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By Ofonime Honesty

Senate which is the apex Law making arm in Nigeria, on July 12th, 2000, repealed the Oil Mineral Producing Areas Commission Decree 1998. The Senate through an Act established the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC): “a new Commission with a re-organised management and administrative structure for more effectiveness and for the use of the sums received from the allocation of the Federation Account for tackling ecological problems which arise from the exploration of oil minerals in the Niger-Delta area and for connected purposes.”

The Senate in Part II of the Act listed the Functions and Powers of the Commission.
Section 7 (3) of Part II states inter alia: “The Commission shall be subject to the direction, control or supervision in the performance of its functions under this Act by the President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”

Furthermore, the Act, still in Section 7, but under subsection 1 states as thus:
“The Commission shall:
(a) formulate policies and guidelines for the development of the Niger- Delta, area,
(b) conceive, plan and implement, in accordance with set rules and regulations, projects and programmes for the sustainable development of tie Niger-Delta area in the field of transportation including roads, jetties and waterways, health, education, employment, industrialization, agriculture and fisheries, housing and urban development, water supply, electricity and telecommunications;
(c) cause the Niger-Delta area to be surveyed in order to ascertain measures which are necessary to promote its physical and socio- economic development,
(d) prepare master plans and schemes designed to promote the physical development of the Niger-Delta area and the estimates of the costs of implementing such master plans and schemes;
(e) implement all the measures approved for the development of the Niger- Delta area by the Federal Government and the member States of the Commission;
(f) identify factors inhibiting the development of the Niger-Delta area and assist the member States in the formulation and implementation of policies to ensure sound and efficient management of the resources of the Niger-Delta area,
(g) assess and report on any project being funded or carried out in the Niger-Delta area by oil and gas producing companies and any other company including non-governmental organisations and ensure that funds released for such projects are properly utilised;
(h) tackle ecological and environmental problems that arise from the exploration of oil mineral in the Niger-Delta area and advise the Federal Government and the member States on the prevention and control of oil spillages gas flaring and environmental pollution-,
(i) liaise with the various oil mineral and gas prospecting and producing companies on all matters of pollution prevention and control.
(j) execute such other works and perform such other functions which in the opinion of the Commission, are required for the sustainable development of the Niger- Delta area and its peoples;
The Act in Section 2 however states that “in excising its functions and powers under this section, the Commission shall have regard to the varied and specific contributions of each member State of the Commission”, a condition which has been fulfilled by NDDC till today.

Conclusively, Section 8 of the Act states that, the Board shall have power to:
“(a) manage and supervise affairs of the Commission;
(b) make rules and regulations for carrying out the functions of the Commission
(c) enter and inspect premises, projects and such places as may be necessary for the purposes of carrying out its functions under this Act.
(d) pay the staff of the Commission such remuneration and allowances as appropriate.
(e) enter into such contracts as may be necessary or expedient for the discharge of its functions and ensure the efficient performance of the functions of the Commission,
(f) do such other things as are necessary and expedient for the efficient performance of the functions of the Commission….”

I had to visit the legal shrine to unearth the foregoing. Setting the record straight is necessary because in Akwa Ibom State, Governor Udom Emmanuel and members of his kitchen cabinet are screaming their lungs out, claiming that NDDC must always come, cap in hand, begging for permission to embark on projects in the state.

In addition, Information Commissioner, Charles Udoh, recently goofed by saying thus: “NDDC must be supervised by the state government.” He further disgraced himself by likening NDDC roads to “bush tracks.”

Days ago, Works Commissioner, Ephraim Inyang, reportedly chased NDDC contractors away from construction site in Uyo.

And the bad blood between the Akwa Ibom State Government and NDDC assumed a gory dimension recently in Uyo during the during the South- South Security summit convened at the instance of Police Inspector General Ibrahim Idris Kpotum, at the Ibom Hall.

The Governor strayed from his written speech and boldly waxed extempore: “Let me also use this opportunity that the MD of NDDC is here to state clearly that NDDC does not own even a piece of land. It is the governors that are in charge of land. NDDC should not enter any of the nine states to do any project without permission from the governors. That is why they have not been able to execute even a kilometer of road in my state, they have never commissioned even one kilometer of road in my state. Because the projects are politicized.…”

He said it amidst shrugging of shoulders by participants at the summit. Governor, Sir, NDDC isn’t “dragging land” with you. At the Security Summit, Mr. Governor, you failed to mention that places like Ukanafun and Etim Ekpo have been held hostage by blood thirsty hoodlums. If you had utilized the opportunity offered by the Summit to seek help for those places, Akwa Ibomites could have rejoiced. Why did you hide our predicament?

Well, hiding under the guise of politics to demean the powers of a legally established agency like NDDC is a symptom of inferiority complex. Politics should be separated from governance. NDDC should henceforth be given the respect it deserves.

NDDC Managing Director, Obong Nsima Ekere, should also be spared the ill treatment currently meted on him. He isn’t a saint but demonizing him is totally wrong. Why must NDDC’s antecedents be wrongly viewed as a political campaign strategy by Nsima Ekere? He has not declared for the 2019 gubernatorial race. 2019 is still far away. Reading faulty meaning into his agency’s actions should stop.

Akwa Ibom should utilize this huge opportunity of having her son as NDDC MD. This chance shouldn’t be wasted because of infantile politics. If we lose this chance, posterity would judge us harshly.

To conclude these few lines cobbled by yours truly on transit from Eket to Uyo, may I pray for common sense to fall on those who have commenced a premature 2019 campaign.
I beg to conclude. A word is enough for the wise!

(I am Ofonime Honesty.

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