Exclusive! Bickering: Presidency Mulls Relocation of NDDC From N/Delta Ministry

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As the escalating intrigues and unending controversy over the operations of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) continue unabated, the Presidency  is said to be  quietly mulling the idea of relocating  the Commission back to the Office of Secretary to Government of the Federation, The New Diplomat learnt

Top Presidency officials who spoke with The New Diplomat in confidence attributed the move by the Presidency to ruminate over likely reversion of the NDDC  to the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) to the endless controversies that have dogged the Commission since it was moved to the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs via an Internal memo dated September 2, 2019, signed by the Chief of Staff to the President.

The New Diplomat gathered that the Chief of Staff’s letter was in response to an earlier request by Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill  Akpabio’s  via a memo dated August 22nd, 2019 seeking Presidential approval to supervise the NDDC. Prior to this, the NDDC was under the direct supervision of the Presidency via the Office of the SGF.

A top Presidency source who expressed concern at the weekend  over on-going bickering noted that given the endless  controversy that have plagued the NDDC since the transfer of  supervisory role to the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs “ there may be  no way the Commission can function optimally under such a situation”, stressing that  the idea is being mulled that perhaps, it would be in the best interest of all and the Niger Delta region in particular, to revert NDDC back to the Presidency.” In precise terms, the intense battle over the control of the operations of the NDDC has been quite fierce among political gladiators, triggering fresh hostilities among political players in the Niger Delta region.

For example, The New Diplomat learnt from  political  sources that the  decision by Akpabio to  name Dr Gbene  Nunieh, from Ogoniland and a known ally of Senator Magnus Abe,  as the new acting Managing Director of NDDC under an interim scheme has further re-opened and fuelled cold-war  bitterness between Minister of Transportation, Rotimi  Amaechi and Akpabio. Amaechi and Abe have been locked in bitter acrimonious political war in Rivers State. On the other hand, political differences between  Akpabio and Amaechi dates back to  when the later served as Chairman of the NGF.  A close ally of Amaechi,  from Rivers State who was a two-time Federal Legislator told The New Diplomat last night: “ It’s very unfortunate. The lady is not  with our group. She is on her own. ”

 But a truce between Akpabio and Amaechi was reportedly brokered at the instance of the former by a close friend of theirs shortly after the nation-wide elections.  However, that old animosity may have been re-opened,  with their supporters revved up again !   Also, the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC),  Comrade Adams Oshiomhole is said to be  peeved that “ at a time when the  Senate is already Screening the nominees of the President as members of the Board and Management of the NDDC, a Minister went on to name an interim management team .”

It would be recalled that Akpabio  had earlier last week Tuesday, inaugurated an interim management team headed by Nunieh as the new Acting Managing Director, while Dr. Cairo Ojougboh is the Acting Executive Director, Projects and Chief Ibanga Bassey Etang is the Acting Executive Director, Finance and Administration. According to  the Minister, the Committee is expected to be in place to create the required ambience for a hitch-free forensic audit, adding that the inauguration of the Board Members would be put on hold until the forensic exercise is completed. This move has continued to generate public opprobrium with some insisting that “Akpabio did not have any administratively endorsed  memo from the President Buhari approving an interim management team, adding that the Minister may have misconstrued a “schedule of duty conveyed to him by the Chief of Staff which delegated the President’s supervisory powers to him to mean an administrative approval to set up an interim management”’.  But Akpabio has continued to insist that he has the approval of President Buhari to set up an Interim Committee, stressing that he acted within his bounds.  According to him, the Interim team would supervise the planned forensic audit.

A retired Head of Service of the Federation who wishes to remain anonymous weighed in: “ Setting  up an Interim Management is a serious policy issue. It’s quite different from supervisory powers. It derives from that role, that power delegated to you. But you have got to follow due process by seeking and obtaining what we in Civil service call an administrative approval. The administrative approval process entails a situation where you either go back to Mr President with a clear memo seeking Mr President’s approval to set up an interim steering committee or you  take a memo to the Federal Executive Council (FEC) seeking Council’s approval to name an interim management Committee. At the FEC, that your memo would be debated, pondered over and deliberated upon especially given the existence of a subsisting NDDC Act which may not have contemplated an interim management committee at a time when Mr President has sent a list of his nominees to the Senate for screening and confirmation as Board members of NDDC  … In this case, I rather will suggest that the SGF, whose Office is the custodian and Secretariat of FEC should speak up. Was such a memo ever brought to Council? Or was there such an administrative memo brought to Mr President and he indeed approved that an interim management committee be set up? This is a serious administrative matter. SGF’s Office is the custodian of such memos.  Let him clarify publicly the true situation. I think that will help to address this controversy.’’

The Senate had last Thursday screened President Buhari’s  nominees to the Board and Management of the NDDC. They include  former Deputy Governor of Edo State, Dr. Pius Odubu (Chairman) , Olorogun Bernard Okumagba(Managing Director), Maxwell Oko(Executive Director, Finance and Administration) and Otobong Ndem(Executive Director, Projects), among others.

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