On Monday December 21, 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari, sacked the Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Mr. Dan Abia and immediately replaced him with Mrs. Ibim Semenitari, a former aide to the Minister of Transport, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi.
While I am not against the appointment of a first-class journalist and friend as acting MD of the intervention agency, I am worried that her appointment has robbed Akwa Ibom State, a key component of the Niger Delta region of its legitimate turn to occupy the office.
I dare say that with the replacement of Mr. Abia, an Akwa Ibom indigene, who was appointed to the office for a statutory four-year term with Mrs. Semenitari, the President not only violated managerial precedents in the Commission but also acted in breach of the Sections 3 & 12 of the NDDC Act 2000 and the Federal Character Commission Act, 1996.
Knowing President Buhari to be a man of honour and integrity, I have cause to believe that someone might have misinformed and misadvised him on the choice of replacement for Mr. Abia.
I make bold to say, and rightly so, that the tenures of board members and the executive management of the NDDC do not belong to individuals but are contingent on the states of the Niger Delta region. Right from the inception of the Commission, a robust precedent was set and I unequivocally demand that it should not be changed now at the expense of Akwa Ibom State.
For the avoidance of doubt, while the first chairman of the Commission, Onyema Ugochukwu, from Abia State, completed his tenure, the second chairman, Ambassador Sam Edem from Akwa Ibom State was removed midterm in 2008. He was however, replaced with Bassey Dan Abia, also from Akwa Ibom State. Equally, when Air Vice Marshal Larry Koinya, (rtd.) from Bayelsa State was sent packing as chairman of the Commission, a replacement from the State, Terilah Tebepah was appointed to complete the tenure.
On the other hand, when the first managing director of the Commission, Mr. Godwin Omene of Delta State was removed midterm in 2003, he was replaced by Emmanuel Aguariavwodo, also from Delta State. Again, when on September 14, 2011, Mr. Chibuzor Ugwoha, an indigene of Rivers State was removed as the managing director of the Commission, he was replaced with Mr. Christian Oboh, who hails from the same community with Mr. Ugwoha.
A similar precedence was followed in replacing sacked board members. The Executive Director, Finance and Administration (EDFA), and Executive Director, Projects (EDP), have always been replaced by indigenes of the same state they come from when relieving them of their posts.
For instance, when the first Executive Director, Projects, late Mr. Udo Mboso, from Akwa Ibom State, was sacked early in the life of the Commission, he was replaced by Mr. Ukot Thomas Ukot from the same State. Again, when Mr. Ikpong Etteh, also from Akwa Ibom State was removed, he was replaced by Mr. Edikan Eshiet from the same State.
Similarly, during the fourth governing board of the commission, when P. Z. Aginighan from Delta State was removed as the executive director, Finance and Administration, he was replaced by another Deltan, Mr. Lambert Komboye.
There has never been an exception to this rule and I challenge anyone to prove otherwise that these precedents, which served to stabilise the Commission and the region, were breached anytime in the past.
I also wish to point out that there has never been a situation where an acting managing director was appointed from outside, among the political class, because of the political, financial and administrative implications of such appointment.
Acting managing directors who usually hold forte for a substantive appointee are usually appointed from the core senior directors in the system. There has also never been a time in the 15-year existence of the NDDC when two of the three executive management officers (managing director, executive director finance and administration and executive director projects) came from the same state, as was the case when Mrs. Semenitari was appointed acting managing director, while the sitting EDFA and EDP were also from the same state – Rivers.
At that time, many concerned Nigerians had warned of the potential of the situation to stoke a crisis of unimaginable proportion in the Niger Delta.
The tension generated by having the three top executives only from Rivers State eased as soon as the EDFA and EDP were removed.
While I have no scruples with the appointment of Mrs. Sementari to any position by Mr. President, I however reject and condemn, in the strongest terms, an appointment which has illegally and most brazenly usurped the legitimate tenure of Akwa Ibom State in the NDDC.
Before the attacks on major oil and gas pipelines in some parts of the region, which have definitely affected the production of oil, Akwa Ibom State’s total share of oil production stood at 30.43 percent, and that was by far the highest, followed by Delta State with 22.82 percent. Rivers State accounted for 19.17 percent; Bayelsa for 18.70 percent; Ondo State for 3.89 percent; Edo State, 2.83 percent; and Abia, 1.10 percent; while Imo contributed 1.05 percent and Cross River, 0.00 percent.
However, the sharing indices for states in the zone are as follows: Equality of states – 25 percent; volume of oil production – 35 percent; NDDC Opex and Capex – 10 percent; Income and Capacity Enhancement (ICE) programmes – 5 percent; Regional Projects – 20 percent and Environmental Impact – 5 percent.
Under intra-state revenue sharing formula, 20 percent is given on equality among LGAs, 10 percent for oil exploration zones (producing or not), 10 percent for pipeline communities and 60 percent for volume of oil production.
From the analysis so far, it is as clear that Akwa Ibom contributes the highest chunk of oil revenue to the Federation Account and has consistently had the least issues of production disruptions in the region.
But instead of being rewarded for these, the statistic has always been treated with indiscretion, and the peaceful disposition of its people always taken for granted.
During the dark days of militancy when oil production was driven to its lowest level, Akwa Ibom people stood with their heads high and would not participate in the actions that led to massive pollution of the environment, destruction of national assets, killings, and maiming of innocent people.
Our people mobilised and would not allow those bent on not only destroying the economic lifeline of the nation but also subjecting the region to the worst level of pollution to venture into our borders to cause damage.
When the Federal Government declared a multi-billion naira amnesty, those who killed, maimed and despoiled our national assets were amply rewarded and Akwa Ibom people on whose land oil was produced to sustain the economy of Nigeria at the time were told to go home because they did not participate in militancy. We were shortchanged and insulted because we acted within the confines of the law and civility.
I therefore appeal to Mr. President to do justice to Akwa Ibom by appointing from the State a substantive managing director of the NDDC to complete the legitimate tenure of Akwa Ibom State.
Mr. President promised change and Nigerians want to see practical changes in the way we play politics, treat one another and share the commonwealth God has so abundantly given us as a nation.
For not threatening our national economic lifeline with our legitimate advocacy for resource control and justice, Akwa Ibom demands from Mr. President to reciprocal actions that reward our tolerance and ennoble our people, who refused to blow up oil and gas pipelines when that was the option for others.
We cannot return to the old ways of conflict and coercion. We cannot look backwards. We live in an integrated society – one in which we all have a stake in the commonwealth and the benefits of a common heritage.
The legitimate right of Akwa Ibom State to file a candidate to complete its tenure as NDDC managing director, and the right of its people to occupy relevant offices in the Commission based on its position as largest oil producer in the country cannot not be wished away or donated out as political patronage.