The Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio weekend opened up on the reasons for the lingering face-off among stakeholders in the region over issues of the managerial positions within the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), declaring that the Act establishing the commission shows that it is the turn of Bayelsa state to produce the Managing Director of the commission not Delta state.
Senator Godswill Akpabio, during a call on him by some Niger Delta Youth leaders in Abuja, said the current management confirmed by the Senate with Dr. Bernard Okumagba and Maxwell Oko from Bayelsa as Executive Director, Finance and Administration, run foul of the provisions of the Act establishing the NDDC.
Akpabio advised stakeholders in the Niger Delta to follow the dictates of the law so as to foster peace in the region. He stated that Section 4 of the NDDC Act provided that the chairmanship of the commission should move in alphabetical order.
He explained: “The first chairman of the commission was Chief Onyeama Ugochukwu from Abia State; the second chairman was Ambassador Sam Edem from Akwa Ibom; the third was AVM (Rtd) Larry Koinyan from Bayelsa; fourth was Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba from Cross River. So, the next one should be Delta.
“And we have now jumped Delta and given it to Edo. It is the turn of Edo after Delta. So, the current list that we have cannot engender peace. It is almost like saying when it is the turn of Ondo, Ondo will say we don’t’ want it, give it to Rivers, we want a bigger position. No it is not like that.”
Akpabio stressed that Bayelsa should produce the Managing Director because Mr. Timi Alaibe served in that position in acting capacity. He noted: “We have not had two full years of Managing Director for Bayelsa. We have had Engr. Godwin Omene staying as MD of NDDC for almost four full years. We have had Hon Emmanuel Aguariavwodo from Delta serving as MD for almost three years. So, it is not the turn of Delta. That is why people are running to court and I am not afraid to tell the truth.”
According to Akpabio, his responsibility as a minister included giving honest advice to the President and allowing him to make his own decisions. He advised those wondering why NDDC should be supervised by his ministry to check their records because that was the position before he became a minister.
He explained: “Mr Uguru Usani Uguru was the man looking after the NDDC, but because he was not popular, controversial people did not notice. But he has always been in charge up to the time I came in August. Do you understand? So it is not a new thing that they will say Godswill Akpabio came and he wanted NDDC to be part of the ministry. No, but if NDDC has been added to me by delegation of power, as enshrined in section 7 subsection 3 of the law establishing NDDC, so be it.
“If you open the constitution now you will see that section 171gives power to the President to appoint people in substantive positions, as well as in acting positions. So the man that has the right to appoint you as managing director, also has right to appoint you as acting managing director. The Nigerian constitution gave that power to the President in section 171. And even over and above that, if you look at section 7 of the NDDC Act it clearly stated that the President shall have control and shall give guidance over the board and management of NDDC.”
Akpabio regretted that Niger Deltans were fighting the wrong war and the wrong opponent. He wondered why people should be deceived into fighting the person that was ready to bring empowerment to them.
He said: “Look at Niger Delta in the next five or ten years, when people are using battery to fly airplane and drive cars. Using battery to do everything, and renewable energy to power and nobody is buying your crude oil. What will you do with your crude oil? It will only be polluting your waters. It has already caused environmental degradation and petrol will no longer be necessary for electricity. So what will happen to our people? We will be like Enugu.
“When they finished prospecting coal and the coal they used for train finished, everything was abandoned. And now all those coal mines are killing people, children are falling into them and all that.”
The Minister urged Niger Deltans to learn from the experiences of others and plan for the future of the region without oil. “This is the time for us to do a kind of youth summit in the Niger Delta and discuss what to do we do now that crude is oil still useful and people are still selling and look at the time that people are no longer selling and prepare for that time,” he said.
Akpabio lamented that the NDDC had not achieved much in the last 18 years, noting that the commission spent N44 billion on programmes executed through NGOs. The more disturbing part, he said, was that the commission had no budget for 2019.
The minister remarked: “When I said they should go and pay N1.9b for water hyacent, somebody challenged me and I told that person that for me, if the youths are entitled to N5b, give them N5b. Outside that N1.9b go to Warri you will see that the whole of that area is taken over by water hyacinth.
“By now this should be shared into cooperatives, 10 -10, 20 – 20, and they should be given the job to clear the water hyacinth. It blocks the oxygen that goes into the water and then kills the fish so our fishermen are bringing out dead fish. And so at the end of the day, it leads to more poverty in the area. This is a function of youth empowerment and you have an ambassador in youth empowerment in me.”
Akpabio declared: “Tell me what you want and I will get it done for you. I did not apply to become a minister. I am a Senator. I have just won my case in court. If anybody tells you that I have any plan to come to Niger Delta to do something different, that person is talking nonsense. My plan in the Niger Delta is for your good, your own is to explain to me what you want and I get it done.”