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.
APC, PDP Bandy Words Over Buhari’s Fresh Loan Request
The ruling All Progressives Party (APC) and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have argued over President Muhammadu Buhari’s request for approval to borrow $4 billion and €710 million to fund the deficit in the 2021 budget.
Recall that the president made the request in a letter he addressed to the National Assembly on Tuesday.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in reaction to the development, cautioned the NASS against approving the request, saying it could set the country’s debt profile skyrocketing without a feasible repayment plan.
With the approval to borrow $8.3 billion and €490 million loans by its legislative body barely two months ago, Nigeria’s debt profile risks reaching over N40 trillion.
“More alarming is that the debts that APC is hanging on Nigerians are for nebulous projects whose scopes, utilities, locations and contractors are largely vague; a development that validates apprehensions of a huge swindle on our nation at the expense of innocent Nigerians, including generation yet unborn.
“Our party holds it as an act of wickedness that individuals who know that they will be leaving office in less than two years will be accumulating debts instead of seeking ways to reduce the liability they have brought upon our nation.
“The APC knows it will not be around after May 29, 2023. That is why it is pushing our nation into a deeper economic quagmire with foreign loans, which are largely diverted to the personal pockets of their corrupt leaders,” the opposition PDP said in a statement signed by its spokesperson, Kola Ologbondiyan, on Tuesday.
But responding to the PDP’s criticism, the All Progressives Congress (APC) on Wednesday, said the loans are for “the good of the country” and well-being of the citizenry.
The ruling party also accused the opposition party of looting foreign loans obtained during its 16 years rule rather than spending on infrastructure and economic growth as, according to it, Mr Buhari-led government is doing.
“It was in PDP’s era that loans to fund power generation, purchase arms and ammunition to fight a raging insurgency were misappropriated and diverted to fund PDP activities; and the borrowed money ultimately found its way to the pockets of cronies, friends and family members of administration officials. Nigeria is still servicing a $460 million loan taken from China to fund a phoney Abuja Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV) contract awarded in August 2010.
“Nigerians should also reflect and recall that the PDP had in its 16 years of misrule pushed the country into a dark ditch of insolvency, and a period in which most state governments could not pay workers salaries, not even the minimum wage, or settle contractors’ bills and cater for patients in hospitals, to name a few,” the APC interim National Secretary, John Akpanudoedehe, said.
A’Ibom Gov Signs Anti-Open Grazing Law
Akwa lbom State Governor, Udom Emmanuel, has signed into law a bill to prohibit open rearing and grazing of livestock and provide for the establishment of ranches in the state.
The Speaker, Aniekan Bassey, with the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr Uko Udom (SAN), presented the bill for signing on Wednesday at the State Executive Chambers, in the Governor’s Office, Uyo.
The governor, after signing the bill into law, stated that the new law was no respecter of persons irrespective of status or calibre.
He instructed relevant authorities of government to ensure that the law was implemented and enforced to the letter with strict compliance, stressing that, culprits must be brought to book accordingly.
The new law will promote modern techniques in animal husbandry, prevent the destruction of farms by wandering cattle while reducing clashes and killings between herders and farmers in the state.
It will also promote international best practices in livestock administration, regulation and control in the state, among other things.
The state Assembly passed the bill on Tuesday, and the Speaker, Aniekan Bassey, directed the Clerk of the House, Mrs Mandu Umoren, to communicate the decision of the House to the Governor for his assent.
Also at the Executive Chambers, the Speaker who was accompanied by the Leader of the House, Udo Kierian Akpan, and the Clerk of the Assembly, Mrs Mandu Umoren, to the signing ceremony witnessed the inauguration of two C\committees by the Governor.
The committees are the Akwa Ibom State Gender Based Violence Management Committee, chaired by the First Lady, Mrs. Martha Udom Emmanuel, and Akwa Ibom State Road Safety Management Committee, chaired by the Deputy Governor, Mr. Moses Ekpo.
NASS S’East Caucus Moves To Reconstruct Federal System
Members of the South East Caucus of the National Assembly have resolved to join hands with other patriotic Nigerians across regional, religious, political, and ethnic divides to reconstruct a federal system where the rights, happiness, and prosperity and those of unborn generations are guaranteed.
Making their feelings known in a communique issued at the end of an extraordinary meeting held at the Apo Legislative Quarters, Abuja last Wednesday, the law makers said the topic of the meeting centered on review of developments in the South East, particularly the security situation in the region vis-à-vis the sit-at-home orders by members of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra(IPOB) and the detention of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu.
“We expressed solidarity with our people of the South East over the marginalisation of the region in the scheme of things within the Nigerian commonwealth. The Caucus feels the pains of our people and their quest for equity, justice, and protection of their lives and property in every part of the country. The Caucus, therefore, resolved to continue to fight for a level-playing ground and an enabling federal system where Ndigbo are able to develop their homeland at their own pace and equally pursue their happiness and actaulise their enormous potentials in every part of the country, unmolested.
Reviewing the sit-at-home orders by the IPOB and the mayhem some nefarious elements have seized the opportunity to visit on the lives, properties, and psyche of the people, the Caucus equally reviewed and rued the incalculable economic losses and hardships these have brought upon the region.
They, however, condemned in strongest terms the disruption of the ongoing Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination in some parts of the South East, particularly the incident at Comprehensive Secondary School, Nkume, Njaba Local Government Area of Imo State, where the English examination organised by the West Africa Examination Council, WAEC, on Monday, September 13, 2021, was ruthlessly scuttled by armed men, who chased away the students, teachers, and examiners before setting ablaze motorcycles belonging to the teachers.
“This is certainly not who we are as a people. On the contrary, we are a people, who have always cherished and encouraged learning from the ages. We are a people that fully appreciate the place of education in the liberation and enlightenment of the human mind and the socio-economic and political emancipation of a people”.
The South East legislators equally condemned in strongest terms the incessant killings in the South East, adding “This must stop immediately. We call on the security agencies to unravel the culprits behind these wicked acts and ensure that they are brought to book to serve as a deterrent to others.
“ Noted with delight that IPOB has called off the Monday sit-at-home order and resolved to ensure that nobody uses them as façades to bring ruination on Igbo land.
“ Call on our people to go about their lawful businesses and enjoin our governors and the security agencies to rebuild confidence in our people by not only ensuring the security of their lives and properties, but also ensuring that our people feel safe as they undertake their legitimate businesses.
”Elaborately discussed the issue of Mazi Nnamdi and resolved to intervene. To this end we resolved to set up a committee to constructively interface with relevant stakeholders, the Federal Government and its relevant agencies towards finding a political solution. We will keep Ndigbo abreast of developments in regard.
“Appeal to our people not to allow anyone to destroy the South East region. The post-war South East was not built through government patronage, but largely by the sheer determination and sacrifices of our people, who refused to resign to fate or bow their heads in defeat.
“It is in Igbo land that you easily find hospitals, schools, roads, and other social amenities built by individual or communal efforts of the people, home and abroad, through the instruments of the town unions and other community organisations such as the age grades, Umuada, etc.
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