The once peaceful atmosphere in Akwa Ibom state had since been charged up and saturated with discourse on the frosty relationship between the state government under Mr Udom Emmanuel of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) under Mr Nsima Ekere of the All Progressive Congress (APC).
As a foundation to enhance my discourse on this subject, it would, however, be proper to state that the NDDC (Establishment etc) Act No 6, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, clearly enumerated the functions and powers of the commission in Part II Section 7(1), to include thus; “(a) formulate policies and guidelines for the development of the Niger delta area; (b) conceive, plan and implement, in accordance with set rules and regulations, projects and programmes for the sustainable development of tie Niger-Delta area in the field of transportation including roads, jetties and waterways, health, education, employment, industrialization, agriculture and fisheries, housing and urban development, water supply, electricity and telecommunications.”
Again, worthy of note here is that the commission is 17 years of existence and out of which, Akwa Ibom state – a key player in the oil industry – cannot boast of three years on the saddle of leadership of the commission as the MD/CEO. Because of the oil politics of rotational principle as enshrined in the NDDC Act 2000 – Part IV Section 12(1); “There shall be for the Commission, a Managing Director, and two Executive Directors who shall be indigenes of oil producing areas starting with the member states of the Commission with the highest production quantum of oil and shall rotate amongst member states in the order of production.”
So a full-blooded patriotic Akwa Ibomite should be more disturbed that after the state’s slot under Nsima Ekere’s tenure ends sometimes in August 2018 – when he must have completed 2 years in office by then, because Barr Bassey Dan-Abia had 2 years of the slot, the state would have had its 4years term – the position will automatically rotate to the other eight member states of the commission and it will take 32 years (e.i.; 4years for each of the 8 member states that comprise the commission) before another Akwa Ibom person can become the MD of NDDC, according to the NDDC Act 2000.
It is on account of the foregoing, that I fault the unfriendly posture of my governor, Mr Udom Emmanuel and his commissioners against the MD of NDDC with respect to the commission’s developmental projects, especially on roads. Sad as it were, my governor was quoted to have addressed the press and said that “NDDC projects are distorting the state’s development master plan of his government.” His Commissioner for Information, Mr Charles Udoh, was also quoted to have addressed the press and said that “NDDC road projects are bush-tracks in the state.” While, the Commissioner for Works, Mr Ephraim Inyang-enyen, was reported to have driven out NDDC contractors with thugs and heavily armed uniform men from a road construction site along Youth Avenue, Mbiabong Etoi Uyo. All these are anti-development of the state and does not tell well of Akwa Ibom state that should be seeking for collaborations with the federal government interventionist agency.
I would have exonerated the governor from the whole of these anti-people’s posture. But no! He is a key player in what I have tagged; “Operation Stop NDDC Developments in Akwa Ibom because of Nsima Ekere,” while the people of the state at the rural communities are crying and begging for government and NDDC projects such as; motorable roads, water, electricity, healthcare facilities, classroom blocks in public primary/secondary schools, agricultural sector development, etc. One had expected a people’s centred government to have promptly opened her doors for development partners like: NDDC, ExxoMobil, Total FinalElf, NNPC and such other federal and multinational agencies, in order, to facilitate and fast-track development to the rural communities of the state, while the government concentrate and channel her energy on the much-talked about industrialization programme.
Albeit, as a conscience of the society, I am always on the side of the people, even though, this has usually put me up against officials of the state. And at the risk of being called names and blackmailed by agents of state, but truth is; I do not support the actions and posture of my governor against development partners since coming on board 2 years ago.
Governor Emmanuel should bid a rethink and cease from leading anti-state and anti-progressive war against development partners in the country. He has less than two years to end his tenure in 2019. In 2018, if he is seeking re-election, then he ought to know that the heat that comes with political electioneering campaigns will not allow him to add one block to any ongoing project embarked upon by his government, of course, it is the people of the state that will suffer at the end of the day.
It is most unfortunate, to say the least, for Governor Emmanuel to have on Tuesday, October 3, 2017, in a national security submit for the South-South zone at Ibom Hall, held at the instance of the Inspector General of Police, attended by governors of the zone to show his hatred for his brother, the MD of NDDC and the commission, when he said; “Let me also use this opportunity that the MD of NDDC is here to state clearly that NDDC does not own even a piece of land. It is the governors that are in charge of land. NDDC should not enter any of the nine states to do any project without permission from the governors. That is why they have not been able to execute even a kilometer of road in my state, they have never commissioned even one kilometer of road in my state. Because the projects are politicised… so we can actually come together, this thing is a joint force. The state government, federal government agencies joining together to actually make sure we impact on the lives of the people. When it is time for politics we will play politics, when it’s time for development, let’s develop and impact on the lives of our people and leave some of these things that we are doing. Let’s know that it is time we come together and get some things done for our people.”
The governor got it all wrong. He miscalculated and misfired. That wasn’t supposed to be the forum for such address. His speech writers should take more of the punches here. Speeches are written based on the occasion. This very one fell below expectations of Akwa Ibom people and even the visiting guests to the event. It gave the governor out as one struggling with complex. It portrayed Udom Emmanuel as a temperamental Governor. It showed that the governor cannot control his anger in public. This is a bad omen for his handlers. They need to work more on his temperament. If possible, they should curtail the rate at which the governor faces a crowd of more than 100 people, because it seems the over excitement of which perhaps degenerates into misnomer.
Apparently, I am astonished that Governor Emmanuel who is a member of the NDDC by virtue of being a member of the NDDC Advisory Committee as stipulated in Part III Section 11; “(1) There is hereby established for the Commission, a Niger-Delta Development Advisory Committee (in this Act referred to as “the Advisory Committee”) which shall consist of; (a) the Governors of the member States of the Commission; and (b) two other persons as may be determined, from time to time, by the President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. (2) The Advisory Committee shall be charged with the responsibility of advising the Board and monitoring the activities of the Commission, with a view to achieving the objective of the Commission. (3) The Advisory Committee may make rules regulating its own proceedings,” would be drawing battle lines with the commission which he is a MEMBER in public. Instead of resolving whatever differences there are, internally at the level of the Advisory Committee. Except, as Akwa Ibom people are now made to believe that there are more to these attacks on NDDC than meet our eyes, which should not be at the detriment of development of the state and empowerment of her people by the commission.
If my Governor does not have a personal issue with the MD of NDDC, and with other development partners coming to the state, then he should seek peaceful resolution of whatever misunderstanding that exists between him and his brother – Nsima Ekere using the NDDC Advisory Committee which he is a member.
Akwa Ibom people need to benefit from more NDDC projects like other states that had produced the MD of the commission.
Time to allow NDDC projects in Akwa Ibom state is now!
• Franklyn Isong is a public affairs commentator