Strong indications have emerged that crisis looms following the transfer of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) from the Presidency to the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs as lawyers and a group under the aegis of Accountable Leadership for Better Nigeria Initiative (ALBNI) have kicked against the action.
Subsequently, the lawyers and the group have written a letter of protest to the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, to, as a matter of urgency, carry out a holistic investigation into why President Muhammadu Buhari took the decision to transfer the agency to the ministry.
According to them, the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs and former Akwa Ibom State governor, Senator Godswill Akpabio wrote to the Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari, Abba Kyari, requesting the transfer, which was approved.
In a letter to Malami, signed by Tolu Babaleye, on behalf of the group, Akpabio has been given a 14-day ultimatum to reverse the action, warning that failure to do that would force them to approach the court for redress.
In the letter dated October 10, and entitled, “Illegal Transfer of Niger Delta Development Commission from Presidency to Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs: Demand for Immediate Reversal”, the group expressed displeasure and sadness over the recent illegal, and what it described as unlawful action taken by the duo of Akpabio and Abba Kyari.
The group warned that if not checked, the development might lay a bad precedent in the country, hence it became imperative to bring the action to the notice of the chief law officer of the federation and Justice Ministry to unearth the underlying factor which necessitated such action.
The letter read, “We are the solicitors to Accountable Leadership for Better Nigeria Initiative of No. 9A, Nnewi Street, Area 2, Garki, Abuja, and Act Initiatives of Suite C10, PEB 04 Plaza, Plot 2027, Dalaba Street, Wuse, Zone 5, Abuja, (hereinafter freely referred to as our clients), and it is on their instructions and behest that this letter is caused to be remitted to you.
“Our clients are reputable non-governmental organizations with commitment and passion for an orderly society and a better Nigeria where things are done by leaders in accordance with the laid down legal standards to engender good governance for the betterment of the citizenry.
“Our clients, as good governance watchdogs, wish to use this medium to express their displeasure and sadness over the recent illegal and unlawful action taken by the duo of the Honourable Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio and the Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari, Mr. Abba Kyari, which, if not checked, might lay a bad precedent in the country, and our clients feel very strongly that this must be brought to the notice and knowledge of the chief law officer of the federation and Justice Ministry to unearth the underlying factor necessitating such action.
“Your Honourable Sir, via a letter dated September 2, 2019, with Reference No. SH/COS/81/A/1900 signed by Mr. Abba Kyari, and addressed to Honourable Minister, Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, which is under the supervision of Senator Goodwill Akpabio, the former granted the request of the latter by transferring and purportedly delegating the management and control of the Niger Delta Development Commission to the ministry under Senator Goodwill Akpabio without consultation with the relevant stakeholders; which action is against the law of the land as the Office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is by virtue of Section 7 of the Niger Delta Development Commission Act charged with the sole responsibility of overseeing the affairs of the commission and same is not delegate-able to any person or body. The principle is delegatus non-potest delegare.
“Our clients are left in awe as to the rationale behind the actions of Messrs Kyari and Akpabio and the pecuniary gains they intend to get in brazenly circumventing the law.
“As stakeholders in the Nigeria project, our clients are greatly concerned and profoundly worried about this patently illegal and unlawful act being perpetrated by men on whom President Muhammadu Buhari rely to help him drive his administration mantra which is based on Next-level goal and good governance.
“This is disheartening and disconcerting, to say the least. Our clients are of the strong opinion that this ugly development must not be allowed to be swept under the carpet, hence this letter of petition to your exalted office for reversal of this infraction of our Constitution and NDDC Act.
“In the light of the foregoing, our clients hereby unequivocally demand immediate reversal of the action of Messrs Kyari and Akpabio and restore the Niger Delta Development Commission to its appropriate and original statutory domain as an autonomous commission which is the Office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in the interest of the Nigerian public, public probity and good governance.
“We on behalf of our client believe that your exalted office should be able to work on the reversal and achieve it within 14 days of service of this letter on you including the date of service.
“We shall take to our client’s outstanding instructions of taking the matter to court at the expiration of the time stated above if the matter is not resolved to the knowledge of Nigerians.
“While waiting for feedback from your exalted office on this petition, please, accept the esteem of our due professional regards and warmest compliments of our clients.”
Meanwhile, as reactions continue to trail the planned transfer of Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) from the office of the Presidency to the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, a non-governmental organization, the Niger Delta Youth Coalition (NDYC) has opposed the move, saying it would be counter-productive.
The National Coordinator of the NDYC, Prince Emmanuel Ogba, said such move would make the commission less effective in delivering development to the Niger Delta region.
Ogba said in an interview with our correspondent, yesterday, in Port Harcourt, that, “If the commission is finding it difficult to make needed impact on the people when it is under the direct supervision of the Presidency, it will even be worse under the supervision of the Niger Delta Ministry”.
He described those behind the new move as enemies of the region, urged the Federal Government to rather think of a better way of reviving the commission to provide development as an interventionist agency than transferring it to the ministry.
“The whole idea is funny in the sense that even the Niger Delta Ministry we are talking about is showing obvious sign of a failed ministry. It needs help.
“Since its creation, what reasonable impact can you attribute to the ministry in terms of meaningful projects’ execution?
“So, transferring the supervision of the NDDC from the Presidency to the Niger Delta Ministry will kill these two organs of development and that will spell doom for the region”, he said.
He advised President Muhammadu Buhari to disregard the suggestion, stressing that such idea could only come from those who do not mean well for the region and also want Buhari’s administration to fail in the region.
The NDYC boss called on Buhari to focus on unmasking those who defrauded the commission and made it fail with huge number of abandoned projects.
“Trace the stolen wealth of the commission and strengthen the supervision of the agency, and you will see remarkable difference”, Ogba said.
Ogba further pointed out that the move to transfer the commission away from the Presidency contradicts the act that established the commission.
Judiciary, Most Powerful Arm Of Govt, Wike Affirms …Moves To Reclaim Lands Belonging To GCSS, PH
The Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike has affirmed that the Judiciary was the most powerful arm of government, regretting that the strength of the Judiciary has been lost due to fear.
Addressing the Governing Council of the Eastern Bar Forum during a courtesy visit at the Government House, Port Harcourt, yesterday, Wike noted that it was the responsibility of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) to strengthen the Judiciary.
“In terms of being powerful, the Judiciary is the most powerful arm of Government. But they have lost that power due to fear.
“The NBA needs to strengthen the Judiciary. People are saying that the NBA is now a toothless bulldog. I am not the one saying so, people are saying it.
“As lawyers, we have the responsibility, as conscience of the society, to make sure that the right thing is done”, he said.
Wike said that the Rivers State Government would partner with the Eastern Bar Forum to promote the rule of law, adding that the state government would continue to work with associations with the right disposition.
On street trading and illegal motor parks, Wike explained that with the successes recorded by the task force, the state government would establish an agency to consolidate on the gains.
He urged the Eastern Bar Forum to work together and promote a common front, saying that individual interest should not supersede the group interest.
Earlier, the Chairman of the Governing Council of Eastern Bar Forum, Long Williams commended the governor for his support to the bench and Bar.
He said the Rivers State governor has developed the right infrastructure to promote the rule of law.
Williams also praised the Rivers State governor for the general development of Rivers State.
He invited the governor to the last quarterly meeting of the Eastern Bar Forum, pointing out that the meeting was one of the most important meetings of lawyers in the country.
He commended the Rivers State governor for the successes recorded by the Task Force on Street Trading and Illegal Motor Parks, saying that it should be transformed into an agency for sustainability.
Meanwhile, the Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike has directed the commencement of the reclamation of lands belonging to Government Comprehensive Secondary School, Port Harcourt for the restoration of the lost glory of the institution.
Speaking during a courtesy visit by the Executive Committee of the Comprehensive Old Boys Association (COBA), yesterday, Wike directed the state Surveyor General, the Permanent Secretary, Lands; and the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Education to commence the process for the restoration of the school.
The governor said: “We will work together to reclaim the school. The surveyor general must start immediate works to map out the original lands belonging to the Government Comprehensive Secondary School, Port Harcourt.
“By Monday, the Permanent Secretary, Lands will start issuing quit notices to those illegally occupying the lands of the school. The quit notices should be for a month.
“The Honourable Attorney General will be notified to look out for any frivolous orders. On this matter, we are prepared to ensure the restoration of Government Comprehensive Secondary School”.
The governor decried a situation where residents of the area would illegally encroach on school land, and appealed to members of Comprehensive Old Boys Association to help the state government educate members of the public on the need for the restoration of the school.
Wike said that the need to restore the institution should not be subjected to unnecessary sentiments, adding that the state government would not shy away from resolving the challenges facing the education sector.
He said that the state government would not fold its hands and allow illegal occupants ruin the school, insisting that the illegal squatters must be fenced off.
On the plea by COBA for the Rivers State governor to recall the sacked Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Lands, Wike said the former permanent secretary sabotaged a government programme, leading to the sanction placed on him.
In his remarks, the National President of COBA, Dr Sodum Abe congratulated the governor for his victory at the polls, describing it as duly earned and well-deserved.
He commended the Rivers State governor for his investment in the education sector, especially the restoration of old schools across the state.
Abe said: “Your administration is the only one that is reconstructing schools it is selfless governance that places education at the forefront. Great leaders take education seriously, and Rivers people are fortunate to have a great leader in you.”
He appealed to the Rivers State governor to take steps to dislodge illegal squatters at the Government Comprehensive Secondary School and also reconstruct the school.
Abe also urged the Rivers State governor to restore the curriculum of the school.
PDP Senators Kick As Senate Approves N10bn Refund For Kogi
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) caucus in the Senate has protested against the Senate’s approval of the refund of N10.06billion to the Kogi State Government for road projects it executed on behalf of the Federal Government.
According to the opposition lawmakers, the refund should be delayed by one week so that the money will not be diverted to fund the state governorship poll due for Saturday.
The legislative approval followed the presentation of the report of the Senate Committee on Local and Foreign Debts, headed by Senator Clifford Ordia, seeking approval for the issuance of N10.06billion promissory notes programme to the state government and a bond issuance to settle inherited local debts and contractual obligations for projects executed on behalf of Federal Government.
President Muhammadu Buhari had in a letter a fortnight ago to the President of the Senate, Dr. Ahmad Lawan, requested for an approval for the refund to be made to the state government.
Presenting his committee’s report, Ordia, said “the approved sum is in capital expenditure, which has to do with refund to the state government for monies spent in the execution of Federal Government projects in the state.”
According to him, key officials of the state government were invited to brief the committee during its legislative work.
Ordia added that the committee also assessed all submissions made by the Federal Ministry of Finance, alongside documents from the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) and the state government.
He said the committee undertook an oversight visit to Kogi State to assess the projects and ascertained that they met the required standard by the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing.
The projects inspected by the committee were: reconstruction of Shintaku-Odugbo road, reconstruction of Ganaja-Ajaokuta road, reconstruction of Idah-Onyedega road and dualisation of Lokoja-Ganaja road.
Other executed federal projects were: reconstruction of three-span bridge along Shintaku-Odugbo road, reconstruction of four-span bridge along Shintaku-Odugbo road, and reconstruction of Iyamoje-Igagun-Ifeolu-Kptun-Ponyan-Jegede road.
But in his objection to the approval, Senate Minority Leader, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, while raising a point of order, urged the Senate to delay the approval until after the governorship election.
He said: “I have the mandate of the minority party to request that the payment be delayed till next week as we feel this is not the right time to release the money with Kogi governorship poll few days away.
“The delay will ensure that the refund is not misused so it can be delayed for only one week and after election they can get their money as it is meant for the good people of Kogi State.
“States that have done the work of the Federal Government should be paid. I agree they should be paid, what I don’t want is the misuse of this fund. I have the mandate of the minority to say this can wait until next week. Let’s delay for only one week, after elections then they can be paid.”
In a counter argument, Lawan explained that the state was entitled to be paid all monies it spent on the execution of Federal Government projects.
According to Lawan, the state was denied an approval for refund while 24 other state governments got theirs under the Eighth Senate.
“Kogi State applied for this refund in the last Senate. All the states that applied were approved here by the last Senate. Now as the Ninth Senate, we have seen the necessity and are doing justice. We have done justice to others, and we have to do justice to Kogi State. When it is done is not the matter,” he added.
The Senate eventually approved the president’s request for a refund to Kogi State Government after a voice vote called by Lawan.
Community Shuts SPDC Flow Station For Lack Of Power Supply
A section of Omudioga Community in Emohua Local Government Area, led by its Community Development Committee (CDC) Chairman, Barrister Chikweri Ogbugo, yesterday, shut down Ahia Flow Station operated by Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) due to the company’s failure to provide electricity to the people.
The protesters, who spoke through the CDC chairman, during the protest, said it was unfortunate that SPDC could live them without power supply despite their peaceful nature.
According to him, the community had been in darkness for about one year since an energy company disconnected them of the national grid.
He pointed out that the decision was reached when the company could not respond to their repeated request to provide the community with alternative means of power supply.
Ogbugo further hinted that the community may take more drastic measures should Shell fail to do the needful after the expiration of the one-week ultimatum.
“We are here today to register our grievances against SPDC. We are here to let the world know that my people have been short-changed for too long; my people have suffered for up to 50 years. SPDC has been in our community since 1961, and till now, there’s nothing to be proud of the company in the community”, he said.
“Apart from one kilometre of road since 1961, they gave us light that didn’t last for two years. Around 2002 and till about 2005, we didn’t see light again. Five years ago, we got light from Sahara Energy, a company operating in our neighbouring town, Omoku but only this year, they came and disconnected us, saying that we should go to SPDC to give us light. And for us, they are right about it because SPDC is our tenant”, he added.
The community leader also expressed regret that his people could still suffer hardship from the oil giant with the presence of over 30 oil wells, and a flow station that gathers crude oil from other neighbouring communities.
Another point of their grievance, he noted, was Shell’s failure to award N9million contract for a restore power to the community, which he said, dashed their hope.
“We can’t negotiate for other things. Shell is still giving us fake hope, my people are angry, and we have shut down the flow station. We are not leaving here until we receive positive change”, he said.
Also speaking, the representative of the chiefs, Chief Tony Assobinawu, said that the chief and elders were in support of the protest against SPDC.
Assobinawu, who corroborated the views of his CDC chairman, hinted that they have been neglected for too long, complaining that the community has no good water, and no paved internal roads.
In their separate speeches, the woman leader, Mrs Comfort Chuku and the Youth Leader, Mr Daniel Akpelu, said that the company must do something meaningful in the area to justify its presence in the area for almost 50 years.
Some of the placards they carried read, “Shell must give us light”, “We need Shell scholarship in Omudioga community”, “Youth empowerment is our priority”, among other things.
When contacted, the spokesman of Shell, Mr Michael Adande confirmed the development, but said he was yet to get details.
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