Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, has charged Governors of the South-South to desist from issuing directives to President Muhammadu Buhari on how to run the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) as they have no powers to indulge in such an act.
Akpabio in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Tuesday, to prepare ground for Thursday virtual inauguration of the NDDC permanent headquarters project, said South-South Governors should rather focus on purging selves of governance misconducts in their respective states, particularly on unlawful preference for caretakers administrations in Local Governments (LGs) or imposition of loyalists when they allow council elections.
The minister was reacting to Monday night’s resolutions in Port Harcourt by the South-South Governors Forum demanding that the President prevails on NDDC to pay only staff salaries and preserves incoming funds in an escrow account pending appointment of a substantive board.
Akpabio said, “I am not aware that governors now have powers to give directives to the President, but I think they have more critical issues to fix in the region. Federal Government told governors to allow democracy in LGs and stop the narrative of operating caretakers in the councils.
“In many of the states, councils are left without democratically elected LGs for several months. But even when they now say we want to conduct elections, somebody will sit in a room and write names of his choice as Chairman and councillors, but they have not been denied funds by FG.
“I am ready to have a board for NDDC by tomorrow, but let’s finish with the forensic audit first, then we can have a board, but it would not be business as usual. We brought forensic audit and even the governors supported it because we said NDDC has not worked.
“So we want to know why it hasn’t work to be able to do things differently. Forensic audit will be out in a few months. From what we know already, we will need some policy and legal amendments to have the change we want.
“So the governors should not be issuing directives to the President. They should carry out proper council elections. Today, NDDC does not have a balance sheet you can take to the World Bank to access funds. When the right thing is done, more money will come. A board will definitely be appointed.”
On the permanent headquarters project, he said the President deserves commendation for approving the desire by his ministry and the commission’s management to ensure its completion where successive administrations have failed to realise same since the days of OMPADEC.
Apart from the over N300Million yearly rent the commissioned was paying for the rented headquarters office in Port Harcourt, “What many didn’t know was that for over 15 years, that office was not connected to the national grid. So the purchase of diesel also became a racket, so you understand why completing the permanent headquarters was not the focus for so long”, Akpabio said.
He said with forensic audit and the needed changes effected, NDDC must begin to see the money coming in to deliver major regional plans to execute major projects, including linking the entire mandate states by all transport means possible.
However, ahead of Thursday’s inauguration, Vanguard observed that the headquarters project remains a beehive of workmen still grappling with completion of critical unfinished touches including cooling systems and some sections of the elevators.