Alabotubo Charles Harry is the President of the Ijaw National Congress (INC) worldwide. During a live Radio programme in Port Harcourt last Monday, he stated the position of the Ijaw apex organisation on the forensic audit of the NDDC ordered by President Muhammadu Buhari, insisting that the Interim Management Board of the commission led by Dr. Joy Nunieh should not be tampered with. He also spoke on the just concluded Governorship election in Bayelsa State. The Tide correspondent, Dennis Naku who monitored the programme presents this report. Excerpts.
Would you say happenings in Ijaw land in the last couple of months have been a good tiding for the people?
Elections are for the people to decide for themselves where they want to go whether we like where they have gone or not is not the issue here. What is an issue here is that the will of the people have taken place in Bayelsa and Bayelsa State cannot and will not be ruled through surrogates or God-fathers. For me I think where the people want to be is good tidings. A lot of people have few constraints here and there about what they feel about the elected or the Governor-elect. But I think that is not an issue.
What is the view of the INC on the forensic audit of the NDDC ordered by President Muhammadu Buhari?
I think it is a welcome development. I mean the Ijaw nation considering the 13 per cent derivation, the NDDC, the Amnesty Programme and the Ministry for the Niger Delta should have done much way better than it is doing. It is doing really poorly and I think an audit into the NDDC in particular, which is an interventionist agency to take care of certain developmental aspect of the Ijaw nation and the Niger Delta in general is a core place to begin.
Many Ijaw sons have held sway at NDDC, yet nothing seems to be coming to the Ijaw nation?
The real problem with the NDDC is the constitutional arrangement put in place. The NDDC act is set to fail. It is created in such a way that it puts a lot of power and puts the helmsmen in the NDDC under too much strain from extraneous quarters where they must kow tow to the dictates of the people who beat the drum, the senators, members of the House of Representatives, people in the executive. And you laden it up also with extraneous bodies like directors from the North East, North Central, North West, South West etcetera. All these things were time bombs that are now playing themselves out. I think the essence of this audit on the affairs of the NDDC is necessary because we need to find out why so much money has been pumped into the NDDC and it is not working. And the problem we are facing today, the fight against the Interim Management Board is because the same powers that be do not want that audit to succeed. Because if it does, maybe, we will get to a position where the NDDC Act will be amended to remove the overbearing influences that curtail its abilities to achieve its set aims.
The region has NDDC and Ministry of Niger Delta, one may be tempted to ask how come you are complaining of underdevelopment or do you think it is an orchestration to blackmail the region?
I will want to say that a lot of the faults belong to us at home here (Niger Delta). We must take the bull by the horns and accept responsibility for a great number of the things that have gone wrong. We have members representing us at the National Assembly who should have asked for an amendment of the laws blackmail, yes it is because if the Niger Delta Ministry cannot build the East West Road in over, it is close to 10 years since that Ministry was created and one major artery that takes the bulk of the products because the industrial hub of Nigeria sits here into the developed quarters of Lagos and the Ports cannot be fixed, then something is deliberately wrong. I believe and I am not in any way controverted to say that there is more to it than meets the eye.
You said one of the biggest challenge is the NDDC Act itself though you support the forensic audit. Do you think the rot might not go away unless the NDDC Act is changed?
Correctly so. The truth of the matter is that I even see the process of amending the NDDC Act being truncated because we saw the hurry with which the National Assembly went on to confirm a list that in itself is an abrogation of the principles and practices of the NDDC Act itself. People were put there surreptitiously and now an Interim Management Board was put in for one purpose. Not to issue contract, but to go and try to find out what is the problem going on there. The Interim Management Board as led by Dr. Joy Nunieh is supposed to just go in there and create an enabling environment for internationally reputed companies to do a forensic audit and see why trillions of Naira has been put into this place (NDDC) and it is not working.
It is not working because the budget of the NDDC is approved by the National Assembly. The two Houses and their oversight bodies always scream of and do not carry out the contracts.
Don’t you think people that the Niger Delta should also share the blame for the underdevelopment of the region rather than trading blames?
I have agreed that there is need for the forensic audit. But what I am insisting on is that the Interim Management Board must not be tampered with because the source of the problem is the oversight function that has been given through the Act to certain people. The Interim Management Board does not owe its loyalty to the National Assembly. Its job is clear and distinct, go clear the rot. But I am saying that after the rot is cleared, let us also clear the debilitating factors. Let us deal with what is causing this problem ab initio and not the causative reactions. The problem if you remember under the Onene, I believe the first Managing Director of the NDDC, the problem was not much, but now every NDDC leadership owes all its life to some people in the National Assembly. That is unacceptable.
The NDDC was established and put under the presidency for a reason. It wanted to address the issue of underdevelopment and agitations in the region so that we can have a seamless way of producing oil and selling our oil. We in the Niger Delta are complaining of degradation, of dehumanization. That is what NDDC should take care of. What has happened to the master plan that came out from Timi Alaibe? It’s been dumped. All they do in NDDC is issue contracts without milestones. Knowing what have we achieved, where are we going and what should be done? Joy Nunieh’s board is not to take us forward. It is to look behind because the truth remains, and it is incontrovertible that until and unless the foundation on which we build the superstructure called NDDC is sustainably corrected, that is why I go to the Act, nothing good can be put on it. That is my position.
What will you want changed in the present NDDC Act?
First and foremost the NDDC Act must make the NDDC accountable to the Niger Delta itself. Once you make it accountable to the National Assembly, then it cannot carry what it is set up to achieve. Check the North East Development Commission today, the Act setting it up is quite different from the NDDC Act, why is that? There are no extraneous bodies in that commission. But for today, all I am interested in is that let a forensic audit be carried out and let those fat cows sitting at the National Assembly be put to the knife so that we can see whether they were doing their job of oversight or becoming cake sharers and developers of their own pecuniary interest rather than the interest of the Niger Delta. The Niger Delta is at fault. We have been slovenly, we have been very lazy in our intellectual and idiosyncratical attitude towards the NDDC. We only ask for crumbs to come to us rather than to ask where is that trillion? Where is that development? And challenge to know who are the contractors, what are the timelines and why is it not delivered? That is the crux of the matter!
That is the way to go because we have what it takes. We have the will to do it. So I am saying we will call a coalition of intellectual thinkers together that can think out a way through to solve this problem because we cannot continue to play the ostrich and sit down and watch what is going on go wrong. All we want from the Federal Government for now is that the Interim Management Board should not be hampered and that Dr. Joy Nunieh who I know personally as an amazon with a great heart can do this job without fear or favour. She will unearth the rot.
PDP Women Leader Decries Killings In Kogi
Women leader and former People’s Democratic Party (PDP) governorship aspirant, Princess Grace Iye Adejo has called on the Kogi State government and security agencies in the state to stop the wasting of innocent human lives in the state.
Adejo, addressing reporters in Lokoja yesterday, said that it was sad and disheartening seeing lives of citizens being wasted on a daily basis due to communal crises, armed robbery, kidnapping attacks and cultism, saying that something must be done urgently to arrest the ugly trend.
The PDP stalwart – who mentioned that several lives and property were lost in the raging communal war between the Bassa Komo and the Igbirra Mozum, including the recent Tawari attacks where no fewer than 39 lives were lost, armed robbery and kidnapping incident and cult clashes that resulted in the deaths of several students – urged the security agencies in the state to be more alive to their responsibilities.
“Honestly, my heart bleeds every now and then when these avoidable senseless killings are carried out and I begin to wonder why somebody will just kill his fellow human being for whatever reason, life is sacred and we must see it so,” Adejo said.
“As a mother, I feel so much pain that our youths, who are supposed to be grooming themselves for future leadership, are the ones being used to perpetrate evil in society; they have inadvertently surrendered their destinies to those who don’t mean well for them, and this must stop.
“Regrettably, most of the killings in Igala land take place in Ayingba, my ancestral home… I know these killings may be politically motivated or caused by rivalries between cult groups or whatever, but for God’s sake enough of shedding innocent blood!
“Ayingba used to be one of the most peaceful communities in the state, but the place has been turned to something else by the current turn of events. I am, therefore, appealing to the traditional rulers in the area, the management of the state university sited in the town and the youth leaders to come together in a round table to put an end to these incessant killings in the town,” she added.
While appealing to the state government and security agencies to look for a way of mopping up illegally owned firearms in the state, she said no development can take place where there’s no security of lives and property.
Princess Adejoh said that on her part she has concluded plans to organise a youth seminar where students from tertiary institutions and secondary schools in the state will be educated on the dangers of cultism and other social vices and the need for young people to not only avoid such them but also to jealously guard their future.
Recall Sacked LG Caretaker Chairmen, Malami Tells Makinde
The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Justice Abubakar Malami (SAN) has directed the Oyo State Governor, Engineer Seyi Makinde ,to reverse himself over the dissolution of local government administration in the State.
The directive was contained in a letter to the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice in Oyo State, Prof. Oyewo Oyelowo, dated 14 January 2020.
The letter marked HAGF/OYO/2020/Vol.I/I. was entitled, “Unconstitutionality of dissolution of elected local government councils and appointment of caretaker committee.
The urgent need for compliance with extant judicial decisions”
The AGF said, in view of the decision of the Supreme Court on the matter that is binding on all 36 States of the Federation, “the common practice by some State Governors in dissolving elected local government councils is unconstitutional, null and void.”
“So, also any system of local government run by caretaker committee are outrightly illegal and unconstitutional”.
When Vanguard called the Chief Press Secretary to Governor Seyi Makinde, Mr Taiwo Adisa, he said he had not seen the letter and when he saw it, he would know the appropriate response.
The letter reads further; “to this end, I hereby request all their Excellencies, State Governors and Speakers of State House of Assembly, who are currently acting in breach of the provisions of Section 7(1) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and also acting in disobedience of the Supreme Court judgement highlighted above to immediately retrace their step by ensuring compliance with the above in the overall interest of the rule of law and our democracy.”
We Closed Border Due To Arms, Drugs Influx – Buhari
The partial closure of Nigeria’s borders is not caused solely because food products, particularly rice, were being smuggled into Nigeria, but also because arms and ammunition, as well as hard drugs were being ferried into Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari has said.
Holding a bilateral meeting Monday in London at the sidelines of UK-Africa Investment Summit 2020 with President Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana, the Nigerian Leader said he could not keep his eyes open, and watch youths being destroyed through cheap hard drugs, and compromised security caused by unbridled influx of small arms.
“When most of the vehicles carrying rice and other food products through our land borders are intercepted, you find cheap hard drugs, and small arms, under the food products.
This has terrible consequences for any country,” President Buhari said. He said it was regrettable that the partial border closure was having “negative economic impact on our neighbours,” but added that “we cannot leave our country, particularly the youths, endangered.”
The President said the Sahel region was awash with small arms, which accounts for severe security challenges in Mali, Chad, Burkina Faso, Niger and Nigeria.
“We are in fact the biggest victims,” he lamented. On time frame for reopening the borders, President Buhari said it would not happen till the final report of a committee set up on the matter was submitted and considered.
“We will get things sorted out. Our farmers, especially those who grow rice, now have a market, and are happy, and we are also concerned about hard drugs and weapons.
Once the committee comes up with its recommendations, we will sit and consider them,” the President said. President Akufo-Addo, while showing understanding of the need for Nigeria to protect her citizens, pleaded for “an expedited process, because the Nigerian market is significant for certain categories of business people in Ghana.”
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