Akwa Ibom State and NDDC
The legitimate right of Akwa Ibom State to field a candidate to complete its tenure as NDDC managing director and the right of its people to occupy relevant offices in the Commission based on its position as largest oil producer in the country cannot be wished away or donated out as political patronage. On Monday December 21, 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari, sacked the Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Mr. Dan Abia and immediately replaced him with Mrs. Ibim Semenitari, a former commissioner for Information in Rivers State. While I am not against the appointment of a first-class journalist and friend as acting MD of the intervention agency, I am worried that her appointment has robbed Akwa Ibom State, a key component of the Niger Delta region, of its legitimate turn to occupy the office.
With the replacement of Mr. Abia, an Akwa Ibom indigene, who was appointed to the office for a statutory four-year term with Mrs. Semenitari, the President not only violated managerial precedents in the Commission but also acted in breach of the Sections 3 & 12 of the NDDC Act 2000 and the Federal Character Commission Act, 1996. Knowing President Buhari to be a man of honour and integrity, I have cause to believe that someone might have misinformed and misadvised him on the choice of replacement for Mr. Abia. The tenures of board members and the executive management of the NDDC do not belong to individuals but are contingent on the states of the Niger Delta region. Right from the inception of the Commission, a robust procedure was set and I unequivocally demand that it should not be changed now at the expense of Akwa Ibom State.
For the avoidance of doubt, while the first chairman of the Commission, Chief Onyema Ugochukwu, from Abia State, completed his tenure, the second chairman, Ambassador Sam Edem from Akwa Ibom State was removed midterm in 2008. He was, however, replaced with Bassey Dan Abia, also from Akwa Ibom State. Equally, when Air Vice Marshal Larry Koinya, (rtd.) from Bayelsa State was sent packing as chairman of the Commission, a replacement from the State, Terilah Tebepah was appointed to complete the tenure.
On the other hand, when the first managing director of the Commission, Mr. Godwin Omene of Delta State was removed midterm in 2003, he was replaced by Emmanuel Aguariavwodo, also from Delta State. Again, when on September 14, 2011, Mr. Chibuzor Ugwoha, an indigene of Rivers State was removed as the managing director of the commission; he was replaced with Mr. Christian Oboh, who hails from the same community with Mr. Ugwoha.
A similar procedure was followed in replacing sacked board members. The Executive Director, Finance and Administration (EDFA), and Executive Director, Projects (EDP), have always been replaced by indigenes of the same state they come from when relieving them of their posts.
For instance, when the first Executive Director, Projects, late Mr. Udo Mboso, from Akwa Ibom State, was sacked early in the life of the commission, he was replaced by Mr. Ukot Thomas Ukot from the same state. Again, when Mr. Ikpong Etteh, also from Akwa Ibom State was removed, he was replaced by Mr. Edikan Eshiet from the same state.
Similarly, during the fourth governing board of the commission, when P. Z. Aginighan from Delta State was removed as the executive director, Finance and Administration, he was replaced by another Deltan, Mr. Lambert Komboye.
There has never been an exception to this rule and I challenge anyone to prove otherwise that these precedents, which served to stabilise the commission and the region, were breached anytime in the past. I also wish to point out that there has never been a situation where an acting managing director was appointed from outside, among the political class, because of the political, financial and administrative implications of such appointment.
Acting managing directors who usually hold forte until a substantive appointee is named, are usually appointed from the core senior directors in the system. There has also never been a time in the 15-year existence of the NDDC when two of the three executive management officers (managing director, executive director finance and administration and executive director projects) came from the same state, as was the case when Mrs. Semenitari was appointed acting managing director, while the sitting EDFA and EDP are also from the same state – Rivers.
At that time, many concerned Nigerians had warned of the potential of the situation to stoke a crisis of unimaginable proportion in the Niger Delta. The tension generated by having the three top executives only from Rivers State eased as soon as the EDFA and EDP were removed.
Before the attacks on major oil and gas pipelines in some parts of the region, which have definitely affected the production of oil, Akwa Ibom State’s total share of oil production stood at 30.43 per cent, and that was by far the highest, followed by Delta State with 22.82 per cent. Rivers State accounted for 19.17 per cent; Bayelsa for 18.70 per cent; Ondo State for 3.89 per cent; Edo State, 2.83 per cent; and Abia, 1.10 per cent; while Imo contributed 1.05 per cent and Cross River, 0.00 per cent.
Akwa Ibom contributes the highest chunk of oil revenue to the Federation Account and has consistently had the least issues of production disruptions in the region. But instead of being rewarded for these, the state has always been treated with indiscretion. During the dark days of militancy when oil production was driven to its lowest level, Akwa Ibom people stood with their heads high and would not participate in the actions that led to massive pollution of the environment, destruction of national assets, killings, and maiming of innocent people.
When the Federal Government declared a multi-billion naira amnesty, those who killed, maimed and despoiled our national assets were amply rewarded and Akwa Ibom people on whose land oil was produced to sustain the economy of Nigeria at the time were told to go home because they did not participate in militancy. We were shortchanged and insulted because we acted within the confines of the law and civility.
I, therefore, appeal to Mr. President to do justice to Akwa Ibom by appointing from the state a substantive managing director of the NDDC to complete the legitimate tenure of Akwa Ibom State.
Isine is an editor with Premium Times, an online newspaper.