President Bola Ahmed Tinubu has been advised to correct decades-long injustice against the people of Ondo State in appointments in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
Speaking with journalists in Lagos, the Chairman of Niger Delta Emancipation and Justice Forum (NDEJF), Eniola Ayenuberu,
declared that since the creation of NDDC, an indigene of Ondo State has not been appointed the Managing Director or given any sensitive position in the agency.
To him, this is a flagrant disregard for the Act setting up the Commission.
NDEJF insisted that lopsidedness in the appointment of top management members of the commission since its establishment 23 years ago has become worrisome issues among the indigenes of Ilaje in Ondo State.
“There is currently a sharp division among states that mischievously refer to themselves as the ‘Big Four’ against Ondo State and other states degraded as ‘tea spoon oil producers.’
“There is no provision in the NDDC Act 2000 that refers to Akwa Ibom, Delta, Rivers and Bayelsa as ‘Big Four’. It is selfish schism that has led to the appropriation of the three top management position held by Akwa Ibom, Delta, Rivers and Bayelsa States since the inception of the commission. The other five states: Ondo, Edo, Imo, Abia and Cross River have been schemed out of the appointment of the three top management positions in NDDC by the ‘Big four’ States.
“In year 2000 when the Commission was established, we all participated and submitted memorandum at the National Assembly, before the law was passed. NDDC was the only act passed then without the assent of the president because President Olusegun Obasanjo refused to sign it due to some issues.
“Because of the patriotism of the National Assembly then, they went ahead to veto the president and passed it into law. Nine states make up the oil producing states – Abia, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Edo, Imo, Ondo and Rivers. All these states are mentioned in alphabetical order. When the commission was set up, it was difficult as to how the management and the board would work together but what they did then was that there should be a Managing Director and two Executive Directors who will join the board.
“And the commission will then have nineteen members which include the Chairman in the nine states, members representing the three geopolitical zones that are not in the Niger Delta area, namely, North West, North East and North Central, representatives of the oil companies will also be nominated, representatives of Ministry of Finance and Environment will also be in the board”.
Ayenuberu added that the first state that produced the Managing Director was Delta in the person of Engineer Godwin Omene; followed by Bayelsa, Timi Alaibe; followed by Rivers, Chibuzor Ogwuha; and another Rivers person was also made Managing Director after Ogwuha. Then, followed by Akwa Ibom State.
“Nobody disturbed them when they were being nominated, because they have higher quantum of oil production. When it became the turn of Ondo State to produce the Managing Director, they came up with a theory about ‘Four Big States’ and the NDDC Act never states anything like that. There are 31 Acts in the commission’s Act which say all the states are equal.
“We had expected that when former President Muhammadu Buhari was to constitute another body, he would look at the direction of Ondo State. Unfortunately, picked another person from Bayelsa State. It is our turn in Ondo State that is why we are crying out so as not to be sidelined again. We have contributed our quota.
“What is good for others is also good for us in Ondo State. The quantum of oil produced in Abia and Imo states put together is not up to what Ondo State is producing, it is now our turn to produce the Managing Director. We are calling on President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to look at equity of fairness and justice. We want him to use the method used in picking the Service Chiefs to do justice in the NDDC issue unlike when Buhari was there when he picked every Service Chief from one region. Nobody should blackmail Tinubu that he gave it to South-West. Ondo State is qualified to produce the Managing Director of NDDC because we have paid our dues.
“In Ondo State, it is only one local government that produces oil which is Ilaje, even in the local government, it is a section which is Ogbo that is producing the oil, it is in the same Ogbo where we have Chevron, Conoil, Express Oil and Gas and Cavendy Oil. We are appealing to the Federal Government that an Ondo State indigene from the oil producing area should be considered as the next Managing Director of NDDC. The president shouldn’t make the mistake of picking someone from Akoko, Owo, and Akure area of the state because they don’t form part of Ilaje”.
Meanwhile, Oluwabunmi Tunji Ojo representing Akoko North East and Akoko North West Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives has been accused of nepotism.
As the Chairman of NDDC Committee of the House, he has been accused of taking what is due the oil producing area of Ondo State – contracts and appointments – to Akoko.
“It is without disputations that it is only Ilaje and Ese-Odo that form the Niger Delta area of Ondo State and the oil producing area, and the prospect of having oil in Ese- Odo is said to be very high. Ilaje and Ese-Odo have a way of sharing things that belong to them whenever the benefits come.
“In the 5th Assembly, Honourable Agboola Ajayi was made House Committee Chairman of NDDC. He represented Ilaje Ese-Odo Federal Constituency. When he was there, Ilaje and Ese-Odo always shared whatever came to them equally without any rancour, but reverse is the case now with Tunji Ojo as House Committee Chairman on NDDC.
“In the 9th Assembly, Tunji Ojo, who was made Chairman, House Committee on NDDC, is not from our Federal Constituency. The sharing formula among the state is different from the local government. The board laid down the sharing formula – 20 per cent will be shared among the local governments and 10 per cent will be for oil pipeline where it passes through and then 10 per cent for oil exploration, while 60 per cent goes for the quantum of oil produce, which is Ilaje, but we never take it alone, we share it with our brothers at Ese-Odo. It is only the 20 per cent that is shared among the remaining 16 local government areas of Ondo State.
“In essence, it is only two local governments in Ondo State that form the Niger Delta, while Ilaje is the only oil producing community in the state. If you have 100 projects, it means twenty per cent will be shared among the 16 local governments in the state. In this case, Tunji Ojo reversed it.
“He was able to influence everything because he was made Chairman House Committee on NDDC. He took all the projects that were supposed to come to the Niger Delta area of the state to Akoko area.
“In the area of employment, there are about 36 employment slots from the NDDC. He took 27 to Akoko alone, there is not one in Akure, not one in Ifedore, not one in Ondo and not one in Oke-Igbo. Ilaje Local Government for which the job was meant for them, he assigned only eight to them and gave one to Ese-Odo. Under the law provision of Section 7 says ‘The commission shall formulate, conceive, plan and implement according to set rules regulation, projects and programmes for the development of Niger Delta area alone. In the field of transportation, jetty, roads, health, education, employment, all these things are geared towards the development of Niger Delta area, not Akoko.
“But because he had the privilege of becoming House Committee Chairman on NDDC, he cornered everything to himself and his people. All the employments given to Ilaje were either level 4 or 5, while those given to his people are between levels 7,8,9 and 10.
“And he wanted to do it again, it is injustice to us in Ilaje and Ese-Odo to pick someone like Tunji Ojo who is not from our Federal Constituency to be the House Committee Chairman on NDDC because we will not feel the impact in our area. Ayetoro is about to be washed away by sea incursion but Tunji Ojo has not deemed it fit to visit the area as Chairman, House Committee on NDDC.
“He took all what belongs to us to his people. No single project was commissioned in the Niger Delta area of Ondo State. Right from 2017, they have not been able to commission a 10-kilometre road in our area.
“All they embarked upon was to do solar light with billions of naira and patch existing roads. This is unfair. If people from South-South have done their part, President Tinubu should come to South-West, that’s Ondo State. We want the president to consider an indigene of Ondo State as MD of NDDC, in fairness and equity.”
“You will recall that NDDC Board was dissolved on June 19, 2023 by President Bola Tinubu. We are all happy because those people who occupied the Board were there illegally. Charles Ogunmola representing Ondo State on the Board is from Owo and Owo is in Ondo North Senatorial District.
“Ogunmola was forced on us. Senators representing Ondo State opposed the appointment because Ogunmola is not an indigene of oil producing part of Ondo State.
“After the board was dissolved, in a shocking and surprising manner, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, Dr. Shuaib Belgore, came out with a letter on June 4, 2023 and said he was appointing the MD as the sole administrator and correspondence should be routed through the Permanent Secretary who will further liaise with the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF).
“The is not what the NDDC Act said. The Act said the Chairman and Managing Director of the Board should be appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Permanent Secretary has the effrontery and audacity to single handedly appoint an MD whose office was dissolved by the president to come back. To worsen the situation, apart from the MD, he also ordered two others to come back to NDDC.
“How dare him? He is challenging the authority of the President, asking those the President asked to leave to stay back. What an audacity from a Permanent Secretary to the office of the President? Mr. President should please remove NDDC from the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs. The President should choose a Special Adviser for NDDC who will liaise between the President and the MD. Belgore should be investigated and asked questions. Where did he derive his powers from?
“Honourable Tunji Ojo should also be asked questions. We cannot be doing same thing over and over again. President Tinubu must not allow those who misled Buhari to deceive him. He should constitute a new board. This is our stand as Niger Delta Emancipation Group”.
Meanwhile, the Secretary General of the group, Otunba Steve Omogbemi, in his own submission, said all the Obas, Chiefs and youths “are in support of our quest to demand for our right.
“The other Niger Delta States who call themselves ‘Big four’ have not been fair to us in Ilaje and Ese-Odo Federal Constituency. They are supposed to be our brothers but they don’t behave as one.
“In the last 23 years of the existence of the commission, they cannot point to a concrete evidence of what they have done to the whole Niger Delta States.
“The Renewed Hope the President brought to Nigeria, we are ready to take it round the whole Niger Delta States so that the goodies of the government could get to all Niger Delta States in riverine and mainland and other parts of the country.
“We have written several letters. Agagu tried when he was Governor of Ondo to make things happen. Mimiko tried also. Reverse is the case in this present administration of Ondo State when the Governor went to bring Ogunmola, his brother, to represent us at NDDC. What they are after is to take revenue coming to Ilaje Local Government. It is unfortunate that a Permanent Secretary wrote a letter on a Sunday which is not a working day with a letter head paper of the Federal Government. It is a shame. We have a firm belief that President Tinubu will do the right thing immediately”.