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NDDC: Buhari Should Inaugurate Board To Douse Tension In N’Delta, Group Urges

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President Muhammadu Buhari has been told to listen to the voice of reason from all well-meaning Niger Deltans, and the elected governors of the region, the true representatives of the people, and inaugurate the Senate confirmed Board of NDDC, which the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, had promised will be inaugurated on April 1, 2021.

The National Chairman, Niger Delta People’s Forum, Chief Boma Ebiakpo, stated this in a statement in Port Harcourt, yesterday.

Ebiakpo said that beyond the well-stated and established case of the illegality of interim managements, not known to the law establishing NDDC, but which have been superintending over the affairs of the commission since November, 2019, there was also the urgent need to douse the rising tension in the region, which has reached fever pitch.

The statement reads in part, “The patient but long-suffering people of the Niger Delta are beginning to lose their cool over an unending forensic audit that has been used as guise in the past 18 months to hold down development of the region despite a whopping approved budget of N799.5billion that has been squandered with no single project to justify this humongous amount.

“Notable groups kicking against the continued stay of the Interim Administrator and demanding the immediate inauguration of the Senate-approved substantive Board include the Ijaw Youths Council (IYC) Worldwide, Urhobo Progressives Union (UPU), Pan Niger-Delta Forum (PANDEF), and the Movement for the Survival of the Izon Ethnic Nationality in the Niger Delta (MOSIEND). Like the governors of the South-South, the groups had insisted on the inauguration of NDDC board by President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday, April 1, in accordance with the Act setting up the intervention agency.

“Mr. President, these groups, the IYC, PANDEF, MOSIEND, and UPU have said that anything short of inauguration would amount to an aberration, and ‘would be resisted by Niger Delta people’.

”We also wish to remind President Buhari that during their March 8 meeting in Port Harcourt, Rivers State capital, the South-South Governors’ Forum (SSGF) chaired by Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State also advised that apart from payment of workers’ salaries, NDDC funds   should be reserved in an escrow account, pending the inauguration of the board.

“We recall that the Minister, Senator Godswill Akpabio, had assured Niger Deltans in October, 2019, that no contract will be awarded and no contractors will be paid pending the conclusion of the Forensic Audit which he stated will be completed within six months, to terminate by April, 2020.

“The expectation was that he would quickly conclude the forensic audit within the stipulated timeframe without expending the resources of the commission and then inaugurate the substantive board with representatives from the nine constituent states in line with the Act establishing the commission.

“Sadly, it has taken one year and six months for an audit that should not last longer than six months. In this intervening period rather, there have been established cases of misappropriation, kleptomania, fleecing of the commission’s treasury and gross underdevelopment in the region as was revealed in the Senate probe of May, 2020, which report was adopted at plenary in July and subsequently submitted to the Presidency.

“We are also further saddened that the Federal Government had approved and released N799.5billion for the 2019 and 2020 budgets of the commission with no tangible projects that the Minister, Senator Godswill Akpabio, can lay hand on as his initiatives under the period in view.

“Matter of fact, reports detailed in the National Assembly probe of the Interim Management Committee and other revelations by whistleblowers have indicated that several billions of naira have been squandered by the Interim Managements with nothing to show on ground.

“Billions have been frittered away by the interim management committees over the last 18 months with no visible projects apart from N10billion expended on the headquarters building which was already 70% completed! We are also aware that billions of Naira have been spent by the various Interim Management arrangements at the NDDC since November, 2019, for unverified contracts.

“During this time not one single project has been commissioned.

“These payments are not unconnected to illegal emergency contracts.

“As we stated earlier, tension is rising in the region and President Buhari should listen to the voices of the Niger Delta people and put a halt to management charade at the NDDC by putting in place the Governing Board for the NDDC comprising the representatives from its nine constituent states in line with the NDDC Act.

“We recall that President Muhammadu Buhari had in exercise of his constitutional powers forwarded to the Senate for confirmation, the appointment of a 16–member board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) via a letter dated 18th October, 2019, personally signed by him.

“Specifically, President Buhari, in the letter, sought the Senate’s confirmation for Dr Pius Odubu, former Edo State deputy governor as chairman of the NDDC, Chief Bernard Okumagba as managing director and 14 others as members of its board.

“Accordingly, the written request, which was read on the floor of the Senate on Tuesday, October 22, 2019, by its President, Dr Ahmad Lawan, was given expeditious consideration by the upper legislative chamber, which directed its Standing Committee on Niger Delta, to screen all the nominees and report back within a week.

“The Senate screened and confirmed the appointments of 15 out of the 16 nominees on Tuesday, November 5, 2019, based on the report tabled before it by the Committee on Niger Delta. We, therefore, call on President Buhari to be sensitive to the complexities and sensibilities of the Niger Delta people.

“Moreover, NDDC is a creation of the law which the President swore to abide by, protect the constitution and the law.

“It is in the best interest of the region and country, for the President to activate the spirit and letters of the extant laws by inaugurating the Board,” Ebiapko added in the statement.

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Paris Club Refund: Suspicious N159bn Judgment Debts Worry NGF

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The Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) has engaged Femi Falana, SAN, to challenge the judgments awarding some “consultants and contractors” humongous shares of the Paris and London Club refunds received from the Federal Government by the various states and their local governments.
Falana, in a letter dated April 19, 2021, written to the Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, on behalf of the NGF, requested that the plan to issue promissory notes to the purported creditors be suspended, in deference to the legal steps being taken to appeal against the judgments.
The Senior Advocate of Nigeria’s letter is sequel to an earlier correspondence dated April 8 sent to the finance minister by a law firm, Ikechukwu Ezechukwu, SAN & Co, on behalf of one of the creditors, Ted Iseghoghi-Edwards.
Investigations on the controversial judgment debts have revealed that Iseghoghi-Edwards is laying claim to $159million for providing consultancy services to the Association of Local Government of Nigeria (ALGON) to secure the Paris Club refund.
Findings show that a total of $418million judgment debts (about N159billion at the exchange rate of $1 to N380.5) has already been cleared for payment by influential officials of President Muhammadu Buhari administration.
It was gathered that those behind the desperate push for the payment are Chief of Staff, Prof Ibrahim Gambari, the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, and the finance minister.
They have concluded on paying the six creditors through the issuance of promissory notes to be funded from state governments’ allocations for 10 years.
It was learnt that the officials are pushing for the payment despite Mr President’s directive suspending it after the NGF raised an objection to it, and called for a forensic audit of the whole indebtedness.
The Association of Local Government of Nigeria (ALGON) has, on different occasions, written to the AGF, querying the claims by Iseghoghi-Edwards and a firm, Riok Nigeria Limited.

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RSG Seeks Improved Media Partnership On Projects Delivery

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The Rivers State Government has restated its commitment to partner with the media at all times in order to consolidate on the delivery of infrastructural development and good governance.
The state Commissioner for Information and Communications, Pastor Paulinus Nsirim stated this, last Monday, in a keynote address at the 2021 Media Day, organised by the Rotary Club of Port Harcourt, District 9141 in Port Harcourt, with the theme, ‘Developing Media Infrastructure for Good Governance’.
“Using the various media infrastructure in which a wide range of debates take place and variety of viewpoints represented, the Rivers State Government led by Governor Nyesom Wike has continued to deliver projects that impact positively for the betterment of Rivers State and her people.
“Between last year and the whole of the first quarter of 2021, Rivers State was on the global map as eminent citizens of Nigeria joined the Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, to commission projects in eleven local government areas of the state.
“This unprecedented development coming at a time when most leaders were hiding under the cover of the Covid-19 pandemic to cover their ineptitude will surely remain legendary,” he noted.
Nsirim asserted that many social commentators across the country have opined with convictions that the only person who can realistically beat the impressive record is Governor Nyesom Wike himself, especially when the next phase of projects commissioning would commence, “which will unveil some of the most amazing and marvelous legacy infrastructural projects ever seen in Rivers State.
“Project commissioning has become synonymous with the Governor Wike’s administration in the last five years and even against the backdrop of the noisome buzzing of a jobless, fragmented and confused opposition in the state,” he said.

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No Reasonable Govt’ll Allow Pantami In Cabinet, Wike Mocks Buhari

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The Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, says the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Pantami, should resign from office, irrespective of his recent volte-face on his previous support for extremist groups.
The governor noted that in an ideal society, an allegation that the United States of America has placed a serving minister on its watch list as regards to terrorism, should jolt any government into action.
He stated this during an interview with the African Independent Television (AIT) in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, yesterday.
“If it was really where a government is working, if an American government says your minister is on a watch list, it calls for concern for you say look there is a problem. The moment a high government official is on a watch list as to regards to terrorism, no government can fold its hands and allow it.”
Wike, said the minister ought to have resigned from the government immediately the information about his extremist views in support of terror groups became a matter of public discourse.
The governor described as worrisome the decision of the Federal Government to remain mute amidst the raging controversy about the minister’s sympathy for global terrorist groups.
“I don’t understand why a reasonable government will allow such a person to be in the cabinet.”
The governor noted that the All Progressives Congress-led Federal Government was known for its proclivity to shield persons of questionable characters, even when the country’s secret service presents overwhelming evidence against such individuals.
“But you were here when DSS wrote a report against (Ibrahim) Magu. What happened? Look, I have never seen a country that your secret service wrote a report about the nominee of Mr President, questioning his character and the rest, and that he is not appointable. What happened? So, what are you talking about? What removed Magu is power play.”
Wike also took a swipe at the National Working Committee (NWC) of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for not taking stern disciplinary action against former Governor of Niger State, Dr Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu, who recently claimed he conspired with others to ensure that President Goodluck Jonathan lost the 2015 presidential election.
“If I was the leadership of the party, I would have suspended Aliyu for that comment he made. But, you see nothing will happen. The National Working Committee will not do anything. Why? They need Aliyu to support them.
“I cannot understand why you are a leader; so, to speak, you come out and tell the world why you fought your party. I have never seen a thing like that in my life. Assuming you did it, you now want to rub it on them, and that nothing will happen.”

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