Prominent politicians from the Southsouth zone are intensifying their push for the management of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NNDC).
The NDDC is an agency assigned with interventionist projects for oil-producing areas.
Among the competitors are two former ministers, Chief Godswill Akpabio, the immediate past Minister of the Niger Delta Affairs and Mr Rotimi Amaechi who until May this year, was Minister of Transport.
Also revealed to be plotting for the control of the agency is Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Mr Timipreye Sylva, and Deputy Senate President Ovie Omo-Agege.
The All Progressives Congress (APC) officials are working round the clock to influence the office of the agency’s managing director as well as its finance director.
The agency has been managed by an interim management board since 2019 and the gladiators are supporting different persons for the plum job.
Incidentally, Amaechi, who is widely believed to have influenced the appointment of Umana Okon Umana as the new Niger Delta minister, is disclosed to be using his closeness to President Muhammadu Buhari and an influential member of the “Villa cabal” to get his candidate from Rivers State appointed as Managing Director as “rehabilitation” for him after failing to win the APC presidential ticket. This is necessary “to keep and service his support base in Rivers State”.
Both Amaechi and Akpabio dumped their offices as ministers in April to contest the presidential ticket of the ruling party, but failed at the primary.
The latter’s bid to have the senatorial ticket for Akwa Ibom Northwest as a “consolation prize” is currently still uncertain.
Already, the Council of Traditional Rulers in Bayelsa has announced that it is the turn of Bayelsa to nominate the Managing Director.
Though sources close to Amaechi were very confident his candidate would win “because he has the President’s ears and those of the Villa cabal”, the sentiments against the former Rivers governor were that he had “monopolized the NDDC board since the inception of the Buhari administration”, having also selected the two immediate past substantive Managing Directors, Mrs. Ibim Semitari and Mr. Nsima Ekere, who was arraigned in May by the Economic and Financial Crimes (EFCC) over an alleged N47b theft in the NDDC.
Akpabio, on the other hand, is stated to be rooting for Denyabofa Dimaro who also allegedly enjoys the support of Umana. One of the odds against Dimaro, is that he is over 76 years old, and seen “as too old for the rigors of office and should be retiring by now”.
For almost three years that he was in office as a minister, Akpabio was seen as having technically remote-controlled the agency through an Interim Management Board he hand-picked with a sweeping mandate to undertake a “forensic audit” of the agency from inception. Critics revealed it was an interminable gambit to short-circuit a statutory board needed by law and perpetuate the aberration of a caretaker committee.
Clearly, Ms. Joy Nunieh, head of the caretaker panel appointed by Akpabio in 2019, later fell out with him.
Sylva’s decision to install Maxwell Oko, his Bayelsa kinsman, is stated to be facing strong resentment among officials, who are accusing him of creeping “ nepotism”.
Apart from the fact that the recently appointed substantive Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB), Simbi Kesiye Wabote, is disclosed to be the minister’s cousin, the chairman of Nigeria Liquified Natural Gas (NLNG) board, Chief Edmund Daukoru, appointed in July 2020, is also well known to be his mentor and was his boss during the Obasanjo administration.
Besides, Oko is battling with an allegation written against him raising questions over his academic records.
On the other hand, Omo-Agege is stated to be unrelenting in his scheme to influence the appointment of Sam Mgbuku, despite the ongoing legal entanglement over “a serious case”.
In the face of mounting opposition to Oko, the Minister of State for Petroleum is revealed to have worked out a Plan B by requesting an alliance with Omo-Agege, who originates from Delta State, such that Oko would be seen as Finance Director for the agency while Mgbuku would be Managing Director.
Speaking at a two-day management retreat arranged by the Ministry of Niger Delta affairs last week in Abuja , President Buhari hinted that the NDDC board would be revealed soon . He spoke in apparent response to agitations by stakeholders.
The leader of the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), Chief Edwin Clark, had expressed misgivings over speculations that the government may again prolong the tenure of the Interim Committee of the NDDC.