Our attention has been drawn to a glaringly irresponsible, unmistakably provocative, and professionally unethical story in The Nation’s newspaper of Sunday, November 7, 2021, with a deliberately orchestrated and misleading headline entitled “FG To Merge NDDC With Niger Delta Ministry.” Nothing can be further from the truth.

This pooh-pooh story which was written by an otherwise reputable newspaper through its reporter, Okodili Ndidi, in Abuja, chose to elevate speculative journalism to the dizzying heights of fiction and hearsay when he mendaciously quoted in the odious report that an unnamed, and obviously non-existent “official of the ministry (of Niger Delta Affairs) told The Nation that the unfolding process is largely responsible for the delay in reconstituting the NDDC board.”

Nothing can be more irresponsible from an otherwise tested stable that readers rely on for accurate, fair, and balanced news reporting that affect the development of our country, and in this case, a volatile Niger Delta region that is at tenterhooks following the ongoing illegality in NDDC with the two-year imposition of the interim management and sole administrator contraption that is alien to the law setting up NDDC. Sadly, it is the height of irresponsibility for the newspaper to rush to the press with a fabricated report as this without an official confirmation from a named official in government.

Also in The Nation’s vexatious report, the obviously ill-informed Okodili Ndidi, wrote that “Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) may soon be history following plans to transfer its functions to the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs.” Nothing, again, can be further from the truth. For the avoidance of doubt and proper guidance of gullible Niger Deltans and Nigerians we wish to state the facts, that NDDC is an Act of Parliament established by “Niger-Delta Development Commission (Establishment etc) Act 2000 Act No 6 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria.” Consequently, no change whatsoever, no matter how miniscule, can be effected to the manner of governing the Commission through an executive administrative fiat of the Federal Government, but only through a process of National Assembly amendment or repeal of the NDDC establishment Act.

 To be clear, NDDC, according to its establishment Act, is a Commission owned by the people of its nine constituent states and in that regard the Act provides for a Governing Board with representatives from each of the nine constituent states. It also provides for an Advisory Committee comprising the Governors of the nine constituent states. As a result it cannot be whimsically transferred to a Ministry of the Federal Government. NDDC is therefore a Commission set-up by law to cater to the peculiar needs of the Niger Delta people and majorly funded by statutory allocations meant for the constituent nine (9) Niger Delta states.

The law is unambiguous on this because in Section 14 (1 & 2) of the NDDC Establishment Act 2000, Number 6, it categorically states thus:

“The Commission shall establish and maintain a fund from which shall be defrayed all expenditure incurred by the Commission. (2) There shall be paid and credited to the fund established pursuant to subsection (1) of this section- (a) from the Federal Government, the equivalent of 15 percent of the total monthly statutory allocations due to member States of the Commission from the Federation Account; this being the contribution of the, Federal Government to the Commission- (b) 3 percent of the total annual budget of any oil producing company operating, on shore and off shore, in the Niger-Delta Area; including gas processing companies; (c) 50 percent of monies due to member States of the Commission from the Ecological Fund.”

So, on what basis and backed by which law will the NDDC be forcefully merged with the Federal Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, and for the ministry to begin to appropriate funds lawfully accruable to NDDC?

From the aforementioned, it is clearly discernible that the Nation Newspaper, through its misguided reporter, Okodili Ndidi, is working with fifth columnists to create this unnecessary subterfuge to cause disaffection in the region at a critical time that Niger Deltans are focused on, and legitimately demanding that the Federal Government should immediately inaugurate the substantive Board of NDDC, that is already long overdue, moreso following President Buhari’s promise on June 24, 2021 when he hosted the leadership of Ijaw National Congress, to inaugurate the Board of the Commission upon receipt of the report of the Commission’s forensic audit, which report he received since September 2, 2021.

The President said: ‘‘Based on the mismanagement that had previously bedeviled the NDDC, a forensic audit was set up and the result is expected by the end of July, 2021. I want to assure you that as soon as the forensic audit report is submitted and accepted, the NDDC Board will be inaugurated.”

At a time that the tension in the entire region is at fever pitch, when all stakeholders, men, women, youths, traditional institutions, civil society organisations, professional groups, elders, and governors, are already genuinely provoked at the ongoing delay in the inauguration of the NDDC Board, it is rather shameful that the Nation newspaper will allow its medium to be used for such mischievous and fabricated publication orchestrated by dubious characters to trigger crisis of unimaginable proportions.

We therefore call on the Nation newspaper to further desist from this unpatriotic act, and also unequivocally demand an apology to Niger Deltans and withdraw this misleading report, failing which the newspaper shall be wholly held vicariously responsible and liable for any untoward actions that erupt in the region on account of this red herring and patently mischievous, false, and diabolical report.

Ebizomor Brisibe, President and Edem Archibong, Secretary of Niger Delta United Congress

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