*waves away demand to embargo NDDC accounts
By Ignatius Chukwu
The governors of the South-South said they noticed grievous constitutional breach whereby the board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) has not been inaugurated whereas funds were going to an administrator to run the commission. They demanded for embargo on the accounts except for salaries.
Now, the supervising Minister, senator Godswill Akpabio, has hit back at them, asking them to remove the log in their eyes by conducting LGA elections before fighting for constitutionalism. He said they have severally breached a major portion of the Constitution by not conducting free and fair elections into LGAs only to ask for an embargo on an agency that for not getting a board.
The demand by the south-south governors for an embargo to be placed on the accounts of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) until a board is inaugurated has attracted a salvo of verbal bullets from the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godwill Akpabio, who asked the governors to first conduct local council elections turning champions of constitutionalism.
As if he saw kettle calling pot black, Akpabio told newsmen at the new NDDC Tower in Port Harcourt on Tuesday, March 9, 2021, that not conducting local council elections was more grievous than not inaugurating a board. He reasoned that if Mr President were to follow the implication of the demand of the governors, the accounts of many LGAs would have been frozen or their allocations would have been lodged in escrow accounts pending when proper elections would be conducted.
He wondered why the party in power in every state would sweep all elections in the LGAs in that state, yet the presidency had not sanctions such elections.
He said if the logic was that the NDDC board has not been inaugurated and so their funds should be put in escrow account, then the accounts of the various local council areas that have no elected council chairmen and councilors would since be embargoed until proper elections, not mere announcement of names, was done.
The south-south governors had Monday night directed President Buhari to embargo the NDDC accounts except salaries until the board was inaugurated. Answering questions from newsmen the next day, the minister said he was not aware that governors do give directives to a president.
Worse still, he pointed out that the governors were members of the opposition and had no right to direct a ruling party.
He said he was not yet sure the South-South governors made such a demand, saying he would personally find out. Gov Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State had addressed the press as chairman of the governors in the region where he made the demand in Port Harcourt and also asked for 10 per cent in the PIB for host communities instead of the recommended 2.5 per cent.
Akpabio, who was a two-time governor, senator, and now minister said the boards were there over the decades but failed to make the Commission achieve any tangible feats especially their failure to get the N16Bn new headquarters to be completed. He said it has taken an administrator to do what boards did not do.
He however pleaded with the governors to wait for the forensic audit in about two months time so the board can be inaugurated because bringing a board with old terms of reference would destroy the reforms going on that would be anchored on the outcome of the forensic audit.
The world press conference was hoisted by the Administrator of the NDDC, Effiong Akwa, to herald the presidential commissioning of the NDDC Tower at Marine Base area of Port Harcourt to hold on Thursday, March 11, 2021.