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.
Kogi Gov’ship Election Petitions Stolen By Gunmen – Police
The Kogi State Police Command has confirmed that gunmen attacked the secretary of the state governorship election tribunal, Mr David Umar Mike on Monday in Lokoja and made away with sensitive petition documents on the just concluded gubernatorial election in the state.
The state police command’s Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), SP William Aya, disclosed this in Lokoja on Wednesday.
The police authorities said the attackers of the state governorship tribunal secretary carted away all the petition documents filed by five political parties at gunpoint.
According to the police authorities, the documents carted away from Mike include, petitions filed by four (4) Parties: Action Alliance (AA), Action People’s Party (APP), Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) and Social Democratic Party (SDP) as well as two (2) Record Books/a Bag containing his personal item.
The police added that the incident happened just before the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) office at about 13:20hrs on Monday, while victims were on their way to the tribunal venue at the state High Court complex, Lokoja.
Police said, “On Monday, 04/12/2023 at about 1820hrs, one Mr David Umar Mike ‘m’ Secretary to Kogi State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal along with Labode Apreala (f) Confidential Secretary and Hassimu Adamu Assistant Secretary, came to State Criminal Investigation Department, Kogi State Police Headquarters and reported that on the said date, three of them left their Hotel rooms in Lokoja about 1300hrs, heading to their Office at the High Court Complex driving in his (David’s) Peugeot 406 Car.
“That just before the CBN at about 1320hrs, one SUV vehicle which had earlier overtaken him blocked his car with two other SUVs following behind.
“All of them surrounded and blocked him as he attempted to reverse. That he saw about seven hooded men all heavily armed and dressed in black attire who shot severally into the air and dragged him and his two other colleagues out of their car, ransacked the car and made away with all the petition documents.”
SP Aya added that the state Commissioner of Police, CP Onuoha Benthrand, had ordered for a thorough and diligent investigation into the incident.
Meanwhile, the police command has advised the general public to avoid statements that may prejudice ongoing investigation into the matter even as the command appealed to anyone with useful information on the incident to provide same to the command.
SDP and the All Progressives Congress (APC) had traded words over the attack on Monday with both sides pointing an accusing finger at each other.
While the SDP alleged that the attack was perpetrated by hired political thugs, the APC said it was staged.
Benue LGs Dissolution Lawless – Senate Minority Leader
The Senate Minority Leader and Senator representing Benue South, Abba Moro, has condemned the recent dissolution of local government chairmen in the state by Governor Hyacinth Alia, describing it as “lawlessness”.
In an interview on live television, Wednesday, Senator Moro expressed his disapproval of the Governor’s action, stating that it was a violation of the Nigerian Constitution.
He maintained that the governor did not have the power to unilaterally dissolve elected officials, and such actions could only be taken through due process and legal means.
He said, “Let me say clearly from the beginning, the constitution doesn’t provide for caretaker. Two years plus ago, the Supreme Court ruled in the case of Ekiti State that sacked council chairmen that the governors do not have power to sack local government council and constitute caretaker committees.
“And even went further to say that the state houses of assembly do not have power to dissolve councils and that the state governors do not hide under laws made by the state assembly to dissolve elected councils.
“How can you now say you are investigating 23 local governments, 276 council wards and all of them have been found corrupt? If you find somebody, prosecute him.
“The issue now is that the action that the State House of Assembly has taken which they said he followed is wrong. What is wrong is wrong.
“This is the lawlessness that is taking place in Benue State. Is that correct? We must rise up against this thing.”
Third Republic Lawmakers Demand Unpaid Salaries, Allowances
Former lawmakers elected in the Third Republic, on Wednesday, demanded the immediate payment of their unpaid salaries and allowances to make ends meet.
The lawmakers made the plea while leading a delegation of the Third Republic Forum to present an award of selfless service to an alumnus of the Third House of Assembly and current member representing Sagbama/Ekeremor Federal Constituency, Bayelsa State, Frederick Agbedi.
A member of the group, Basil Okafor, said President Bola Tinubu, who was elected Senator on the platform of the Social Democratic Party belonged to the set now battling to have their entitlements paid to them
“The President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, an octopus in battle, has fought from 1992 till date to make input and he is today the President. We have a lot of problems that we now think that having a President who is one of us, having members of the House of Representatives and multiple Senators, that some of these problems can be addressed. We have problems with our claims and salaries that were not paid at that time. We have problems that we are seeking the face of this government to see how they can help us resolve.
“And we know that having Agbedi here, he can help us coordinate his fellow members to champion this cause and the press should also help us in any way to highlight some of these problems that are facing us because we are the old boys of this current government,” he said.
He noted that the rules governing the activities of the 10th House were put in place by the Third Republic lawmakers, adding that the current lawmakers now only amend the rules to meet current realities.
Also speaking, the National Organising Secretary of the group, Hajiya Amina lauded Agbedi for his contribution to the development of the Nigerian society.
“We are here this afternoon to honour our own, the man called Fred Agbedi. He is a man who represents the interest of his people, who even represents the interest of women and fought for the creation of the Ministry of Women Affairs. He is women-friendly,” she said.
Stressing the difficulty the Third Republic lawmakers are facing owing to unpaid entitlements, she said, “Many of us have died. When we came here, we were 593, but over 250 have gone. Most of the women are dead.
“Yesterday (Tuesday) was 31 years since we were sworn in as members of this parliament. Our grandchildren can now vote and be voted for but we still have problems.
“If Moshood Abiola and Babagana Kingibe have been honoured and recognized, we were the foot soldiers. We were the delegates that voted them into power. What about us? Why can’t we be honoured and our standing salaries paid?
“Some of us are half dead. I am also half dead because my engine is knocked. I am just trying to make life easy for myself. We are calling on the government and the President to help us.”
While thanking his guests for the honour done to him, Agbedi called on the Federal Government to quickly pay up the salaries and allowances owed to the ex-lawmakers saying, “All their entitlements should be given to them. Even the President, Bola Tinubu will benefit from this.”
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