By Matthew Ogune, Abuja
Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, has said that the delay in the formation of a board to oversee the affairs of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) was caused by lack of budgetary allocation, poor logistics and the outbreak of the Covid 19 pandemic.
Akpabio who stated this yesterday in Abuja after a close door meeting with the leadership of the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC), blamed the protest currently rocking the region on lack of communication between the government and the youths of the region, maintaining that the youths have understood that the ministry was never behind the delay in the formation of NDDC board.
According to the Minister, it was not out of place for youths and elders from the region to agitate for a board to re-position the NDDC based on the fact that the interventionist agency have failed to leave up to expectations for over 19years of existence
According to him the federal government is looking at those issues that necessitated the protest to ensure that dramatic steps are taken to sustain the already existing peace in the region.
Akpabio said he has assured youths that the ongoing forensic audit is in the interest of the region and also for the future of the NDDC, adding: “Because even the staffs of the NDDC are interested in the forensic audit because it will enable them secure their pension when they are not working there again.”
According to him, a board for the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) will be constituted after the forensic audit ordered by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Akpabio recalled that the audit exercise was to be completed within six months. But he regretted that the exercise was extended by three months due to logistics problem.
He disclosed that the auditors have already submitted two interim reports to the president, adding that by July, the auditors are expected to submit their final report to pave way for the inauguration of the board.
“I have assured them that the ongoing forensic audit is in the interest of the region and also for the future of the NDDC, because even the staffs of the NDDC are interested in the forensic audit because it will enable them secure their pension when they are not working there again.
“Due to logistics reason beyond the control of the the ministry, the six months target could not be met and the auditors requested for additional three months to enable them submit their final report.
“All things been equal three months from today, Mr. President will receive the final report and inaugurate the board, give them terms of reference as well as modules operandi that will move the region forward and ensure a more productive and efficient board.”
Akpabio, who remarked that the Niger Delta which has been one of the most peaceful regions in the country, should not allow itself to be plunged into crisis, promising that the issues tabled by the youths from the region will be addressed.
Responding on behalf of IYC, the national PRO, Ebilade Ekerefe insisted that the insincerity of the government about the formation of NDDC board led to the protest and appealed to youths in the region to remain peaceful as they agitate for better governance.
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