Rivers State Government has issued a three-day ultimatum to government recognised traditional rulers in Andoni to effect immediate release of three kidnapped expatriate workers on the Unity Road Project .
The state Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, who gave the order said at the expiration of the ultimatum, if the expatriate workers allegedly kidnapped by youths in the area were not released, the State Government would withdraw recognition to the traditional rulers.
The Tide gathered that the kidnapped three expatriates work with Raffoul Nigeria Limited, the company executing Andoni axis of the Unity Road Project.
Governor Wike also stated that apart from withdrawing recognition accorded the traditional rulers, the Andoni part of the road project would be cancelled.
He charged communities across the State to take measures to protect the contractors and workers executing government projects in their areas.
Wike warned that such sanctions awaits any community where chiefs and leaders allow project contractors to be kidnapped by the youths.
Recall that few weeks ago, Governor Wike withdrew government’s recognition to a traditional ruler in Khana Local Government Area over his alleged involvement in cultism.
Meanwhile, the Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, has solicited the support of the British Government in the training of the state Neighborhood Safety Corps Agency officers
The Governor who made the request last Friday when the United Kingdom Department for International Development Team in the Niger Delta paid him a courtesy visit in Government House, Port Harcourt, said the state requires training support for operatives of the agency.
He stated that the state government established the neighborhood safety agency to help the security agencies with critical information to enable them fight crimes.
The governor noted that such information would help the security agencies nip crimes in the bud.
He said: “ Virtually all states in Nigeria have security challenges. We have established the NSCA to help the security agencies with critical information to fight crime.
“Such information will help the security agencies nip crimes in the bud. We need assistance for the provision of necessary security training aids for operatives of the NSCA”.
He also urged the British Government to partner with Rivers State Government in agricultural development, stressing that agriculture is a sector that has priority attention of his administration.
“This is necessary because we are interested in using agriculture to creat employment for our youths. In the sector, we are looking at crop farming, fishery and poultry “, he said.
He further stated that the state government is interested in vocational training and skills acquisition for Rivers youths.
He said: “ We want to develope partnerships with the British Government and other international institutions to empower youths with skills that will make them self reliant.
“Once they acquire the vocational training, the state government will set them up”.
The Governor noted that the state government will also partner with British Government in training of teachers for Basic and Senior Secondary schools and environmental sanitation.
Earlier, the Conflict Adviser of UK ,Department of International Development Team in the Niger Delta, Charlotte Neil, said that the British Government is interested in knowing the critical areas of need in the state for partnership.
According to her, the UK Department for International Development wants to understand the priorities of the Rivers State Government for the development of the state.
However, the Rivers State Governor,Chief Nyesom Wike has approved the appointment of Dr Tammy Danagogo as the New Secretary to the State Government.
Governor Wike also approved the appointment of Engr Emeka Woke as the Chief of Staff, Government House, Port Harcourt.
A statement signed by the Special Assistant to the Rivers State Governor, Electronic Media, Simeon Nwakaudu, yesterday, said the two officials will be sworn in by the Rivers State Governor at the Executive Council Chambers of Government House, Port Harcourt by 2pm.
MASSOB Locks Horns With IPOB Over Attack On Ekweremadu …Urges Arrest Of Perpetrators In Germany …Senators, Reps Seek Protection For Political Leaders Abroad …FG, PDP Condemn Attack By IPOB Members
The Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) has disagreed with the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) over the attack on Senator Ike Ekweremadu, last Saturday.
In a statement signed by its Director of Information, Edeson Samuel, yesterday, MASSOB stated that, “The leadership of the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) has condemned in its totality, the assault, physical attack and disrespectful actions of some Igbos against Senator Ike Ekweremadu in Nuremberg, Germany, which we later confirmed as members of IPOB in Germany through the affirmation of IPOB’s spokesman, Emma Powerful.
“It is disheartening that some groups have turned the non-violent struggle for the actualisation of Biafra State into an abusive and systematic Gestapo against the supposed citizens of Biafra.
“The physical attack on Ike Ekweremadu by IPOB is not commendable. Igbo culture abhors disrespect on elders and persons in authoritative positions. If Ike Ekweremadu is sabotaging or has sabotaged Biafra struggle as alleged by IPOB, what meaningful and acceptable steps has IPOB taken to draw the attention of Ike Ekweremadu to the alleged degradation?
“MASSOB as a leading figure of current Biafra agitation advise other pro- Biafra groups, including IPOB that Igbo political leaders are not the major obstacle of our chances of achieving independence from the Nigerian state, the major hurdles militating against the freedom of Biafra people from Nigeria is non-cohesion and brotherhood among the leaders of leading pro-Biafra groups. The tendency of superiority complex on ideology and the spirit of lordship over others are the detrimental tendencies grossly affecting the freedom of Biafrans.
“Ike Ekweremadu and other perceived and alleged enemies of Biafra are not our major obstacle. IPOB can never actualise Biafra alone, neither MASSOB, LNC, BNC, BIM and others operating individually can achieve Biafra alone. Biafra will be more achievable when a strong coalition of MASSOB, IPOB, Lower Niger Congress, BNC, BIM and others from Niger Delta regions are established under a collegiate leadership.
“The tendency of grooming authoritarian leadership under any guise in Igbo land and Biafra in general will never be tolerated because the republican nature of Igbo man does not allow such authoritative and empirical rulership.
“MASSOB also condemns the directives to attack the governors of southeast, consciously attacking a governor will never give us Biafra but will continue sending our youths to untimely deaths because every attack on a governor will attract the trigger happy Hausa Fulani security agents in Igbo land to open fire on our defenceless youths. Tomorrow, they will say governors ordered the killings of IPOB members.
“MASSOB also apologized to Chief Ike Ekweremadu for the physical assault on his person at Germany during the Igbo traditional ceremony of iri ji. We admonished Senator Ike Ekweremadu to abreast the assault as a family affair between a father and his children. Hausa Fulanis and other enemies of Ndigbo are happy but we must shame them when they see you in a cordial relationship with your people.
“MASSOB calls and extend a hand of fellowship to IPOB led by Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, BIM led by Chief Ralph Uwazuruike, BNC led Alhaji Dokubo Asari and other pro Biafra groups to rally together in the true spirit of Biafra and defend Biafra land from the Fulani invaders and marauders. The era of propagandas and talking on radio/newspaper have gone, people’s opinions on social media will never give us Biafra. Let’s unite and confront our common enemy. Though our governors and other leaders are not assisting the Biafra struggle, we can engage them traditionally, not insulting them”, the statement added.
Also, the Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, condemned the violent attack on former Deputy President of the Senate in the Eighth Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, by some members of the proscribed Indigenous Peoples of Biafra.
Omo-Agege said this in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr. Yomi Odunuga, in Abuja, yesterday.
He said the dastardly act was not only an exportation of irrationality, but also an international affront against the image of the Igbos and Nigeria in general.
He expressed shock over the undeserved assault and called on law enforcement agencies in Germany to investigate and bring to book the perpetrators of the attack.
He said: “Sen. Ekweremadu honoured the invitation of patriotic Igbos in Germany who wanted him to deliver a keynote address at the event organised to commemorate the new yam festival.
“But some aggressively discourteous elements hijacked the effort to perpetrate a disgraceful assault that seeks to deepen the portrayal of members of the IPOB as enemies of democratic norms and values.
“What they did is not only a violent assault against the good image of the Igbo race across the world.
“It is also an aggressive attack against the traditional norms of a people known to be hardworking and respectful of meaningful contributions by leaders such as Ekweremadu.
“Such disappointing physical abuse also grossly disregards Ekweremadu’s democratic antecedents and his long-standing commitment to the cause of his people.
“Such criminal attack along with other anti-social attempt, to accuse, condemn and lynch anyone remains utterly condemnable and illegal.”
Omo-Agege said it was notwithstanding whether the attack took place on Nigerian or foreign soil, it was the “easiest invitation to anomie.”
However, miffed by the attack on the immediate past Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu in Nuremberg, Germany, the House of Representatives is contemplating a legislation that would protect politically exposed people abroad.
The Chairman, House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Hon. Yusuf Buba Yakub made the disclosure in a statement he personally signed, yesterday, on the heels of the attack.
It would be recalled that Ekweremadu was attacked by suspected members of IPOB while participating in Iri Iji Festival of Igbo in the Diaspora.
Condemning in strong terms the assault, Yakub said that there were other civilized ways within a democratic setting to show grievances by any individuals or groups.
The federal lawmakers hinted the House upon resumption in September would thoroughly investigate the matter, urging the Nigerian Ambassador to Germany, Yusuf Maitama Tugger to immediately probe the issue with a view to bringing the perpetrators to book.
The statement read thus: “I, like most concerned Nigerians and others across the globe, have followed with utmost concern and worry about the treatment that was meted out on Senator Ike Ekweremadu in far away Nuremberg, Germany, where he had, on the invitation of his people, gone to attend the Second Igbo Cultural Festival of Iri Ji in that part of Europe as a Distinguished Guest of Honour.
“Sen. Ekweremadu, an accomplished scholar in the legal profession and political leader of high standing in society, is one of our longest-serving senators, who had also in the last twelve years until June this year held sway as the Deputy President of the Nigerian Senate. Before joining the Senate, he was also Secretary to the Enugu State Government and had before then served in various capacities in that state.
“Given the high personality profile and the public service record which Sen. Ekweremadu parades, it is unthinkable that any individual or group anywhere in the world, let alone his very own people in the Diaspora, who ought to know better, should contemplate and carry out the despicable public act of shame that was brought upon a well-respected national leader of Sen. Ekweremadu’s stature before the glare of the entire global community in Germany.
“I, therefore, in very strong terms, condemn in its entirety the action of the group of Igbo people, alleged to be members of the outlawed IPOB, that had attacked Sen. Ike Ekweremadu in Nuremberg, Germany on Saturday, August 17. I also wish to join other Nigerians and leaders to call on the Nigerian Ambassador to Germany, Amb.Yusuf Maitama Tugger to make good his promise to investigate and bring to book everyone who was part of that dastardly assault on a serving national leader.
“On my part, I promise to lead the House Committee on Foreign Affairs which I currently chair, and, indeed, other members of the House, who have since yesterday continued to call in to express their indignation against and condemnation of the act, to move a motion on the floor of the House and to call for broader investigations on the matter with a view to decisively dealing with all those involved and seeking protection for the politically-exposed persons on foreign trips and assignments in foreign jurisdictions.
“While conceding that it is the right of any group or individual to protest against a perceived wrong done to them in every democratic set-up, like ours, but it goes without saying that there is a limit to the extent any protest can go. It ceases to be a protest, for instance, when those involved in such a protest begin to make attempts on life or endanger the rights of others to peaceful and lawful assembly as we saw in the case at Nuremberg, Germany. As law-abiding people, we must have recourse to civility and proper ways of doing things at all times.”
Similarly, the Chief Whip of the Ninth Senate, Dr Orji Kalu condemned the attack on the former Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweramadu in Germany by some members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).
A video showing the assault on Ekweremadu by the group had gone viral across the various social media platforms.
Kalu, a two-time governor of Abia, in a statement issued by his Media Team, yesterday in Abuja, described the action of the group as uncivilised, unacceptable and barbaric.
He urged Igbo people to respect leaders at all levels, noting that the only way the South-East zone could be prosperous was to embrace dialogue, peace and unity.
Kalu, in the statement made available to newsmen, yesterday, also urged the Embassy of Nigeria in Germany, the German Government and appropriate authorities to bring the perpetrators of the act to book.
“After watching a viral video of the physical attack on former Deputy President of the Senate Sen. Ike Ekweramadu, I was not only disappointed but irritated and disturbed with the action of some members of IPOB.
“The assault on the senator is a slap on Igbo leaders regardless of age, party affiliation and religion,’’ Kalu said.
According to him, the perpetrators of the uncivilised act must face the wrath of the law.
“Sen. Ekweramadu is not only one of the Igbo leaders but also a prominent Nigerian and as such should be accorded due respect by all and sundry at home and abroad.
“For the South-East to move forward, the people of the region must embrace dialogue as a way of resolving pertinent issues and eschew violence.”
Kalu, who appealed to Igbo across the globe to be law-abiding and remain good ambassadors of Nigeria, urged Igbo groups to educate their members on the consequences of social vices.
Earlier, Nigerians In Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM) condemned the attack on Senator Ike Ekweremadu at the 2nd Annual Igbo Cultural Festival held in Nuremberg, Germany.
In a statement in Abuja, the Chairman of NIDCOM, Mrs AbiKe Dabiri-Erewa, said that the incident was an embarrassment to the country.
“It is also shamefully pathetic that an event, which was nobly put together by the Ndi-Igbo community whose members make up the majority of Nigerians living in Germany, ended up in such a disgraceful manner,” she said.
Dabiri-Erewa noted that the event was to provide a forum for those in Diaspora and various stakeholders to network and facilitate better cooperation between German and Nigerian businesses.
She disclosed that some of the culprits who perpetrated the act had been apprehended.
Dabiri-Erewa called on the German government and law enforcement agencies to ensure that there are consequences for the actions of the culprits.
She also appealed to Nigerians to be of good behaviour wherever they find themselves; as such unruly incidents tarnish the image of the country.
In a statement, last Saturday, Ekweremadu confirmed that he was physically assaulted by some members of the proscribed IPOB in Nuremberg, Germany.
Enweremadu confirmed the attack in a statement released by his Media Assistant, Uche Anichukwu in Abuja.
Reacting, the senator representing Abia-South Senatorial District, Enyinnaya Abaribe condemned the attack on the former deputy Senate president, Dr Ike Ekweremadu by members identified as IPOB.
Abaribe, who along with two other sureties bailed Nnamdi Kanu, frowned at the incident, noting that it was un-Igbo for IPOB members in Germany to treat Ekweremadu that way.
His words, “Obviously this is not how to repay a man, an outstanding leader of men, an unpretentious Igbo leader.
“He has given his all even going as far as deploying his means to arrange for the bail of Nnamdi Kanu, not minding the repercussions to his illustrious political career.
“It is unfortunate. The perpetrators of the attack should know that as the Igbo, we respect elders and reverence our leaders.
“The unwarranted attack is not the character of the Igbo. This is un-Igbo.
“It is most worrisome and even inconceivable that the attackers will choose an auspicious occasion where our people are celebrating and showcasing our rich culture to exhibit such unbecoming and condemnable conduct in the name of agitation.
“No, that was not agitation, no right thinking human will identify with such behaviour.
“Yes, Nigeria is going through a horrendous phase, which is a fault line that her leaders, particularly we the Igbo leaders are engaging others to find a lasting solution to.
“Resorting to mob mentality and venting the spleen on our leaders rather creates a vacuum that will leave our people helpless and confused in the circumstance”, he said.
Also speaking, Senator Shehu Sani, said that IPOB spanked the wrong horse with the wrong whip on the wrong track with the attack on the former Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu.
Sani on his Twitter handle said: “Ike; IPOB spanked the wrong horse with the wrong whip on the wrong track.
“The attack on Senator Ekweremadu in Germany stands unreservedly condemned.
“Whatever is the political or philosophical agenda of the people that attacked him, the strategy of physical assault or violence cannot lead them to success.”
A 64-second video about the attack had gone viral on the social media earlier on Saturday.
In the video, Ekweremadu was seen being violently questioned over his alleged conspiracy with the Federal Government to proscribe the IPOB in the South-East and killing several of its followers.
There were initial speculations on the veracity of the video where the senator was attacked with eggs by the irate IPOB members.
The Senator who also gave an account of the event on his social media handle, @iamekweremdu, however, assured that he was safe.
He said: “I attended the Second Annual Cultural Festival and Convention organised by Ndi-Igbo Germany in Nurnberg today (Saturday) where I was billed to give a keynote address along with the President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Nnia Nwodo, who, however could not make it eventually.
“I was given a resounding welcome by Ndigbo in Germany and everything went smoothly until some men, who identified themselves as IPOB members stormed the venue and began to complain about the killings in the South-East, stressing that there would be no Igbo event at the venue.
“I tried to engage them, but when they became unruly, I had to leave the venue. The organisers also invited the police, and I was accompanied out of the venue.
“Much as I am disappointed in their conduct, especially as I am one of the persons, who have spoken up on justice for Ndigbo, the Python Dance, judicial killings in Igbo land, and elsewhere both on the floor of the Senate and in my written and personal engagements with the Presidency and the media as well as rallied the South-East Senate Caucus to secure Mazi Nnamdi Kanu’s release with Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe taking him on bail to douse tension in the South-East, I nevertheless do not hold this to heart against them, for they know not what they do.
“I have received thousands of solidarity calls and messages from well-meaning Ndigbo. I want to assure them that I am hail and hearty. I have also spoken with the Nigerian Ambassador to Germany, Ambassador Yusuf Tuggar.”
Meanwhile, the former Governor of Ekiti State, Mr Ayodele Fayose and Peoples Democratic Party stalwart and ex-minister Chief Femi Fani-Kayode also condemned the attack on Senator Ike Ekweremadu.
Fayose said the attack on Ekweremadu was an assault against the Igbos and Nigerians in general, adding that “Igbo touts” demonstrated that pigs have no value for gold.’
He said: “Attackers of Ekweremadu, a defender of democracy who symbolizes courage and decency, are miscreants who don’t deserve a place in a civilized society”.
Fani-Kayode said “What happened to my friend and brother Sen. Ike Ekweremadu in Nuremberg, Germany at the hands of IPOB is an eye-opener and clear signal to every political leader in southern Nigeria! The people of the south are getting angry and you either stand up and defend them or stand aside!”
The National Vice Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), South-East zone, Chief Austin Umahi, condemned the attack on Senator Ike Ekweremadu by suspected members of the proscribed IPOB in Nurnberg, Germany.
Umahi made this known in a statement signed and forwarded to newsmen at the weekend in Abakaliki, the capital of Ebonyi State.
He frowned at the action of the group against Ekweremadu whom he said has been on the forefront of the struggle against the marginalization of Ndi-Igbo in the Nigerian Federation.
The zonal chairman said he was surprised that some individuals could hide under the name of the proscribed IPOB to attack Ekweremadu after all his efforts as the leader of South-East Senate Caucus in the 8th Senate to secure the release of Nnamdi Kanu, the self acclaimed leader of the group, from detention.
He said for Ekweremadu to have travelled to far away Nurnberg in Germany to attend the second annual festival and convention organized by Ndi-Igbo resident there, was a demonstration of his undying love for Ndi-Igbo which he has been exhibiting over the years.
Umahi urged Ekweremadu not to be discouraged by the attack; but see it as one of the many sacrifices he has to pay in pursuit for justice and better treatment for Ndi-Igbo both within and outside the country.
He also called for the arrest and prosecution of the perpetrators of the dastardly act to serve as a deterrent to others.
“I advised any individual or group that has any genuine reason to agitate, to do so, through the South-East Governors Forum, the Ohanaeze Ndi-igbo and through other legitimate means within the Nigerian federation; rather than resorting to self help” he stated.
Responding to criticism on the IPOB action, the Leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, yesterday, described the attack on the former Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, in Nuremberg, Germany, as a ‘courageous act’.
Reacting in his official Twitter page, Kanu said the attack was a polite warning.
He tweeted, “the courageous act by IPOB at Nürnberg, Germany, is a polite warning to those engaged in selling our collective interest to Fulani caliphate. Nwodo, Igbo governors are warned.”
The IPOB explained that the attack serves as a warning to Nnia Nwodo, Dave Umahi, Okezie Ikpeazu, Willie Obiano and others to stay away from any public event abroad unless they want to be humiliated.
Wike Seeks Clerics, Monarchs’ Support On Security …Calls For Unity Amongst Christians
The Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike has declared that with greater collaboration with the church, members of the society and traditional rulers, the new security architecture of the state will attain greater success.
Speaking during the first session of the Fourth Synod of the Anglican Diocese of Evo in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area, yesterday, Wike said that successes have been recorded since the state government launched ‘Operation Sting’.
He said: “With robust collaboration with the church, society and traditional rulers, we will win the fight against insecurity.
“The church should also support our efforts in crime fighting. The church should continue to pray for the administration to achieve greater success in the fight to promote security.
“Beyond prayers, church members should also provide information to the state security council and security services on the activities of criminal elements. This will help in tackling insecurity”.
Represented by his Chief of Staff, Engr Chukwuemeka Woke, the governor urged members of the society to support the Rivers State Government to improve security, which will enhance investments in the state.
He said: “Once we achieve better security, more investments will come to the state. These investments will translate to jobs for our people”.
Wike thanked the Anglican Dioceses in Rivers State for the Thanksgiving Service they held for his re-election on July 7, 2019, and thanked the Christian community for their support.
Anglican Bishop of Evo Diocese, Rt Rev Innocent Ordu thanked Wike for his consistent support for the church.
“The governor has done so well for us. He has supported the church in diverse ways. The diocese owes it a duty to always support the state government in prayers”, he said.
Chairman of Obio/Akpor Local Government Area, Mr Solomon Eke expressed the appreciation of Obio/Akpor people for the governor’s support to the Evo Diocese.
He assured the Rivers State governor that the people of Obio/Akpor Local Government Area will provide the needed support to ensure the success of ‘Operation Sting’.
Meanwhile, the Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike has called on Christians to work in unity for the growth of the faith.
Wike also regretted the level of disunity among Christian denominations, saying that it was hindering the expansion of the church.
He spoke during a courtesy visit by Baba Aladura and Prelate of The Eternal Sacred Order of Cherubim and Seraphim Worldwide, Dr David Bob-Manuel, Moses Orimolade IX, at the Government House, Port Harcourt, last Friday.
He said:”Let me appeal to Christians that the time has come when we have to work as a body.
“There are too many divisions in the faith. Look at the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in Rivers State; it has been divided into factions. This is not necessary. We cannot be the body of Christ and we are not work together.
“Working as a team will make the church grow faster than it is doing right now”.
Wike assured the Christian community that his administration would continue to support them, adding that the support was borne out of the fact that Rivers State is a Christian state.
He reiterated that there was no gain in youths becoming cultists, and urged the church to work with the Rivers State Government to discourage cultism.
“There is no gain in joining cult groups. Cultism does not pay. We need to continue talking to our youths on the need to shun cultism”, he added.
Wike congratulated the Baba Aladura on his emergence as the leader of Cherubim and Seraphim Worldwide, explaining that Rivers people were proud of him.
Earlier, the Baba Aladura; Dr David Bob-Manuel, commended the Rivers State governor for his consistent support for the Christian community.
The Prelate of The Eternal Sacred Order of Cherubim and Seraphim Worldwide congratulated the Rivers State governor on his victories at the poll and the tribunal, urging him to use his second term to consolidate on his first term achievements.
“Your achievements in the state are monumental. Your effort to address insecurity in the state through the launch of ‘Operation Sting’ is quite commendable.
“You have left your footprints in the sands of time. God will grant you the enablement”, he stressed.
He said that he was in Rivers State for the International Youth Conference of the church, which would attract 7,000 youths from across the world, adding that this year’s event was the first time the church was holding the programme outside Lagos.
NDDC’s New Debt Recovery Exercise
The recent initiative of the Nige Delta Development Commission (NDDC) to engage debt collectors for the purpose of recovering debts owed it and which is reported to be as high as N1.2 trillion,is a development of interest, with a promise to change the narrative of the commission. That is if such is executed effectively without any tinge of politicisation of the process from sundry external influences, as well as the ever present possibility of sabotage from in-house, insidious power-play schemes across its rank and file. Recently, the commission appointed a debt collector – Paris Trust Limited (PTL) to tackle its debtors who are in the main oil and gas companies, operating in the Niger Delta region. The debt collector has reportedly swung into action by sending demand notices to the defaulting companies conveying a seven-day ultimatum on the latter, to address their respective cases of indebtedness.
This is a positive development by the commission pursuant to repositioning itself for more predictable business activities in respect of its statutory obligation of driving development in the Niger Delta. Created in 2000 as an interventionist agency by the Federal Government under President Olusegun Obasanjo, the NDDC had its operational mandate clearly identifying the oil and gas companies operating in the Niger Delta region as statutory contributors to its war chest. In the 2000 Act establishing the commission, the designated oil and gas companies were assigned the responsibility of contributing just 3% of their annual operating budgets to the purse of the commission. Other sources of funding for the NDDC include 15% of the monthly statutory allocation to member states from the Federation Account and 50% of the Ecological Fund. The foregoing funding sources are to be augmented with other options such as business profits, loan and gifts, to name a few.
The initiative of recovering debts from defaulting oil and gas companies is therefore a legitimate exercise that is backed by law and contemporary best fit business practice. The denial of the commission of its due revenue by the offending debtors translates into its compromised capacity to deliver on its commitments to the host states. This, however, is not to state that the failure of the debtors to oblige it has been the only problem of the commission with respect to delivering on its mandate to member states. Beyond the indebtedness of the oil and gas companies lies the bigger debt by the Federal Government itself, which the commission has demonstrated incapacity or otherwise to recover. Meanwhile, efforts to exploit other sources of funding which are market based, like returns on investible funds are yet to feature on the commission’s portfolio.
In this state of financial miasma plays out the proclivities of some potentates since 2015, to make Rivers State the ‘whipping boy’ of the commission’s operational incontinences. While the commission had since its inception battled with issues around both the operation of the funding set up as well as the process of accounting for whatever funds that accessed its coffers, the period from 2015 to date has been a season of concern with respect to its relationship with the state. The coincidence of the low points of this period with the control of the Federal Government by the APC and associated animosity towards the PDP government in the state was not difficult for any observer to associate with the victimisation of the state.
The plight of the Rivers State in this unsavoury situation has been highlighted in several instances. A typical case is the running matter of tax evasion by the NDDC in respect of which the Rivers State Internal Revenue Service (RIRS) sealed off in April this year, the commission’s corporate headquarters in Port Harcourt over an outstanding tax sum of N50 billion through a court order. While the commission protested against the action, its case was weakened as it was acting on a compromised financial operational template that provided scant transparency even with respect to its founding NDDC Act 2000. While the Act under consideration provides that the commission produces an audited report of its operations not later than six months after the end of each year, such a report from the NDDC has remained largely in the terrain of the voodoo, as far as the public is concerned.
It is therefore for good measure that Governor Nyesom Wike conveyed the pain of the State from its unfair treatment by the commission, to its Managing Director, Professor Nelson Brambaifa during the latter’s visit to mend fences. Wike had raised the issue of the commission’s slips as including the failure to pay up on its counterpart funding obligations, in respect of the Mother and Child Hospital project in the state after the government had delivered on its end.
It is hoped that dividends from the current debt recovery exercise will benefit Rivers State in addressing some of the debts owed it by the NDDC.
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