BACKLASH: NDDC Loses Balance
LAST week, President Mohammadu Buhari sacked the Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Mr. Dan Abia, from Akwa Ibom State. No reason was given for the sack of Abia, who was appointed by former President Goodluck Jonathan and had till 2017 to complete his tenure of four years. Mrs. Ibim Semenitari, who was commissioner of information in Rivers State, under former Governor Rotimi Amaechi, now minister of transport, was appointed to replace the sacked MD in acting capacity.
I wish to use this platform to congratulate Mrs. Semenitari who is a colleague and friend. She deserves her new height having weathered the storm under the PDP-led Federal Government with her principal, Rotimi Amaechi. The sun has started shining on them again.
There is no doubting the fact that Amaechi’s thump-print is heavy in the appointment of Semenitari. This is where I am worried. For whatever reason, the practice which I think is even embedded in the NDDC Act and which had kept the commission steady on a delicate geo-ethnic balance since 2000 when it was established is being jettisoned.
In operations, the NDDC is all about the management of extra benefits arising from oil and gas exploitation to nine states namely Abia, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Edo, Imo, Ondo and Rivers States. As it can be seen, the commission spreads beyond the traditionally Niger Delta or South-south geo-political zone to include anywhere oil is domiciled in the country.
But the nine states are not equal owners. And so, in constituting the board, the top four contributors in terms of production output namely Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Delta and Rivers (not mentioned in any special order) enjoy better standing. They produce what is known as the executive management team comprising the managing director and two executive directors in charge of projects, and finance /administration.
Even so, the four states are not precluded from producing a representative each as the other five states to constitute the larger board. There is a representative each from the ministries of finance and environment, International Oil Companies (IOCs) and three representatives from non oil producing states. Each board is headed by a chairman, who is appointed alongside other members by the President, and confirmed by the Senate.
The appointment of the chairman, unlike the executive management team, is not governed by any special consideration and it is the right of all nine states listed in the NDDC Act to produce the chairman at one time or the other. It was only adopted at inception that the appointment should follow the alphabetical listing of the states, which was why Abia State produced the first chairman in the person Chief Onyema Ugochukwu. Akwa Ibom followed, then Bayelsa and now Cross River.
It is in the constitution of the executive management team that the entire balancing act is done because the power to utilize the huge budgets of the commission every year lies with it.
At inception, the positions were shared thus: Delta State; the managing director (Mr. Godwin Omene), Bayelsa; the Executive Director, Finance & Administration, EDFA, (Mr. Timi Alaibe) and Akwa Ibom; the Executive Director Projects ,EDP, (Engineer Udo Mboso).
It was also mutually agreed that since the commission was headquartered in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, Rivers State could tarry a while, which explained the exclusion of the state in the first round of sharing of the NDDC executive management positions.
In a way, no executive management team has been able to start and breast the finishing tape after four years since the creation of the commission. There has been a disturbing two-yearly mortality rate of a process that should last four years in the first instance and renewable upon performance and approval. Each time there was sudden death, however, the wheel was never re-invented to create a fresh lineage; succession has always followed the same geo-ethnic trajectory.
When Omene was axed midway, not only was Delta given the chance to produce a replacement, Mr. Emmanuel Agwariavwode, who stepped in was from the same ethnic stock — Urhobo — as Omene. It was exactly that way when it was the turn of Rivers State to produce the managing director in 2009. Mr. Chibuzor Ugwoha picked the job, but was removed half way into his tenure.
In sourcing a replacement, this same Rotimi Amaechi went to Ogba Kingdom, the birth place of Ugwoha, to mobilise Christian Oboh who was then an assistant general manager at Agip Oil to take up the top job and complete Rivers State’s tenure which ended in 2013 for Akwa Ibom to begin.
It wasn’t a big deal therefore that Dan Abia was fired by President Buhari just after two years. That has been the tradition.
The problem is that Akwa Ibom is being denied its rightful place as the office of the managing director returns to Rivers State after two years instead of 12 years, if the other three big states were to live their time to full measures.
The state already has the executive director, finance and administration in the subsisting arrangement thus creating an unwanted precedence of Rivers State controlling more than a slot in the executive management team since the establishment of NDDC 15 years ago.
In the event of sudden ‘death’ replacement in the chairmanship position has also followed the same rule. When Amb. Sam Edem from Akwa Ibom State was removed as chairman, another Akwa Ibom indigene, Bassey Dan Abia, the same man just fired as MD, was appointed to continue the tenure of the state. Same way, another man from Bayelsa, Dr. Terilah Tebepah was appointed to sustain the state’s slot, when Air Vice- Marshall Larry Koinya (Rtd) was sacked as chairman.
Also, the EDFA and EDP had always been replaced by indigenes of the same State when their tenures were cut short. When the first EDP, Udo Mboso from Akwa Ibom was sacked, Ukot Thomas Ukot from the same State came on board.
When Ikpong Etteh also EDP and from Akwa Ibom State was removed, he was replaced by Edikan Eshiet from the same State. Mr P. Z. Aginighan from Delta State was replaced as the EDFA by a fellow Deltan, Mr. Lambert Komboye.
Why, therfore, is this time-honoured balancing act at the NDDC suddenly tilting precariously in a particular direction? It is traceable to the greed of one man called Rotimi Amaechi, who sees the period after the 2015 general elections and the victory of the APC as a time to share war booties to the exclusion of those who did not fight on the side of General Buhari. For the avoidance of doubt, Rivers State after the Christian Oboh experience is standing last in the succession line to the office of the managing director of the NDDC.
Akwa Ibom must finish its tenure. There is a multitude of APC stalwarts to pick just one person to be MD of NDDC. The office can only be outsourced to Rivers State if the Akwa Ibom State chapter of the APC is unable to present a candidate.
After Akwa Ibom, it will be the turn of Delta State to produce the managing director and indeed the chairman of NDDC since ‘D’ comes after ‘C’ representing Cross River which currently occupies the chairmanship. Bayelsa State shall have the managing director after Delta before it will return to Rivers State and at which time Amaechi can represent my friend, Mrs Ibim Semenitari for the position, if both of them are still available and tenable, that is.
In the main, the two other positions of the executive management team shall continue to rotate accordingly among the big four. This is how it has been and going to be. Nothing, including Amaechi and the APC-led Federal Government, is going to change it!
If PMB;s purpose is repositioning the NDDC for high performance, I shall return next week to tell him what to do!