AN OPEN LETTER TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA
In what can only be described as a most perplexing trend, it seems to have become quite fashionable of late for all manner of persons to have become desperately fixated on the issue of tenure of the present board of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC. Of crucial importance to these rabble-rousers is to insist that the tenure of the present NDDC board expires this December, 2017 on the basis of their claim that the said board was appointed to complete the tenure of the board it succeeded and that as such, its tenure must expire when that of the erstwhile board should have expired.
Unless, they intend to unilaterally rewrite the enabling law for the National Assembly, then one must suppose they are placing reliance on section 5, subsection 3 of that law which provides that where a vacancy occurs in the membership of the Board it shall be filled by the appointment of a successor to hold office for the remainder of the term of office of his predecessor, so however, that the successor shall represent the same interest and shall be appointed by the President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces subject to the confirmation of the Senate in consultation with the House of representatives.
Now clearly this provision applies to situations in which THERE IS A SUBSTANTIVE BOARD IN PLACE and a vacancy or indeed a number of vacancies happen to occur therein. Nowhere in this or any other section of the act is there even the slightest indication that such tenure completion is envisaged for the entire board or even that a new board might complete the tenure of a sacked one. Thus in contemplating such vacancies and their replacements, the law envisages that the board is still in existence, and that as such, any corresponding replacements on the board become part of that board as if originating with it from its beginning, wherefore such replacements must exit with those members of the board they joined midway.
Thus in the present scenario, unless there are members of the former board that was sacked that are still serving in the present board, and even at that, serving in the present board, not on the basis of a fresh appointment but on the basis of their appointment into the sacked board, then there was no substantive board in existence when the members of the present board came on board, wherefore there are no sitting board members that they met on ground and joined and therefore no board members whose tenure should expire in December 2017, whom they must then exit with.
Thus even if certain members of the former board had been retained in the present board, unless their membership is based on the original appointments they were given four years ago, and unless they were not given fresh appointments with their other colleagues last year, their tenure cannot be deemed to expire this December since the fresh appointment would serve in law to have superseded their previous appointment and they would therefore be deemed to have been given a fresh mandate of four years alongside their new colleagues.
The present NDDC Board as led by Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba, as Chairman and Nsima Ekere, the commission’s Managing Director, did not meet any board members on ground when it took over at the commission, did not join up with any other members from the board it succeeded, have no reference point whatsoever, from the point of view of tenure with the erstwhile board, and cannot possibly be envisaged under any legal parameters as liable to exit their offices with persons no longer on the board!
That President Muhammadu Buhari, in his wisdom, while constituting a new board, decided to distribute the posts in the new board in generally the same manner in which they were distributed in the previous board was clearly inspired by the fact that the sacked board did not complete its full tenure and so he felt it would only be equitable to give the various states their due in the new board. However, this is not at all in fulfillment of any legal obligations specifically imposed by section 5, subsection 3 of the enabling law, since that section does not at all apply to an entire board. Rather, it is in fulfillment of his general power to appoint the board, under the act, and pursuant to his discretion to constitute the board howsoever he deems fit, in so far as he does not break the law in exercising that discretion. Simple!
In fact, contrary to what the rather rascally elements who are already arrogantly accusing the President of corruption if the board is not dissolved in December are calling for, it is actually dissolving the board in December that would constitute a monumental illegality since there is simply no mechanism in the enabling law of the NDDC vide which the tenure of a fresh board could be so abridged.
In any case, even assuming, without conceding, that the present board, despite its clear fresh mandate and lack of any nexus whatsoever with the previous board, is nevertheless extraordinarily completing the tenure of that board, how can its tenure be deemed to expire this December when there was a Sole Administrator from Rivers State who served quite a while and comes from a state other than that of the sacked or present Managing Director?
In any case, even the political paradigms those seeking the extralegal ouster of the NDDC board seem to be mistaking for legal stipulations are clearly still untenable here. That in the past when the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, held sway, boards were being sacked, replaced, constituted or reconstituted without recourse to the dictates of the law, does not make such wanton rascality morally right nor confer legality on the patently unlawful. That we might have been flagrantly violating the law in the past for reasons of political expedience or indeed pure ignorance does not at all mean that we are thereby somehow now inextricably shackled to illegality or must continue to subordinate the law to crass ignorance or executive rascality!
That it was the trademark of the PDP to wallow in ignorance, bathe in illegality or swim in executive rascality cannot at all mean that we must now continue in such governmental brigandage when PDP is not even the party in power! So, the mere fact that during the halcyon days of the PDP, we might have induced one board to complete the tenure of another without any backup for such expedients in the enabling law does not at all mean that an All Progressives Congress, APC, administration should do the same!
Indeed, even if we were somehow minded to brazenly break the law and follow in the rascally footsteps of the PDP, how can it possibly be politically tenable that an APC board as the present NDDC board should complete the tenure of the PDP board that was sacked? What is the business of APC with completing the tenure of PDP? Is the present APC administration of President Buhari completing the previous tenure of the PDP administration of President Jonathan? How can it then be the board President Buhari has deemed fit to appoint for the NDDC that should now be deemed to be completing the tenure of a board that was appointed by President Jonathan?
Imagine the utter insolence of supposing that men like Ndoma-Egba and Nsima Ekere, in spite of their sterling credentials of towering performance before they were appointed to their present positions, were only drafted in to complete the tenure of the discredited PDP board they replaced! Somebody out there seriously thinks that an APC board will complete the tenure of a PDP board? In a change dispensation? How do some people even reason?
Many boards inherited from the PDP have been dissolved already in this dispensation before their tenures would otherwise have expired. The new boards that the APC administration has constituted to replace them, are they completing the tenures of such sacked boards or are they enjoying a fresh mandate as part and parcel of a new administration? On what basis should the case of the present NDDC board be any different? Is Godwin Emmiefele still completing Lamido Sanusi’s tenure till today? What sort of people are these?
It would appear that the loudest calls for breaking the law by abridging the tenure of the present NDDC board have been emanating from Bayelsa. I would advise my fellow Niger Deltan compatriots from Bayelsa to be careful what they wish for. According to the alphabetical order prescribed by the enabling law, the next state to produce the Chairman for the NDDC in the next dispensation is Delta State. Furthermore, the convention for appointing the commission’s Managing Director will also bring this position to Delta in the next dispensation since the post has finally gone round the four major oil-producing states of Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers and Akwa Ibom. Nothing – absolutely nothing either in law or in convention – says otherwise!
Thus, next time around, these two posts must come to Delta and the two Executive Directorships will accordingly be tossed amongst the three other major oil-producing states of Bayelsa, Rivers and Akwa-Ibom. If someone in Bayelsa is dreaming that he is about to become Chairman or Managing Director any time soon, he is only dreaming a delicious dream soon to become a most unpalatable nightmare! These posts will come to Bayelsa in time but certainly not for now.
Before that time comes and that is after Delta has held both the Chairmanship and Managing Directorship in the next dispensation, the tenure of the present NDDC board is as stipulated in the commission’s enabling law. It is a full tenure of four years, full stop.
Barr. JESUTEGA ONOKPASA,
178 Sapele/Warri Road,
The Honourable Speaker of the House of Representatives.
The Secretary to the Government of the Federation.
The Honorable Attorney General of the Federation.