Friday, March 20, 2020 3:24 pm
By Nehru Odeh
There seems to be no end in sight to the crisis currently plaguing the Niger Delta Development Commission, (NDDC), the interventionist agency set up by the federal government in 2000 to bring development to the Niger Delta region. And like a hydra-headed monster, its problems are proving insurmountable. The youths of the region, under the auspices of the Niger Delta Youth Forum, have taken the federal government to court over its decision to inaugurate the Interim Management Committee of the NDDC. According to the youths, the appointment of the members of that committee is illegal, unconstitutional and a flagrant abuse of Section 2,7,9 ,10 and 12(2),(3) of the Niger Delta Development Commission (Establishment, etc) (Amendment) Act 2017.
The youths are also saying that the selection and appointment of members of the committee by the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, is illegal, unlawful, and flagrant abuse of the afore- mentioned section of the Niger Delta Development Commission (Establishment, Etc) (Amendment) Act 2017 and Usurpation of the powers of the Board .
Joined in the suit as co-respondents are: 1. The Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, 2. The National Assembly. 3 The Minster of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio 4. The Niger Delta Development Commission. 5. Professor David K. Pondei. 6, Dr. Carol Ojougboh and 7. Mr. Ibanga Bassey Etang.
Following the sacking of the Commission’s Acting Managing Director, Joi Nunieh and her replacement with Professor Kemebradikumo Daniel Pondei,, Akpabio recently inaugurated the interim Management Committee of the NDDC. Other members of the committee include: Ibanga Bassey Etang, Acting Executive Director (Finance and Administration); Cairo Ojougboh, Acting Executive Director (Projects); Caroline Nagbo (member) and Cecilia Bukola Akintomide (member.)
While inaugurating the committee, Akpabio said President Buhari enlarged it to inject new blood into the Commission for better service delivery and charged it to cooperate with forensic auditors to audit the operations of the Commission as directed by the President, adding that change was inevitable in a Commission like the NDDC as it is passing through a phase that would soon be over.
However, there is still a long walk to freedom, as the Niger Delta orum. alongside other plaintiffs,, through their lawyers, Ademola Dere and James Ode Abah , are challenging the constitution of the committee at the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja. They are, among other things, praying the court to determine whether Akpabio, acting under the directive of the president, can appoint, constitute and approve the 5th to 9th respondents as members of the Interim Management Committee of the NDDC. They consider that action illegal, unconstitutional and a flagrant abuse of Section 2,7,9 ,10 and 12(2),(3) of the Niger Delta Development Commission (Establishment, etc) (Amendment) Act 2017.
They are also praying the court to determine whether the appointment of those respondents is not alien to the afore- quoted sections of the NDDC (Establishment, etc (Amendment Act 2017. And whether by the illegality of the appointment of the members of the committee, which were selected by the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, is not just an act of injustice but also that the federal government is, by so doing, is denying four states that are not represented on that committee of their rights.
The plaintiffs are asking the court to determine whether the Minister of the Niger Delta Affairs has the powers to select and appoint interim members for the Niger Delta development commission and whether the appointment on the premise of forensic exercise is not an aberration of the constitutionally defined management and administrative checks and accountability as set in the Niger Delta Development Commission (Establishment, Etc) (Amendment) Act 2017.
They are also asking the court to declare that the Minister of the Niger Delta Affairs cannot hold the NDDC as an appendage of his ministry, and that the appointment and selection o the 5th to 9th respondents as well as the appointment of certain loyalists and personal friends of the minister to oversee the NDDC is not only against the principle of fairness, equity and lso but is illegal ,ultra vires ,null and void and in flagrant abuse of the establishing Act and appointment in the 4th defendants commission in flagrant abuse of Section 3, 7 ,12 and 23 of the Niger Delta Development Commission (Establishment, etc) (Amendment) Act 2017 and Sections 42 of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.