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Row over Pro-NDDC Protests in Rivers

Row over Pro-NDDC Protests in Rivers

Current protests by suspected hired youths in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, in favour of the Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Mr. Chibuzor Ugwoha, has sparked off a row in the oil and gas region.

A Port Harcourt-based lawyer, Mr. Chuks Uguru, told AkanimoReports on a telephone interview on Monday that such protests hardly yield any fruit in the country.

According to him, "there were protests in some parts of the country against some ministerial nominees of President Goodluck Jonathan. As we speak, the Senate confirmed their nominations and they are ministers today. The NDDC has been a matter of serious concern in the past few months, and i think, there is need for government to carry out a drastic surgical operation there".

Co-Ordinator of Egbema Movement for Justice, a community group in Edo State, Mr. Robinson Uroupa, said most oil-bearing communities were yet to benefit from NDDC. "As a group, we are of the view that NDDC has lost focus and it has become a beehive of corrupt activities. No form of organised protest will safe the management from indictment".

For Mr. Solomon Okpo of Eket Collective, a thinktank group in the Eket axis of Akwa Ibom State, "we are of the view that the present NDDC should be scrapped, and their mandate handed over to core professionals like those of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)".

According to the Eket group, "NDDC is not delivering on its mandate. The largely sponsored protests are coming too late because the authorities have and know the facts about the mess in that place. Unless government remove politicians from the place, it will continue to be a conduitpipe to line individual pockets".

But, as criticisms against the protests grow, the NDDC boss, Ugwoha, has denied sponsoring the youths. He is claiming that the action of the youths was ‘based on their understanding of the situation at the interventionist agency.

For some nine months now, the NDDC has been embroiled in a crisis as a result of accusations and counter-accusations, all bordering mainly on alleged unwholesome financial deals.

Chairman of the commission, retired Air Vice Marshal Larry Koinyan, had last year, requested President Jonathan to suspend the embattled managing director for allegedly transferring the sum of $20 million, around N3.00 billion, of the development agency’s fund from a Union Bank Account in the United Kingdom to another account domiciled with the First Bank also in the UK.

Some top NDDC officials who were allegedly involved in the transfer deal, were suspended but later recalled upon the intervention of the former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Alhaji Yayale Ahmed, who then said government will look into the matter.

Apparently embarrassed, President Jonathan summoned Koinyan, Ugwoha and he two Executive Directors of the commission to Abuja on Wednesday, and informed of a fresh probe panel, to look into the matter and related ones.

Senator Anyim Pius Anyim, the incumbent SGF, on Wednesday, inaugurated the probe panel headed by Mr Steve Oronsaye as chairman; Mr Raymond U Brown, Secretary and Mr Bamidele Aturu, Mr B. O. N. Oti, representative of the Bureau for Public Procurement (BPP), Senator Bassey Ewa Henshaw, Mrs Kori-pamo-Agari and Alhaji Mohammed Ibrahim as members.

Their terms of reference among others, are to take, assess and evaluate a sample inventory of some NDDC projects; to evaluate the contractor’s pre-qualification process in the commission; to evaluate the roles and relationship of the board, management and staff of the commission and to evaluate the procurement practices of the commission and its compliance to the letter and spirit of the Public Procurement Act.

The main purpose of its assignment was to review the process and challenges facing the NDDC, with a view to making recommendations to the government to address institutional weaknesses and guide on constructive intervention to address various issues.

The Oronsaye panel has two weeks to conclude their assignment, which takes off today, Monday, August 1.

In the mean time, the Thursday protest lwhich asted for hours, disrupted activities at the commission and smooth flow of traffic along the busy Port Harcourt-Aba Expressway. The protesting youths carried placards with inscriptions such as "eave the MD alone’; Ugwoha has tried for the people of Niger-Delta".

Special Assistant to the MD on Media, Abraham Ogbodo, was still insisting as at yesterday that his boss did not hire the protesting youths.

“The youths as irreducible stakeholders understand the issues as well and they have openly declared their position regarding developments at the NDDC based on their understanding. of their being sponsored by the MD does not arise here because the president has not set up a committee to sack anybody but examine all issues with a view to harmonizing the contending tendencies at the commission into a synergy that can move the Niger-Delta forward”, Ogbodo said.

ENDS

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