Crisis Hits Niger Delta Commission, NDDC As Board Members Stop Chairman, Lauretta Onochie; From Appointing 18 Special Assistants
Crisis hits Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) over an alleged attempt by the Chairman of the Governing Board of the agency, Lauretta Onochie, to take over the duties of the Managing Director, Dr Samuel Ogbuku.
The composition of the NDDC board has been a subject of controversy in recent times, with the inclusion of certain persons – an action which has been roundly condemned by Nigerians.
Also, some Ilaje stakeholders in the oil-producing area of Ondo State have sued President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration over the composition of the agency’s board.
The commission had been without a board for nearly four years following some controversies surrounding the leadership of the commission.
But the Senate on December 20, 2022, confirmed the nominations of the Chairman and board members of the commission after President Buhari sent their names in accordance with the NDDC (Establishment) Act, 2008.
Those confirmed and inaugurated by the President, apart from Onochie include Dimga Erugba (Abia), Emem Wills (Akwa Ibom), Dimaro Denyanbofa (Bayelsa), Oruk Duke (Cross River), Gbenga Edema (Ondo) and Elekwachi Dinkpa (Rivers).
Others are Mohammed Abubakar (Nasarawa), Sule-Iko Sani (Kebbi), Tahir Mamman (Adamawa), Samuel Ogbuku (Bayelsa) MD for a term of two years, Charles Airhiavbere (Edo) Director of Finance and Charles Ogunmola (Ondo) Director of Projects.
On Wednesday, a source at the commission said a board meeting called by Onochie during the week was shunned by board members.
He added that the former presidential media aide attempted to create the office of the ‘Executive Chairperson’ and also proposed to have 18 Special Assistants, which were rejected.
“NDDC commissioners have moved against Onochie. Imagine, this woman tried to create the office of ‘Executive Chairperson’. She even demanded to have 18 Special Assistants to be working for her.
“She asked to be allowed to draw budgets and take over the duties of the Managing Director. The federal commissioner however resisted her by refusing to attend a meeting she summoned.
“They later sent a message to her that she’s only to chair board meetings and allow the MD to do his job.”
Onochie is not new to controversies; despite being the Personal Assistant to the President on New Media, Buhari nominated her as a commissioner for the Independent National Electoral Commission in 2020, sparking public outrage.
Many criticised the appointment considering her position as a presidential aide, an alleged member of the ruling All Progressives Congress and a vocal campaigner for the party and critic of the opposition parties.
They described Onochie as partisan, saying she will never be objective and neutral as an INEC commissioner.
In July 2021, the Senate rejected Onochie’s controversial appointment as INEC national commissioner after considering the report of its committee on INEC.
In its report, the committee disqualified Onochie based on federal character principles. It was also noted that there was a serving commissioner from her home state, Delta.
Her appointment as the Chair of the Governing Board of the NDDC also attracted criticism.
For instance, a human rights lawyer and activist, Chief Malcolm Omirhobo, described Onochie as unfit for the post.
The lawyer described Onochie as a woman who lacked moral standards to administer the affairs of the NDDC.
Omirhobo had said in a statement, “In view of the importance of NDDC to the people of Niger Delta, it follows that its chairman must be sound, upright, credible Nigerian with high level of integrity and moral standing which is why when I read that Lauretta Onochie has been appointed as its chairperson, I became concerned because I know it as a fact that Onochie is not qualified to occupy that position and my argument is simply that she is a desperate, bloody liar.
“In 2021 in a bid to clinch INEC appointment while appearing before the Senate for screening threw away her dignity and self-respect when she lied to the entire country that she was not a member of the APC and an ardent supporter of President Buhari.
“Despite telling a lie and keeping a straight face, she could not erase the fact that she had earlier on registered as No. 2 in Ward 4, Aniocha North Local Government Area of Delta State, during the APC Nationwide membership registration exercise.
“In addition, in the case of Lauretta Onochie Vs Emeka Agwuonye before the FCT High Court, Abuja, she had deposed affirmatively inter alia that she is a member of the All Progressives Congress and a Volunteer at the Buhari Support Organisation (B.SO).”
“The above shows clearly that Onochie lacks integrity and moral grounds to be entrusted with such a sensitive job that borders on modifying the will of the people of the Niger Delta. I urge the Senate to reject her nomination by President Buhari as chairman of NNDC,” he had added.