President Muhammadu Buhari has relieved the Managing Director and Chairman of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) Bassey Dan Abia, of his appointment and subsequently appointed Ibim Seminitari, as the acting head of the commission.
Seminitari was commissioner of information in the administration of Rotimi Amaechi, former Governor of Rivers state.
The dissolved board of the commission had recently asked the National Industrial Court sitting in Abuja, to declare that President Muhammadu Buhari has no powers to sack them as their appointments are governed by statutes and for a fixed period, as same period has not expired.
The Federal Government had recently sent circulars through the office of Secretary to the Government of the Federation, dated July 16, 2015, Ref. No. SGF.19/S.81/XIX/964 and July 23, 2015, Ref. No. SGF.55/S.2 that all boards stand dissolved.
The Sen Bassey Ewa-Henshaw led board, through their counsel, Mr Ebun-Olu Adegborowa, is contending that the circular were wrongly applied to NDDC.
They are praying the court to; “Declare that the letters respectively, are ultra vires, ineffective and ineffectual to ground the dissolution of the 4th Governing Board of the NDDC and the same are invalid, null and void and of no effect whatsoever, in so far as they relate to the dissolution of the said Governing Board.
According to them; “By virtue of the NDDC Establishment Act, the Governing Board of the commission cannot be dissolved, either through the letters dated July 16, 2015, Ref. No. SGF.19/S.81/XIX/964 and July 23, 2015, Ref. No. SGF.55/S.2, respectively, or in any other manner that constitutes a violation of sections 2,3,5 and other extant provisions of the said NDDC Act.”
Defendants in the suit are the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Senate and House of Representatives. Their counsel pointed out that by virtue of section 6 (6) of the 1999 Constitution as amended, once parties have submitted their dispute before a competent court, none of them is allowed to resort to self-help or to take any step that may jeopardize the due hearing of the matter on its merit.
It was learnt that the commission was sacked for alleged mismanagement of funds of the commission running into billions of Naira, the Presidency has summoned the management of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, to answer questions on the true financial status of the agency.
Competent sources confirmed to Vanguard that the President would meet the management team of the NDDC and take them up on many issues relating to the management of the resources of the commission since the new board came on board in December 2013.
Buhari, according to sources close to his office, is furious that the management has allowed influential politicians to hijack the agency and made away with billions of Naira under the guise of executing contracts with little or no result on the ground to show for such money.
It was learnt that the President would seek answers to why the commission refused to adhere to due process in the award of major contracts valued at billions of Naira, preferring instead to split them in violation of the Public Procurement Act.
The President is reported to have been furious that the commission went ahead to award multi-billion naira contracts, paid and backdated them to last year to cover the financial misdeed even after the board had been sacked with a specific mandate to the managing director to take over the place.
It was also learnt that the meeting, which is to take place at the Presidential Villa this week, is to enable President Muhammadu Buhari to get first brief from the Managing Director, Mr. Dan Abia and the two executive directors of Finance and Projects, Henry Ogiri and Engr. Tuoyo Omatsuli on what they have been doing to move the troubled region forward since they were appointed to office in December 2013 by former President Goodluck Jonathan.
It was learnt that the managing director, who had accused the CBN of withholding the money was shocked on reaching the CBN to discover that two of his directors had secretly signed and collected the huge amount and paid to their ‘contractor-friends’ without his knowledge.
The struggle for the control of the finances of the commission is said to have reached its most embarrassing point about two months ago when two directors of the commission connived and withdrew N3.8 billion from the NDDC account in the Central Bank of Nigeria and paid the money to their favoured contractors drawn from their own states, leaving the managing director in the dark.
The briefing by the three key officials will also determine the next line by Buhari regarding their continued stay in office given the gamut of petitions of wrongdoing against them by Niger Delta stakeholders, individuals and groups.