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.
Presidential Broadcast: Don Urges FG To Look Beyond COVID-19
Dr Elisha Auta of Economics Department, Kaduna State University (KASU), has advised the Federal Government not to limit interventions on curbing the spread of Coronavirus pandemic, but also focus on the aftermath.
Auta gave the advice in an interview with newsmen in Kaduna while reacting to President Muhammadu Buhari’s broadcast on Covid-19 Pandemic last Sunday.
He noted that the broadcast, which was long awaited with high expectation by Nigerians addressed critical issues, particularly the current situation and what was being done to bring the pandemic under control.
He added that the broadcast also explained what government institutions and agencies were doing towards cushioning the effect of the current lockdown across the country, to curb the spread of the virus.
Auta, who is also the Executive Director, Budget Research and Development Policy Advocacy Centre, however, said that not much was said about efforts to keep the economy floating after the pandemic may have been addressed.
According to him, the Federal Government needed to assure the public that it was not only looking at curbing spread of the virus, but also putting measures in place to sustain the economy.
“The global economy is already in a recession following the devastating effect of the Covid-19, with most developed countries facing serious economic crises.
“As such, if we only focus on the pandemic without looking at the bigger picture, we will find ourselves in a much bigger problem, following the already crumbling economy with dire consequences on the poor.
“There is, therefore, the need to have a marshal plan, a critical stimuli to lift the economy, otherwise a bigger crisis will emerge after the pandemic has been brought under control.
“The government needs to mobilise effective and efficient hands to address not only the pandemic, but also the consequences it will have on the citizen’s ability to feed and access basic needs of life,” he said.
The economist also lauded the government palliative measures but noted that there was nothing new except keeping existing social investments afloat during the lockdown.
He stressed the need for specific palliative measure, targeting the poor and other vulnerable persons across the country.
“This is very important because the current financial palliatives either target corporate institutions, or individual that operate in the formal sector, while majority of Nigerians operate in the informal sector.
“Also, how many Nigerians, for example are benefiting from the conditional cash transfer, TraderMoni, MarketMoni or FarmersMoni social investment programmes?
“Even for those that are benefiting, how much is the amount? The Federal Government needs to be aware of the heavy shocks and hash economic condition that the population will be faced with.
“I, therefore, advise that the palliative measures should not be limited to existing social investment programmes, but nationwide, targeting the poor and the vulnerable in our communities who will be largely affected,” Auta said.
Enugu Denies Reports Associating Minister, Aide With COVID-19
Enugu State Ministry of Health has debunked reports trending on social media that the two cases in the state that tested positive for Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) are the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hon. Geoffrey Onyeama and his Personal Assistant.
In a statement by the Permanent Secretary, State Ministry of Health, Dr. Ifeanyi Agujiobi, the state government stated that the claims are untrue, fictitious and baseless as well as the handiwork of mischief makers who want to dent the image of the Minister.
Dr. Agujiobi maintained that the two positive cases of COVID-19 are returnees from United Kingdom (UK) and are currently on Isolation, doing very well.
He clarified that the patients are husband and wife from Isi-Uzo Local Government Area of the state, adding that the state Ministry of Health is currently conducting line listing and contact tracing of all those linked with the couple in the state.
The clarifications came as the state government took delivery of two additional ambulances and one incident vehicle it purchased to support the state’s response to the Coronavirus Disease pandemic.
According to Agujiobi, “Suffice it to say that Geoffrey Onyeama and his Personal Assistant are not the two cases of COVID-19, recently reported in Enugu.
“We hereby enjoin the general public to disregard any information on COVID-19 in Enugu State that does not emanate from the state government through the State Ministry of Health or Information. Let us be well guided”.
Obiano In Self Quarantine
The Anambra State Government has confirmed that the Governor of the State, Chief Willie Obiano has gone into self-quarantine.
The Secretary to the State Sovernment, SSG, Prof Solo Chukwulobelu and the Chief of Staff to the Governor, Mr Primus Odili gave the confirmation in a joint press briefing, yesterday in Awka.
The officials said the Governor has been in self-quarantine since 11 days, and has not shown any sign of the disease.
“The governor was at the NEC meeting last Thursday, and you know how the sitting arrangement is, after the Anambra State governor, you get the Bauchi State governor, who has announced his status recently.
“But if you are aware of the sitting arrangement during the meeting, you will find out that they usually observe social distancing. That you are in a hall with a man who has the disease does not mean that you can be infected.
“The governor is a very enlightened person, and because he knows he has been in a meeting with such Calibre of people, he decided to go into self-quarantine.
“Obiano is on self-quarantine. I have not seen him for the past one week, and we only talk on phone. We had two hours meeting yesterday (Sunday) using zoom. There are no fears about his health at all,” the officials said.
They also appealed to individuals and corperate organisations to donate to the state government to keep fighting the virus.
They said about N1 billion had already been spent to procure personal preventive equipment (PPE).
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