The change of mood began since Effiong Akwa was named sole administrator to take over from Daniel Pondei, who was dethroned by the courts after protracted warfare in all directions.
The governors beginning with the host, Nyesom Wike, have started saying they would work with the NDDC. Next, the House Committee chairman on Niger Delta in the House of Representatives said the House was ready to work with the new NDDC leadership. The budget of the commission which was a centre of controversy got some favourable outcome.
Now, Peter Nwaoboshi, chairman of, Senate Committee on Niger Delta Affairs, has assured the NDDC of the support and collaboration of his committee in the task of developing the oil-rich region.
Speaking during the oversight visit of the Senate Committee at the NDDC permanent headquarters in Port Harcourt, Nwaboshi, who was severally accused by the former Interim Management Committee (IMC) of mountainous contract matters, stated that the Commission’s strategy of engagement and collaboration was important for progress in the Niger Delta region.
“The Interim Administrator, Efiong Akwa, has been so nice in terms of reaching out, communicating and discussing. He opened discussions with us. He apologised for whatever happened in the past and he told us that he is ready to work for the people of the Niger Delta region. We are happy that he accepted that there is a need for cooperation and collaboration for Niger Delta to move forward,” Nwaoboshi said.
The Senate committee chairman assured that they would continue to collaborate with the interim administrator and the NDDC for as long as Akwa remained as the chief executive officer of the commission.
“We don’t have any problem with anybody. Let’s be clear on that. This committee has no problem with anybody. But if in the course of our oversight function, we step on toes, it is because it is our duty. What happened in the past happened in the course of our oversight function,” Nwaoboshi said.
“No commission is perfect because you cannot satisfy everybody. You started well by bringing peace and giving people the opportunity to discuss. I assure you that we have an open mind to collaborate and cooperate in the interest of the Niger Delta region.
“The Interim Administrator appeared before us and we told him that to whom much is given, much is expected. We are here to represent the Senate and our function is to make sure that the interests of the people of the Niger Delta region are protected. We oversight the NDDC, Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs and the Presidential Amnesty Programme,” he said.
Nwaoboshi expressed delight over the completion of the NDDC permanent headquarters, noting that the Committee had appropriated N16 billion for the completion of the headquarters building.
“We are happy to sit at the headquarters today. Yes, it has taken time and money, but the fact is that it is completed today. We have come to see how the money has been used in executing the project. We want to know whether the money was well spent.
“We told him that we are not going to visit the sins of others on him. The reported bench warrant for the arrest of the Interim Administrator is not true. I have cross-checked with the committee chairman and he said they were yet to take action on that,” he said.
Nwaoboshi remarked that the Senate was still investigating the issues connected with the NDDC COVID-19 palliative funds, adding, “We are aware that the NDDC interim administrator was not part of the NDDC leadership team at the time.”
He noted that Akwa was appointed as acting executive director, Finance and Administration of the Commission in August 2020, a month after the National Assembly probed the matter, stating that he was not a party to any of the transactions on the palliatives.
Welcoming members of the Senate Committee to the NDDC permanent headquarters, Akwa thanked them for the oversight visit.
He commended the Committee for their unflinching support for the NDDC, noting that the support was critical for the development and progress of the Niger Delta region.
“For about a year we had a misunderstanding with some members of the National Assembly. The members are noble men and they had to bend backwards to bury the hatchet in the interest of the region. When I went to the joint session of the Senate and the House of Representatives to defend the 2020 budget, they cooperated with us. I assured them that we will insist on doing the right thing at the NDDC,” Akwa said.
The interim administrator later took members of the Senate Committee on a tour of the newly completed headquarters complex.