FG inaugurates NDDC board with Lauretta Onochie as chairman despite pending lawsuit by stakeholders (Photos)

FG inaugurates NDDC board with Lauretta Onochie as chairman despite pending lawsuit by stakeholders (Photos)

The federal government, on Wednesday, January 4, inaugurated the governing board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).

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The senate on December 20, 2022, confirmed the nominations of the chairman and board members of the commission after President Muhammadu Buhari sent their names in accordance with the NDDC establishment act, 2008.

The chairman and managing director of the new board are Lauretta Onochie, and Samuel Ogbuku, respectively.

The inauguration, which came barely few months to the end of the tenure of the Buhari-led administration, has being enmeshed in numerous crisis with pending court cases at the federal high court.

The minister of Niger Delta affairs, Umana Umana, while inaugurating the board in Abuja, on Wednesday, urged the board to immediately hit the ground running by implementing recommendations of the report of the forensic audit of the commission carried out in 2019.

Umana specifically charged the board to look into, “allegations of irregular employment from 2019 and follow up on the ongoing personal audit in the commission to make sure all cases of employment during the period under review were in accordance with extant rules and regulations of the service.”

Besides, the minister stressed the need for the board and the management to strictly adhere by the procurement act as well as the financial regulations to ensure prudence in the management of limited resources.

Umana said that, “Every contract above the threshold of management is to be referred to the ministerial tender board of the Federal Executive Council (FEC).

“Any breach of contract approval limits will attract severe sanctions.”

Umana, who encouraged members to focus on the completion of ongoing projects, advised them to shun the lure of the “award of spurious and indiscriminate new contracts”, so as to help in repairing the negative public perception of the NDDC.

Also, the secretary to the government of the federation, Boss Mustapha, in his remarks, noted that the inauguration of the new board would not have been possible without the collaboration of the national assembly.

Mustapha charged members of the new board to bring all their expertise to bear to transform the lives and environment of the region.

He added that the board should endeavour to be transparent and follow due diligence in all its activities so as to restore the hope and resilience of the Niger Delta people in the commission.

Meanwhile, new chairman of the NDDC board, Lauretta Onochie, has appealed to Nigerians, especially people from the Niger Delta region to accord them the necessary support needed to deliver on their mandates.

She assured that the board has put in place a template for the speedy development of the socioeconomic development of the region.

While assuring of positive changes, Onochie noted that, “We cannot continue to work with failed templates and get a different result.

“We are going to do things totally different so that the people of Niger Delta can benefit from what Nigeria has been investing in the region.”

Onochie added that part of the new board’s goal was to change the narratives from the current situation where youths sought for Special Assistants (SAs) jobs to being employers of labour.

She added that the Buhari’s administration was committed to youth development and would do everything possible to equip youths in the region with necessary skills to compete with their peers from other climes.

Recall that some major stakeholders in Ilaje local government area of Ondo state, on Wednesday, asked the federal high court, Abuja, to stop President Muhammadu Buhari, from inaugurating the governing board of NDDC, pending the hearing and determination of the suit challenging the nomination of Charles Ogunmola as the executive director, projects, of the NDDC.

The plaintiffs in the case led by the former clerk of the national assembly and also chairman, board of trustees of Ugboland Development Congress, Oluyemi Ogunyomi, Adebowale Karaki, and Dr. Mann Ali, trustee and secretary of Ugboland Development Congress, respectively, predicated the case on the grounds that Ogunmola is from Owo in the northern axis of Ondo state and not an indigene of the oil-producing area of the state.

The defendants include President Muhammadu Buhari, the national assembly, the senate, the attorney-general of the federation, and Charles B. Ogunmola.

In the suit filed on January 3, 2023, by a human rights activist, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, the plaintiffs are seeking an order of injunction to restrain the president from inaugurating, recognizing or dealing with Ogunmola as the executive director, projects of the NDDC, since he was not an indigene of the oil producing area of the state.

Specifically, the plaintiffs are seeking, “an order of interlocutory injunction restraining the 1st – 4th respondents whether by themselves, their servants or agents and/ or privies from taking any step or further step in treating and/or dealing with or in any manner according the 5th respondent the status of executive director of projects of the NDDC, pending the hearing and final determination of the Originating Summons herein.”

They also asked for another order restraining the fifth respondent from presenting himself out or in any manner parading himself or performing the functions and duties of executive director of projects of NDDC, pending the hearing and final determination of the originating summons herein.

According to the plaintiffs, the appointment of Ogunmola violated section 12 (1) of the NDDC act which specifically stated that the managing director and the executive directors of the NDDC must be indigenes of the oil-producing areas.

The plaintiffs stated further that being the first time an executive appointment of the NDDC would be zoned to Ondo state, it would amount to grave injustice for the oil producing areas of the state to be shortchanged by denying them the opportunity, stressing that Ogunmola was not suitably qualified to administer projects and feel the pains and anguish of the people directly affected by the impact of oil production and exploration.

Meanwhile, no date has been assigned for the hearing of the suit, which has been served upon the president and the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF).