Says it is Delta State’s turn to produce Commission’s MD, Chairman
By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, Niger Delta
ACTIVIST and National President, Vanguard for Transparent Leadership and Democracy, VATLAD, a human rights, good governance and environmental campaign non-governmental organization, NGO, based in the Niger Delta, Emmanuel Igbini, speaks on President Muhammadu Buhari’s plan to reconstitute the Governing Board of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC.
Some respected traditional rulers and leaders of Delta State recently declared that the state is entitled to produce both Chairman and Managing Director of NDDC. Do you agree with them?
It is not a question of whether I agree with them or not, it is the undisputed fact which I had also stated months ago.
They maintained that Edo is, therefore, not entitled to produce the Chairman of the Board which tends to justify the plan by President Buhari to reconstitute the Board. What is your reaction?
First, our respected traditional rulers and leaders of TROMPCON are not asking that President Buhari recompose the board of NDDC in order to remove the already confirmed position of Managing Director of NDDC rightly zoned to Delta State. I need to make this point very clear in order to correct the wrong impression being created that our traditional rulers and elders of our oil producing areas of Delta State are pushing for the chairmanship of NDDC in place of Managing Director.
They are not! What they are asking for is for Edo to relinquish the chairmanship of NDDC to Delta and to wait till the next four years when it shall be their turn by virtue of the alphabetical rotation principle as provided for in Section 4 of the NDDC Act, as amended. If you carefully read the interview granted to Vanguard Newspaper by His Majesty, King Charles Ayemi-Botu, who is a first class traditional ruler in Delta and a former National Chairman of Traditional Rulers of Oil Minerals Producing Communities of Nigeria, TROMPCON, he said it very clearly that it is the turn of Delta to produce the Managing Director of NDDC based on the fact that this position is rotated among the four core oil-producing states of Delta, Rivers, Bayelsa and Akwa-Ibom. He went further to state that the position of the Managing Director of NDDC ‘is not open to all the nine oil states of NDDC because some are just nominal producers.’ This is the key point that must guide and continue to guide President Buhari from being misled to alter the Managing Director position he appointed and the Senate has rightly confirmed to be that of Delta State.
Will it be morally right for Delta to also produce the Chairman of the Board if it has the Managing Director?
Delta State is known to be a Big Heart for love, particularly in our oil producing areas with commercial headquarters in Warri. As you know, it is for this Big Heart for love for all Nigerians, irrespective of one’s state of origin, tribe and religion that Warri is known and celebrated as equal home for everyone.
Is Delta State willing to allow Edo to take its slot of Chairman of NDDC?
When I wrote my Common Entrance Examination in the 70s as a pupil of Army Children School, Kakuri, Kaduna State, I was told that having scored very high in the exam, beating the cut-off mark for Federal Government College, I was also automatically qualified to gain admission into Government College. That meant I had two choices and the decision was entirely mine to make on which to place as first choice and second choice. I made my first choice, which was Federal Government College that was higher in status than Government College then. That is what happened and my decision was respected by the Examination Board even though, at the end, I had to abandon the Federal Government College to return to my home state of then-Bendel. It is the same principle when students apply for JAMB and make their first, second and third choices. All patriotic indigenes of Delta have unequivocally chosen the position of Managing Director of NDDC as our first choice for the simple reason that the position, which is also the chief executive and accounting officer of the Commission, is the most critical and most relevant position of the Commission.
Are you saying the position of Managing Director is superior to the Chairman of NDDC?
It is the more critical and important of both, there is no debate about it; everyone who has been president, governor, etc knows this fact.
To be straightforward, are you saying Delta should forfeit the chairmanship even if it is legitimately its turn and stick only to Managing Director, also due to it based on production quantum?
No, I am not advocating that Delta should forfeit its rights to chairmanship of NDDC. What I am saying clearly is that the first choice of the people of Delta, and rightly so, is the position of Managing Director of NDDC. Let me say that none of the four major oil-producing states of the core Niger Delta (Delta, Rivers, Akwa-Ibom and Bayelsa) that are also entitled to simultaneously produce the Managing Director and Chairman of NDDC will ever contemplate placing the position of Managing Director of the Commission below that of Chairman of the Board or even contemplate forfeiting the position of Managing Director for Chairman of the Commission. The position of Managing Director of NDDC is every state’s first and topmost choice for obvious reasons.
The Itsekiri Oil Minerals Producing Communities, in a letter to President Muhammadu Buhari, claimed that Mr Bernard Okumagba does not hail from an oil producing community in Delta. Is this true?
This must be an old letter that has long been overtaken by the right decision of President Buhari to go ahead to forward the name of Mr Benard Okumagba to the Senate for screening and confirmation, which the Senate also rightly has done.
Having said this, let me make the point abundantly clear that, in Warri, there are no Itsekiri, Urhobo and Ijaw in the manner attempted to create the wrong impression that we are disunited three tribes. We are not! We are one people, indivisible, united, peaceful, hospitable and enterprising people called ‘Waffi people’ or ‘Warri people’ if you like. Also let me inform that the NDDC Act 2000 was amended by the National Assembly in December 2017 and signed into law by President Buhari on December 29, 2017 and it clearly states that any person, who is an indigene of an oil producing local government area, shall be qualified to be appointed into the Board of NDDC.
I am very sure those who are writing such letter are not aware of this amendment to the NDDC Act. Mr Bernard Okumagba, a celebrated first class accountant of international repute, is paternally from oil-rich producing Warri-South local government area and maternally from oil-rich Udu local government area. Those pushing such argument or writing such letter must also be erroneously thinking that Buhari does not know Delta, its history, people and the oil and gas local government areas of our state. If only they know how much he knows about our people, state and the oil and gas sector of Nigeria more than many of us know, they will not be embarking on this at all.
Buhari was Minister of Petroleum Resources in the 1970s and later Head of State in 1983. He is the same person who appointed a well-respected, incorruptible and patriotic Prof. Tam David West as Minister of Petroleum Resources for the transparent management of the oil and gas sector of Nigeria, which is the same thing he is determined to do by appointing Mr Bernard Okumagba as Managing Director of NDDC.
What is your advice to the Itsekiri group?
We are one united and mutually loving people under God. NDDC must work for the good of us all. We must unite to demand that NDDC and the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs develop our land and address the environmental disasters caused by the decades of oil and gas exploration and exploitation activities in our areaYou said in a recent interview that Buhari should stick to the screened Board. Why would he do so if the law was breached in producing the Chairman?
The NDDC Act was never breached in this regard. I explained the point very clearly and convincingly in this interview you refer to.
In one breath, you say Buhari means well for Niger Delta, in another, you say he was being misled and setting a bad precedent with his action. Where do you really stand?
I did not contradict myself. Where I stand remains constant on this matter. Let me repeat again that Buhari means well for the development of the Niger Delta as he has always done in the past as Minister of Petroleum Resources in the 1970s and Head of State, who appointed Tam David West as Petroleum Minister. It is for this reason in year 2015 that I advised him to retain the position of Minister of Petroleum Resources. As a master’s degree holder in petroleum engineering and one who has many years of working experience in onshore, swamp and offshore locations of Elf Petroleum Nigeria Limited and a former labour leader in the company, I know the oil and gas sector of Nigeria in out. I know the extent of the embezzlement of our oil resources in the upstream sector by some top expatriate management staff of most of these multinational oil companies operating in Niger Delta. Moreover, those who are now mounting pressure on President Buhari to alter the composition of the Board of NDDC already confirmed by the Senate are simply doing so to mislead him and create crisis between him and the Senate and among our people.
Is the law restricting NDDC Managing Director to only the four core oil producing states not discriminatory against the other five member states?
It is not only the position of Managing Director that is exclusive to the four major oil producing states of the core Niger Delta. The two positions of Executive Directors are also the exclusive preserve of these four major oil producing states and rightly so. The spirit behind this decision taken by leaders of our region and unanimously agreed by members of the National Assembly in year 2000 and implemented by all our Presidents, (Obasanjo, Yar Adua, Jonathan and Buhari) is clear. Ask yourself the simple question why from President Obasanjo to President Buhari, none of them appointed any person who is not from Delta, Bayelsa, Akwa-Ibom and Rivers State as Managing Director, Executive Director (Projects) and Executive Director (Finance and Administration) of NDDC, whether in substantive or interim capacity? They are all know it will be wrong and amount to injustice to do so.