The Staff Union of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) has debunked claims from some quarters, particularly from a Group branded ‘Niger Delta Network’, suggesting that the President, His Excellency President Muhammadu Buhari GCFR ordered the annexation of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) to the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs.
The Staff Union insists that the controversial audit process was not a directive from the presidency in line with the extant Law but a ploy by the new Minister of Niger Delta Affairs Umana Okon Umana to usurp the mandate of NDDC.
The Staff Union insists personnel audit of NDDC has recently been undertaken alongside the comprehensive Forensic Audit and that there was no fresh directive from the Presidency or from the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) with respect to another exercise. The Staff Union asserts that the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Umana Okon Umana only possesses supervisory powers over the management of the NDDC and as such cannot delve into administrative functions vested in the management by the NDDC Act.
Chairman of NDDC Staff Union, Gbendo Kuro Anthony stated that: ‘Mr President couldn’t have made such directive to the Minister considering that the Forensic Audit ordered in 2019 comprised of a personnel staff audit. The Forensic Audit report as submitted to the office of the Attorney General of the Federation are open to verification.’
The Staff Union asserts that the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs has since 2015 attempted to assume absolute control over the administration of the Commission whereas the Law establishing NDDC clearly affirms that the Presidency and not to the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs can exercise such powers.
“Such attempt by the new Minister to put the NDDC under the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs through a suspicious Personnel Audit will undermine the legal mandate of the Commission”, the Staff Union leader maintains.
According to Mr. Gbendo Kuro, “we are not against a personnel staff audit but having unauthorised parties conducting such audit is what we are against. This is especially where such parties clearly lack such powers and are driven by sinister motives. NDDC is only answerable to the Presidency. “How can the Minister be giving someone that has worked at the NDDC for over 17 Years Offer of Appointment and ID Cards without due process? We believe that the planned annexation of NDDC is aimed at converting staff of the Commission to the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs.”
According to Gbendo Kuro, “our union protests this height of administrative recklessness. Our protest is that the right thing needs to be done and that the NDDC is an independent Commission whose power mandate cannot be usurp under any Ministry of whatsoever”, he stated.
In the same vein, Paul Iguakpo, a member of the NDDC Staff Union said that the move by the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs through the new Minister, Umana represents another low for the Commission.
Iguakpo said the Act establishing the NDDC clearly defines the framework of governance of the Commission and that any power delegated to the Minister has to do with Policy alone which cannot abrogate a Statutory Law.
“It is rather unfortunate that the Minister is attempting to take on administrative functions by ordering a Personnel Audit which is beyond the supervisory powers he has and as such, a violation of the law that set up the NDDC. We will not watch this abuse of power by Mr Umana Okon Umana to take place. We will not.”
“The Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs through the new Minister is attempting to interfere in the day to day activities of the Commission. There is a clear line of reporting and channel of command in the NDDC as established by the Act.
Iguakpo therefore called on the Presidency to urgently constitute the Governing Board for the NDDC so that the Commission can function in accordance with the rule of law as against such display of high-handedness, abuse of power and administrative recklessness.
Iguakpo alleged that the office of the Interim and Sole Administrators of the NDDC has always being occupied by persons from Bayelsa and Akwa Ibom States, thereby shortchanging other States in the Niger Delta region of having a fair equal access to the administration of the Commission without the Statutory Governing Board.
The Staff Union claims it embarked on a peaceful protest to draw attention of appropriate authorities to the ongoing anomalies in the Commission. The Union insisted that the planned annexation of NDDC by the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs is unlawful and illegal.
The Staff Union alleged that the Minister Umana Okon Umana also unilaterally and in violation of due process prevailed on the Commission to pay for the just concluded Management Retreat of the NDDC which also featured the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs.
The Union insists that the motive behind the creation of the NDDC is to deploy it as an interventionist agency saddled with the responsibility of alleviating the sufferings of the people in the region.
During the peaceful protest held on Monday August 15, 2022, the protesters called on the Minister, Mr Umana Okon Umana to name any federal agency in the entire country that is under the supervision of a ministry talk less of being merged into a ministry as a part of it, stating that it was basically abuse of power.
The Staff Union however sternly warned Umana to desist from such evil plot so as not to undermine the relative peace in the Niger Delta region.
The Staff Union therefore urged President Buhari to urgently revert the NDDC to the office of the Secretary to the Federation in order to put a lasting end to abuse of power by individuals hiding under the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs.
The Staff Union insists that a Governing Board needs to be urgently constituted for proper administration of the affairs of NDDC to give the Commission a clear cut directive on delivering on its mandate.