Sacked NDDC board’s petition to Presidency raises posers
The petition may have raised a poser: Was President Mohammadu Buhari misadvised to take the action without recourse to the enabling law that set up the agency?
This is the puzzle also facing the presidency.
Last July, the Head of the Service of the Federation, Mr. Danlami Kifasi, had announced the dissolution of boards of federal government agencies and advised chief executives to report to relevant permanent secretaries.
The circular had stated: “I write to inform you that the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR in the exercise of his Constitutional Powers and in the Public Interest has approved the dissolution of the Governing Boards of all Federal Government Parastatals, Agencies, Institutions and Government-owned Companies.
The dissolution does not, however, affect Boards, Commissions and Councils listed in the Third Schedule, Part I, established by Section 153 (1) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended.
“In view of the foregoing development and until such a time new Boards are constituted, the Chief Executive Officers of the Parastatals, Agencies, Institutions and Government-owned Companies are hereby directed to refer matters requiring the attention of their Boards to the President, through the Permanent Secretaries of their respective supervising Ministries or Offices for action.
“All Ministries, Departments and Agencies are to ensure compliance with the provision of this Circular which takes effect from Thursday, 16th July, 2015. Permanent Secretaries are particularly advised to inform the Chief Executive Officers of the affected Agencies under the supervision of their respective Ministries/Offices for immediate compliance.”
But the board members in a letter to the Secretary of the Government of the Federation (SGF) are pointing out that the NDDC should have been excluded because of its special nature and the manner it was constituted. Members were appointed and screened by the two houses of the National Assembly and should not have been sacked as the presidency did, they posit.
Other members of the Board apart from its Chairman, Bassey Ewa Henshaw; Managing Director, Bassey Dan Abia; Executive Director, Finance and Administration, Dr. Henry Ogiri; and Executive Director, Projects, Engineer Tuoyo Omatsuli are Chief Samuel Nwogu, Eng. Etim Inyang, Ebebi Peremobowei, Tom Amioku, and Benson Amuwa.
Others are Peter Osaretin, Dan Etete-Owoh, Kyrian Uchegbu, Paul Adehi, Lola Otegbola, General Suleiman Said, Mahmud AbdulMalik, Laurentia Mallam, and representatives of the Federal Ministries of Finance and Environment, and a representative of oil companies.
In the August 25, 2015 letter to the SGF made available by presidency sources yesterday, they drew government attention to the following:
*The members of the Board of NDDC including the Executive Management (made up of the Managing Director, and the two Executive Directors responsible for Finance & Administration as well as Projects) were all appointed on the same day and for the same term in accordance with Section 2 of the NDDC Act. This section lists all the persons who together constitute the Board. The MD and the two EDs are listed in Section 2(l)(g) and (h) respectively. Thus, dissolution of the Board means that all the members including the occupiers of these three positions have to leave. This not only violates the NDDC Act, but more importantly puts the functioning of the Commission at risk as no senior level personnel will be left to. oversee its operations.
*Section 3(1) specifies the term in office for all Board members to be 4 years except where the President decides to reappoint a member for a second term of 4 years and no more. And Section 5(1) specifies conditions under which a person can cease to be a member of the Board. The present Board was inaugurated on 16th December 2013 and its term should expire on 15thDecember, 2017.
*The appointments of the Chairman, the MD and the two EDs are by the NDDC Act done on a rotational basis amongst the nine states that constitute the NDDC.
“By Section 4, of the said Act, the Chairmanship position rotates amongst the states in alphabetical order, whereas, the positions of the MD and the two EDs by Section 12 rotate on the basis of volume of oil production beginning with the highest producers. It should be noted that these provisions have always been observed from the inception of NDDC in 2000 and every state has been allowed to occupy its position for the full four years term to ensure fairness. This is why the present Chairman is from Cross River after Abia, Akwa-ibom and Bayelsahave taken their turns. Similarly, the MD, the ED Finance & Admin as well as ED Projects were appointed from Akwa-lbom, Rivers and Delta States respectively. Therefore allowing any one or more members of the Board to remain while others are. dismissed may be tantamount to dealing unjustly with the states whose members’ tenor are truncated.
*Although the NDDC is not listed in Section 153(1) of the 1999 Constitution as amended, Section 2(2)(a) of the Act which requires that NDDC Board members be appointed by the President subject to Senate Confirmation (in consultation with the House of Representatives) is in conformity with Section 154(1) of the Constitution which stipulates Senate Confirmation for members of Federal Executive Boards so listed (in Section 153(1)). This is further confirmed by the circular referenced SWC/S/04/S.310/1 and dated 18th January 2007 issued by the National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission which places the NDDC in a Special Category along with those bodies listed in Section 153(1) amongst others.
*NDDC was not listed in the Constitution because its enabling law was enacted in 2000 after the Constitution came into effect in 1999. There are other Commissions/bodies like the EFCC which was established in 2002 after the NDDC with the same stipulations as contained in Section 154(1) of the Constitution i.e. Senate Confirmation for its Board members. It is noteworthy that the Board of the EFCC was not dissolved.
While urging government to re-instate the Board, the members pointed out that the current Board of NDDC has done a lot to restore a positive image for the Commission.
This they claim includes hundreds of overseas scholarships awarded in the sciences, hundred of kilometers of roads built and several university hostels which were started more than 10 years ago but not completed have now been completed.
“Indeed the headquarters building of the Commission which was started during the days of OMPADEC but abandoned in 2009 was resuscitated last year with a target completion date of December 2015. Dissolution of the Board at this time could put the NDDC in jeopardy and reverse all the gains so far made. It would also truncate the vision of the Board to make NDDC the vehicle for the rapid development and integration of the Niger Delta Sub-Region through strategic investments in major infrastructure such as roads, rail, power, refineries, education etc. which can open up business, investment and employment opportunities for the people,” they added.
As at yesterday, it was gathered that the SGF had not responded to the members because, “a thorough investigations of the claims has to be carried out,’ according to a source.
However, it was confirmed that the new SGF met on Thursday last week with the Managing Director of the NDDC and a position may be made public soon