conflict of interest. Where is the Buhari much-touted financial prudence?