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NDDC: Stakeholders warn against intrigues over new Board amid fresh hopes

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Residents of communities in the South-south region have been enlivened by a recent hint dropped by President Muhammadu Buhari that a substantive board for the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, will soon be inaugurated.

On Thursday, July 28, Buhari had at a two-day retreat organised for management staff of the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs and the NDDC, gave an indication that a board for the interventionist agency was in the offing.

Barely one week after, it’s a mixed bag of joy, suspense and anger for stakeholders in the oil-rich region including traditional rulers, community and youth leaders amidst reports on intrigues by some top politicians of Niger Delta extraction desirous of throwing a spanner in the wheels allegedly for their political interests.

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The Stakeholders are piqued over reports that the Minister of State for Petroleum Re.s, Chief Timipre Sylva, immediate past Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi and the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ovie Omo-agege are entangled in a battle with a former Minister for Niger Delta Affairs, Chief Godswill Akpabio and his successor, Umana Umana for control of the NDDC board for which nominations had been made since 2021 with Elder Denyanbofa Dimaro as managing director, among others.

Sylva’s alleged move to replace Dimaro’s nomination with his kinsman, Maxwell Oko, according to reports, is said to be facing strong resentment among stakeholders especially in his home State, Bayelsa, who accuse him of “creeping nepotism”, as the recently appointed substantive Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB), Simbi Kesiye Wabote, is said to be his cousin, while Dr Edmund Daukoru, chairman of Nigeria Liquified Natural Gas, NLNG, board appointed in July 2020, is widely acclaimed to be his mentor and boss during the Chief Olusegun Obasanjo administration.

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This is besides reports that Oko is battling to extricate himself of allegations in a petition written against him which raised questions over his academic records.

Reports further indicated that in the face of mounting opposition to Oko, the Minister of State for Petroleum Re.s is believed to have worked out a Plan B by seeking an alliance with Omo-Agege, who hails from Delta State. The alleged plan by Sylva is for Oko to be nominated Executive Director, Finance for the agency while Sam Mgbuku, an aide to the Deputy Senate President would be nominated in the place of Dimaro as managing director, despite a legal albatross allegedly hanging on Mgbuku’s neck.

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In an apparent desperation for the soul of the NDDC, some of the gladiators have allegedly resorted to making mischief by portraying Dimaro as being 76 years old and “ too old for the rigours of office and should be retiring by now”.  However, investigations revealed that he would clock 67 years by August 7, 2022.

Worried by the development, stakeholders have warned Sylva, Omo-agege and Amaechi to desist from engaging in intrigues over the NDDC board which they described as antithetical to the interest of the Niger Delta people. They also accused Amaechi, a former Transport Minister of having monopolized the NDDC board at the inception of Buhari’s administration,

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Reports of Dimaro’s nomination as managing director of the NDDC and Buhari’s recent hint on a substantive board for the agency seem to have rekindled hope in the Niger Delta as stakeholders in the region gear up for a showdown with those perceived to be .ing spoilers.

This is coming after traditional rulers in Bayelsa State had last year warned on fresh danger of youth restiveness as the Minister of State for Petroleum Re.s, Timipre Sylva, locked horns with the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs at the time, Godswill Akpabio, over control of the NDDC.

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Specifically, they had expressed fears on looming crises over reports that Sylva was battling to upturn a nominee already forwarded for approval by Akpabio, the erstwhile supervising minister of the NDDC, for the position of managing director in the yet-to-be constituted board of the Commission.

In a letter to President Muhammadu Buhari dated June 4, 2021, the traditional had rulers urged him to ensure that any act capable of triggering further agitations in the Niger Delta be avoided as the region and the polity was already over-heated.

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“What has however heightened tension amongst the youths and citizenry is the growing rumour that the Honorable Minister of State for Petroleum, Chief Timipre Sylva is thwarting this laudable effort of the Honorable Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Chief Godswill Akpabio.

In our opinion, the polity and the region are already over heated and anything that will bring about further agitations should be avoided”, part of the letter read.

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It was signed by seven traditional rulers and copies sent to the Commissioner of Police and Director, Department of State Services (DSS) in Bayelsa State, as well as the President of the Ijaw National Congress, INC.

The South-South Elders Progressive Forum, SSEPF, with a membership comprising elders cutting across states in the Niger Delta, had also warned top politicians from the region against acts inimical to a seamless inauguration of a substantive board for the NDDC while contending that its Establishment Act had no provision for an interim contraption in the running of its affairs.

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