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UPDATED: Buhari’s Appointment Of Onochie As NDDC’s Chair Intra Vires But Discretionary, Says Group

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  • Berates ex-agitators for issuing ultimatum to replace Onochie with Okumagba

The group, under the auspices of One Delta Initiative, has said that President Muhammadu Buhari’s nomination and appointment of Lauretta Onochie as substantive chairman of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) was within his powers as president in line with the provisions of the NDDC Act. 

The group did, however, add that the president has the right to use his or her discretion in appointing the oil commission chairman.

“The only requirement to the exercise of the President’s power to appoint a person as Chairman into the Board as provided under Section 4 is that he must appoint a person from an oil producing State which shall rotate in alphabetical order. Also, section 2(2) that provides that such appointment shall be subject to the confirmation of the Senate, in consultation with the House of Representatives.

The group spoke against the backdrop of a call by some self-described ex-militants in the Niger Delta for the Federal Government to rescind the appointment of Lauretta Onochie as Chairman of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and replace her with Bernard Okumagba, who is from a non-oil producing area of Delta state.

Okumagba was the managing director’s nominee for the failed Senate-screened NDDC board, which never materialised.

As a result of allegations that Onochie was not from an oil-producing community in Delta state, a group of former militants in the Niger Delta gave the federal government a 14-day deadline to revoke her appointment.

Self-styled ex-agitators, including Ebi Wayas of Ayakoromo in the Burutu LGA and Peter Aghogho, who identified himself as the leader of the Urhobo Youth Council, signed the ultimatum.

However, in response, the coordinator of the One Delta Initiative, Hon. Akpokiniovo Great Sanomi, stated that both Ebi Wayas and “General” Peter Aghogho, who is unquestionably from the Warri South LGA, should be cautioned against following this path as it may jeopardise the FG’s attempt to reconstitute the substantive Board of the NDDC.  

“What we need now is to get the board reconstituted, and it is also the turn of Delta State to produce the chairman of the board. This parochialism of promoting one’s personal interests against the general interests of Delta State cannot help us”, Sanomi said. 

Sanomi argued that Bernard Okumagba’s unsuccessful appointment to the position of managing director of the NDDC prior to the establishment of an interim administration overseen by the former minister of Niger Delta affairs, Sen. Godswill Akpabio, was due to the fact that he is not from a host community to any oil company, whether mining or prospecting, in the oil and gas industry. This was the reason Chief Rita Lori, CHURAC, and others opposed the appointment, he added.

Therefore, the argument that Lauretta Onochie should be replaced by Bernard Okumagba because Onochie is from a Delta State region that does not produce oil can be classified as a fallacy of ambiguity because Bernard Okumagba is not from a host community for any oil company, whether mining or prospecting, in the oil and gas industry, Sanomi’s group said. 

According to Sanomi, the people who issued the ultimatum merely demonstrated their lack of understanding of the Act’s clear language as well as the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria’s discretion in selecting and appointing the members of the Niger-Delta Development Commission’s governing board. 

The statement reads; “For the avoidance of doubt as well as for the benefit of the reading public, Section 2(1) of the NDDC Act that provides for the establishment of the governing Board of the Commission is hereunder reproduced, “There is hereby established for the Commission a governing Board (in this Act referred to as “Board”), which shall consist of – (a) a Chairman; (b) one person who shall be an indigene of an oil producing area to represent each of the following States, that is, (i) Abia State, (ii) Akwa-Ibom State, (iii) Bayelsa State, (iv) Cross River State, (v) Delta State, (vi) Edo State, (vii) Imo State, (viii) Ondo State, and  (ix) Rivers State;

(c) three persons to represent non-Oil mineral producing States provided that such membership should be drawn from the remaining geo-political zones which are not represented in the Commission; (d) one representative of Oil producing companies in the Niger-Delta nominated by the Oil producing companies; (e) one person to represent the Federal Ministry of Finance; (f) one person to represent Federal Ministry of Environment; (g) the managing Director of the Commission; (h) two executive Directors.”

Whilst the provision of Section 2(1) of the NDDC Act as quoted above clearly envisaged the membership of the Board, Section 2(2) provides that, “the Chairman and other members of the Board shall-  (a) be appointed by the President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, subject to the confirmation of the Senate, in consultation with the House of Representatives,  (b) be persons of proven integrity and ability.” 

Interestingly, the NDDC Act, specifically in Section 4, further provides, and we quote, “The office of the Chairman shall rotate amongst the member states of the Commission in alphabetical order. a)Abia State, (b)Akwa-Ibom State, (c) Bayelsa State, (d) Cross River State, (e) Delta State, (f) Edo State, (g) Imo State, (h) Ondo State, and  (i) Rivers State.”

“These twin sections referred to above clearly put to rest the unnecessary political and egocentrically influenced publications emanating from a group of persons hiding under the colouration of ex-agitators.

“For purposes of emphasis, the position of the Chairman of the Board as captured in Section 2(1)(a) was not drafted in the NDDC Act to mean that a person must be an indigene of an oil producing area to qualify as a Chairman of the Board, as is the case with Section 2(1)(b), where it was clearly mentioned that a person to represent each of the Niger-Delta States as envisaged in the Act must be an indigene of an oil producing area. There is no provision in the NDDC Act that subjects President Buhari to take order from anyone, not even from an ex-agitator or in whatever name such a person is styled, before he can nominate and appoint a person into the NDDC Board.

“The only requirement to the exercise of the President’s power to appoint a person as Chairman into the Board as provided under Section 4 is that he must appoint a person from an oil producing State which shall rotate in alphabetical order. Also, section 2(2) that provides that such appointment shall be subject to the confirmation of the Senate, in consultation with the House of Representatives.

“With all the above referred provisions consciously embedded into the NDDC Act, one can imagine if the draftsman of the NDDC Act was mistaken to have deliberately omitted in specifying whether the Chairman must be an indigene of an oil producing area or it was the intention of the draftsman that an indigene of an oil producing state in the South South Geo-political zone to  produce the Chairman on a rotational basis.

“One very interesting lacuna of the NDDC Act is that an “oil producing area” was not even defined in the NDDC Act. For the avoidance of doubt, we refer any interested reader to check the interpretative section (Section 30) of the Act for themselves. From the foregoing, we state without reservation that President Buhari’s nomination and appointment of Lauretta Onochie is intra vires the provisions of the NDDC Act and as such, the appointment does not need any form of interference and/or distraction in the name of some unfounded agitations from some paid agitators who styled themselves as ex-agitators.

“History in recent event is still very fresh in our memory on how the then Minister of Niger Delta, H.E Sen. Godswill Akpabio went to Oporoza at the eve of the ultimatum issued by our foremost Niger Delta agitator and the GOC of the struggle, Tompolo, regarding the unwarranted delay in reconstituting the NDDC Board. 

“The very essence of these calls was to see to it that a substantive board is constituted to carry on the legitimate business of the Commission.” Now that the Board members are appointed, awaiting confirmation by the Senate, all well meaning Niger Deltans are eagerly awaiting a substantive Board to be reconstituted in no distant time. 

“At this point, it is unnecessary to read these politically and egotistically motivated publications from some self-styled ex-agitators who lacked the authority to speak for their immediate community, to say nothing of the Niger Delta region.


“We also seek to use this medium to drum up our support for Mr. President’s initiative to reconstitute the board and have nominated a person of repute from Delta State to chair the substantive board of the commission in line with the NDDC Act. 

“We think and believe that Lauretta Onochie is a Deltan with proven integrity and ability and has the capacity and qualifications to chair the Board”, the statement added.

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