The Senate has confirmed the appointment of Dr. Pius Odubu and Bernard Okumagba as chairman and managing director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
The lawmakers, who also confirmed 13 other nominees as members of the board of the commission, however, turned down President Muhammadu Buhari’s nominee from Rivers State, Dr. Joy Yimebe Nunieh, for alleged failure to appear before the committee on NDDC.
Nunieh’s rejection followed consideration and adoption of the report of the Senate Committee on Niger Delta presented by its chairman, Peter Nwaoboshi (Delta North) at plenary yesterday.
Nwaoboshi had declared that Nunieh was absent and could not be screened, hence her nomination was not ratified.
The President of the Senate, Ahmed Lawan, sought to know whether there was any correspondence regarding her absence. The committee chairman said the president’s liaison officer for the senate confirmed she was duly communicated, adding that he was expecting that she would come.
Nwaoboshi explained further that when the Special Assistant to the President, Senator Babajide Moranre, was asked about the nominee from Rivers State, he said there was no communication from her.
There was a mild drama when the Senate Minority Leader, Enyinnaya Abaribe, identified Nunieh as the same person that was sworn in on the interim board of the NDDC by the president, which may have been her reason for staying away. “This nominee from Rivers State appears to be the same person sworn in as managing director of the interim committee of NDDC.”
He said that irrespective of the confusion caused by the issue, Nunieh was a nominee of the President, they should do the needful and return to the presidency in due course.
The interim board was also described as an illegality and sabotage as the NDDC law expects that any appointment into the board is to be ratified by the National Assembly.
Former Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu said: “We cannot be encouraging that kind of sabotage or undermining the powers of the National Assembly. We made a law here stating that there would be a board for the NDDC, and anything outside that, for me, amounts to sabotage and the names of the nominees are supposed to be sent to the National Assembly.
“For any person to begin to set up an interim management board, I believe it is something that should not be acceptable to the National Assembly.”
The senate president said there was no ambiguity in the matter.
“President Buhari sent to the Senate his request for us to confirm his nominees. As soon as we conclude on this process of confirmation, I am sure that any other structure that exists now is vitiated. So I don’t think we have anything to worry about.”
He urged the Senate committee on NDDC to do proper oversight.
President Muhammadu Buhari had in a letter dated October 18 and read by Lawan during October 29, 2019, plenary, sough Senate confirmation of the nominees.
Meanwhile, the Legal Defence and Assistance Project (LEDAP) and others have instituted a suit before a Federal High Court, Abuja challenging the powers of the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, to constitute an interim management committee to run the affairs of the NDDC.
Also, the Acting Managing Director of the commission, Dr Joi Nunieh, has suspended the monthly payment of N1 billion to a consultant that collects money from International Oil Companies (IOCs) on behalf of the commission.
“We have a consulting firm engaged as a collection agent. We have another company that also collects three per cent whenever money is paid by the IOCs. We don’t need a middle man to collect three per cent for gas. The money should just be paid into NDDC accounts with the CBN.”
Nunieh said that political interference was to blame for the reason an individual would have 87 companies waiting for payment on her desk.
She explained that the money being wasted on consultancy could put mono pumps in rural communities in the Niger Delta, buy books and set up primary health centres.