Some Bayelsa State traditional rulers, under the auspices of Paramount Rulers Forum for Oil Host Communities in Niger Delta, have backed President Muhammadu Buhari’s directive for the forensic audit of the Niger Delta Development Commission.
The traditional rulers, however, asked President Buhari and the National Assembly to halt the planned probe of the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, and the Interim Management Committee of the NDDC, pending the conclusion of the forensic audit.
The monarchs made these positions known in a letter to President Buhari dated June 22, 2020, but made available to select journalists in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State capital, on Friday.
They contended that those calling for the probe of Akpabio and the Prof. Kemebradikumo Pondei-led interim management committee were bent on sweeping the forensic probe under the carpet by truncating and frustrating the ongoing forensic audit.
The letter was signed by 21 prominent first-class and second-class monarchs, including His Royal Majesty Consul Oluku, Ibedawei of Akassa Kingdom; HRM Gabriel Okiakpe, Pere of Gbanraun; HRM Paul Seide, Ibedawei of Bilabiri Kingdom; His Royal Highness, D.D.A Akpele, Amayanabo of Sangana and HRH Alfred Perekebina, Central Coordinator and Convener of Paramount Rulers, among others.
They stated, “Our reasons or supporting you Mr President is that the NDDC was established based on the agitations of the riverine Niger Delta (Ijaw) oil host Communities who demanded resource control from the Federal Government which resultant negotiations gave birth to the NDDC with the sole mandate of delivering empowerment and infrastructural development (projects) to the oil producing areas whose people are impoverished.
“However, the erstwhile NDDC officials failed to empower and develop the areas as mandated, but siphoned, diverted and embezzled money amounting to several hundreds of billions of naira to enrich themselves leaving the people in a state of perpetual poverty level till date.
“We, therefore, agree totally with your Excellency for your your thoughtfulness and the appointment of IMC to provide every detail about the NDDC for the forensic auditors to show proof of where the monies allocated to the NDDC in the last 20 years are kept while we are dying in abject poverty.
“The reason the riverine oil host Communities are suffering in the hands of successive mnagement of the commission is because it is not every part of the South-South that has oil. The South-South has two ecological zones – the mainland and the riverine areas. And the oil is found mostly in all parts of the riverine while it is not so in the mainland.”
They appealed to Buhari to stand firm and support Akpabio and Pondei-led IMC by using his constitutional powers and oversight functions to strengthen the commission to make the people of the region appreciate the roles the Federal Government had played in alleviating the plight of the region.
The monarchs further craved Buhari’s indulgence to make nominations and appointments of persons from oil producing communities and local government areas, just the way Akpabio and Pondei were rightly nominated and appointed.
They said such right nominations and appointments would douse the tension of the once volatile region as the Federal Government took pains, time and money to bring about peace in the region.
“Therefore, nothing should be done to destroy the hard earned peace in the region by reminding the people of the region of their dark past days,” the traditional rulers said.