By Luminous Jannamike, Abuja
The federal government, on Wednesday, inaugurated the governing board of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC.
The agency had been without a board for nearly four years.
The Senate on December 20, 2022, confirmed the nominations of the Chairman and Board Members of the Commission after President Muhammadu Buhari sent their names in accordance with the NDDC (Establishment) Act, 2000.
Speaking during the inauguration, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, urged the members of the board to be above board, adding that they should work towards policies that would contribute to the coordinated development of the Niger Delta.
Be above board
He said, “It is the expectation of government, that development of the Niger Delta will henceforth not be haphazard. It will now be full-time and full-blown such that Nigerians within that part of the country will benefit from the institution, Niger-Delta Development Commission.
“We also expects that the board members inaugurated today would bring their experience to bear and ensure an equitable development within the different states of the Niger Delta
“We, therefore, urge you to ensure compliance with government regulations, procedures, processes, and extant rules and regulations.
“We also expect the management to take into consideration and enable the full procedures in the Public Procurement Act, the Public Service Rules, and the financial regulations in ensuring that they give good governance and give an accountable leadership within the time of the governing board of the Niger Delta commission.”
Breach contract approval limits and face attract severe sanctions
In the same vein, the Minister of Niger-Delta Affairs, Chief Umana Okon Umana, said the tasks before the new Board include a faithful implementation of the recommendations of the report of the NDDC Forensic Audit.
According to him, besides the findings of the Forensic Audit, Government has received numerous petitions alleging irregularities in employment in the Commission.
He explained, “The new Board will have to look into these allegations of irregular employment from 2019 and follow up on the ongoing personnel audit in the Commission to make sure that all cases of employment during the period under review were in accordance with extant rules and regulations of the Service.
“On our part as the overseeing Ministry, we will not relent in providing and availing the Board and the Commission at large with the necessary support and guidance needed for a successful tenure.”
Umana stressed that every contract above the threshold of the Commission’s management must be referred to the Ministerial Tenders Board and the Federal Executive Council.
“Any breach of contract approval limits will attract severe sanctions.
“I also urge you to shun the impulse for the award of spurious and indiscriminate new contracts, and suggest that you instead focus on the completion of ongoing projects to better serve the people of the region and deliver on the mandate of the NDCC, thereby helping to repair the negative public perception for the Commission,” the Minister said.
Restore hope to N/Deltans
Also, the Minister of State, Niger-Delta Affairs, Mrs Sharon Ikeazu, urged the new board to work towards restoring hope to the people of the region.
She said, “I urge you to take advantage of the opportunity to impact positively on the lives of the people. I encourage you to ensure that the narrative of NDDC changes henceforth.
“With you coming, transparency, integrity, and due diligence will be associated with the NDDC. Let us all work together to restore hope to the people in the Niger Delta region.”
Give us breathing space – Onochie tells Nigerians
On her part, the new Chairperson of the NDDC Board, Ms Lauretta Onochie, urged Nigerians to give the new NDDC Board breathing space for their job.
She said, “Since its establishment by the NDDC Act, the Commission has received a lot of flack from all and sundry.
“Consequently, the board will be looking to review also, in addition to all the guidelines issued by the Honourable Minister, will be looking to review the existing policies and guidelines to enable us to have a clear sight as we hit the ground running.
“We cannot continue working with failed templates and expect to get a different result.
“Apart from the physical development of our region, we will be paying extra attention to the empowerment of our teeming youth population, equipping them with requisite skills to enable that to catch up with their peers in other parts of Nigeria and elsewhere.
“There’s no doubt that we have a huge task ahead of us. We ask for the support of Nigerians in general and the Niger Delta in particular.
“We ask that you give us a breathing space to generate great ideas that will bring about the desired change in the region. We are determined to do a great job.
“We are committed to the improvement of the economic and ecological well-being of our region. We are devoted to the prosperous future of the youths of the region. We will not fail. It’s a promise. but we ask that you give us the breathing space to do our job.
“We ask for your support, All and sundry so that we can deliver for the long-suffering people of the Niger Delta.”