PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari’s decision, last month, to reconstitute the Governing Board of Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, has thrown up a fresh lobby for Chairman and Managing Director of the Commission with some of the oil-producing states, ethnic groups and influential political leaders in the region at each other’s throats.
Though the President indicated that the new Board would be inaugurated after the forensic audit of the Commission, which may take the next three to six months or more, interest groups and lobbyists have intensified their plots and counter-plots to get the Presidency to dance to their respective tunes.
President Buhari has kept everybody in suspense since he announced that the Governing Board of the Commission would be reconstituted. Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, is one of the powerful leaders that other cream of the crop want to outmaneuver in the NDDC power scramble, but by virtue of existing power sharing indices among the core four oil states— Delta, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa and Rivers— his state, Akwa Ibom is not in contention for next Chairman and Managing Director because the last substantive managing director, Nsima Ekere (2016-2019) hails from the state.
However, due to the politicisation of NDDC appointments in recent years, Ondo State government, whose indigene, Senator Tayo Alasoadura, is currently Minister of State (Niger Delta Affairs) is laying claim to the position of managing director, while Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State also maintained that it was its turn to produce the managing director.
Senator Ita Enang from Akwa Ibom State, a top aide of President Buhari, is making a case for his state to clinch any of the two Executive Directors of the Commission. The latest scramble for NDDC top positions has pitted mostly influential All Progressives Congress, APC, politicians against the other. In three of the states, three former governors are fighting to protect their interests.
The contention of the four principal oil states is that the position of managing director is exclusive to Bayelsa, Delta, Rivers and Akwa Ibom while the chairman is rotated among the nine states alphabetically and it started with Abia state.
Sizzling fight in Delta
The battle it is more intriguing in Delta State with Urhobo and Itsekiri ethnic nationalities practically fighting dirty.
Mr. Bernard Okumagba, Managing Director designate in the disbanded Board is an Urhobo and his people want his appointment upheld because it is the turn of Delta to produce managing director. While Itsekiri Oil Minerals Producing Communities representing Itsekiri tribe agreed with Urhobo that it was the turn of Delta to produce both Chairman and Managing Director of the Commission, the group maintained that Itsekiri, not Urhobo was the qualified tribe to produce the next managing director, being the current highest oil-producing area in the state.
Chair of the organisation, Mr. Edward Omagbemi, in letter to President Buhari, said his government would be breaching the provisions of NDDC Act by appointing a non-Itsekiri as managing director of the Commission as “Itsekiri alone produce over 40 percent of the total oil production in Delta State. “The Itsekiri are first in oil production in Delta State, Ijaw are second and Urhobo come a distant third.”
The group also alleged that Itsekiri ethnic nationality was being marginalised in the Buhari administration in which an Urhobo son, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege is Deputy Senate President; Mr. Festus Keyamo(SAN), also Urhobo, Minister of State (Labour); Stella Okotete, Executive Director, Nexim Bank; Austin Enajomo-Ifire, Nigerian Social Insurance Trust Fund; Frank Ovie Kokori, Nigeria Institute of Labour, and Onoriede Ewubare, Group Executive Director, Upspring Sector, NNPC.
He declared: “The Itsekiri do not occupy any position in this government. The Itsekiri being the highest producers of crude oil in Delta State and are, therefore, entitled to fill the position of managing director of the Niger Delta Development Commission.”
Chairmanship since inception
On the Chairmanship of the Board, the Itsekiri group said following the rotatory alphabetical order established among the member states, “Chief Onyema Ugochukwu of Abia State became the first chairman followed by Chief Sam Idem from Akwa Ibom.
When he was removed in 2007, Mr. Dan Abia also from Akwa Ibom was appointed chairman to complete the tenure of Akwa Ibom.” In 2009, Air Commodore Larry Koinyan (retd) of Bayelsa State was appointed chairman and when he was removed after two years, Mr. Tarila Tepepah, another Bayelsa indigene was appointed as chairman to complete the tenure of Bayelsa state.
“In the year 2013, Mr. Bassey Henshaw, an indigene of Cross River State was appointed chair of the board and when he was removed in 2015, another indigene of Cross River State, Senator Ndoma Egba(SAN), was appointed in 2016 and he occupied the seat till 2019.
Managing Directors of NDDC since 2001.
The first substantive Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer is Godwin Omene from Delta State (2001-2003) and was succeeded by Emmanuel Agwariavwodo, also from Delta State (2003-2005). Agwariavwodo continued from 2005-2006, when Timi Alaibe from Bayelsa State took over till 2009, while Chibuzor Uguoha from Rivers state reigned from 2009-2011. Christian Oboh, also from Rivers State was in charge from 2011 to 2013 and Dan Abia (Akwa Ibom) was the managing director from 2013 to 2015.
Nsima Ekere from the same state took over as managing director from 2016 to 2019 after the transition interregnum of Ibim Semenitari (Rivers) as managing director (2015-2016). NDDC had since 2009, when the late P. Z. Aginighan from Delta was appointed as acting Managing Director, been managed by interim managements. For instance, Osato Areyenka-Iyasere from Edo State was acting managing director in 2011, Christy Atako (Rivers) 2013, Nelson Brambaifa (Bayelsa) 2019. The current acting managing director, Dr. Joi Nunieh, is from Rivers State.
All the four core oil-producing states have held the position of managing director, which is based on oil production quantum, but not all have held the position of chairman, which is rotated alphabetically according the names of the state.
Abia, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa and Cross River have held the position and the next state alphabetically is Delta, which is why the state protested the appointment of former deputy governor of Edo State, Dr. Pius Odubu, as chair in the disbanded board.
Edo is supposed to take its turn after Delta before it revolves to Imo, Ondo and Rivers states.