Delta Governor, Sen. (Dr) Ifeanyi Okowa, on Thursday faulted persisting delay in constituting Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) Board on excuse of ongoing forensic audit of the commission, saying it was deplorable.
Okowa, who stated this while receiving the South-South Zonal Working Committee of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in Asaba, said that the forensic audit was about past activities of NDDC and should not, therefore, jeopardize the progress of the Commission.
He said that by the law establishing NDDC, it was meant to truly touch the lives of Niger Delta people, and that the Act was all-encompassing, including giving the people representation on the Board and for the governments of states in the zone to participate indirectly through advisory council of the commission.
According to the governor, it is on record that in the last two years or more, we have truly not had a board for the NDDC. We started with a committee and unfortunately, we ended up with interim administration which is unknown to the Act establishing NDDC.
“The Act rightfully enables every state that produces oil to have a member representing it in the board, but in the last two years or more, we have not had representation of the states.
“This means that the states have no input in what goes on at the commission and its board, and that in itself is not good enough.
“I believe that whether there is a forensic audit or not, it should not stop the constitution of a board because the audit was not for the people being sworn in as members of the board but about the activities of the board in the past.
“Unfortunately, we have stayed on this situation for so long. As South-South governors, we will continue to call on President Muhammadu Buhari to quickly reconstitute the board so that every state will have the opportunity to participate in both projects and running of the NDDC,” he said.
The governor added that a participatory process would give credibility to the running of the board, but said “as it is run today, there is no doubt that it’s not decent enough and we are not happy as a people.
“NDDC can be better run both in terms of management processes and planning of projects and we do believe that the forensic audit will help to unearth some issues of the past.
“But more importantly, is for us to chart a proper direction for a management team that will ensure accountability and fairness.
“I believe that when people are fully tenured, they will be able to plan for their four years. But when people are uncertain about their tenures, it becomes very difficult for them to plan well.
“We also believe that NDDC can truly take on projects that will be more beneficial to our people rather than put their hands in all manner of things and in the end, we cannot account for projects that were executed.
“So, I will not be surprised if we have thousands of projects that are abandoned because every set of appointees forgets the past projects and begins new ones and, because their tenures are not even guaranteed, the projects end half way,” Okowa stressed.
On the Southern Governors recent meeting in Lagos, he said that the decisions were in the best interest of the country.
According to the governor, a situation where the host communities’ funds are limited to three per cent by the Senate is not right and not acceptable to us.
“If for any reason there was a drop from the proposed 10 per cent, it is very insensitive to have dropped it to three per cent. We hope that at the joint conference in the National Assembly, justice will be done.
“We have made our position known in the southern governors meeting. We also believe that specifically fixing a percentage for exploration of oil in an Act of the National Assembly was not done in good faith.
“At best, it would have been a management decision and ought not to be tied to percentages. It would have been a business decision and therefore cannot be legislated in terms of percentage in an Act that is supposed to be signed into law.
“We are not asking that monies cannot be set aside for explorations, but those have to be management decisions and monies set aside based on profitability or otherwise,” he said.
Okowa assured the zonal leadership of the PDP that the government and State Working Committee of the party in Delta would give full support to it to enable it to achieve its goals.
On ongoing Continuous Voter Registration, he commended the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for introducing online registration and called on qualified persons to make use of the opportunity to register.
“Voter registration is very key for all who have not registered to do so, because this is the time for the youths to register in order to be able to exercise their civic rights and decide who governs them.
“I commend the INEC Chairman for the online registration of voters and pray that it takes the Commission to a greater height and help build our confidence in it.
“Our people know those who represent them well. The people of Nigeria must truly realise that the time has come to assess our leaders and vote out those who are not doing well and also encourage those who represent us well,” the governor stated.
Earlier, the National Vice Chairman of PDP (South-South), Chief Dan Orbih, had said that the delegation was in Delta to meet the governor and discuss ways of moving the party forward.
He stated that the party must unite to ensure that APC was voted out because it was a task that must be done.
“Our zone has been neglected and the NDDC that is supposed to cater for our people is now known as `corruption headquarters’.
“If they have abandoned 12,128 projects as reported, it means that nothing has been done over the years by the commission.
“It is very clear that people who don’t have connections with the people of the Niger Delta are benefiting more than those from the region.
“Today in Nigeria, the hardship we are all facing is unprecedented. Apart from economic recession we are also experiencing leadership recession from the APC-led Federal Government.
“We watched with satisfaction when you and your colleagues met in Lagos and made far-reaching decisions and it is a thing of joy that some of your colleagues in the North have given their voices in support of that decision.
“To rescue this country, all hands must be on deck and as a political party, we must put our house in order so that Nigerians will see reasons to vote us back to power,” Orbih said.
He urged the Governor to help in mobilising youths of Delta to go and register, saying that their voice would be better heard through their votes.
On representation, Orbih said that PDP must begin to set certain standards about the calibre of people elected to the National Assembly.
“Re-election should be based on what you have done when you are there not how much you are able to pay to the delegates,” he said.