Unveiling The N.D.D.C Debacle: A Legal Panorama -By Bebenimibo Bright
The continuous emergence of allegations of rancorous corruption in the Niger Delta Development Commission besides evidence of failure of the commission to effect notable development in the region since its establishment in the year 2000 has led to divergent opinions and consequential executive directions.
The current democratic dispensation of Muhammed Buhari dissolved the defunct board composed of Mr. Nsima Ekere as the then Managing Director and Senator Victor Ndoma was the then Chairman of the Governing Board. The presidency has since from the 24th of January, 2019 appointed acting officers in the in a substantive capacity namely: Prof. Nelson Brambraifa led Interim Management Committee (25th January to August, 2019), Dr. Akwagaga Eniyia led Interim Management Committee (30th August to 30th October, 2019), Joi Nunieh led Interim Management Committee (30th October to 19th February, 2020) and currently Prof. Kemebradikumo Pondei led committee from 19th February 2020 to this day.
The writer intends to look at the propriety of the continuous appointment of acting officers without recourse to the National Assembly. The writer farther scrutinizes obvious statutory and constitutional establishments to increase transparency without the ordeal of constituting Interim Management Committees while urging the presidency to reconstitute the N.D.D.C Board and recourse to better modus operandi aptly provided for forensic audit without gruesomely setting up Interim Management Committees.
THE PROPRIETY OF A CONTINUOUS APPOINTMENT OF ACTING OFFICERS IN THE N.D.D.C
It is most notable that since the dissolution of defunct Board in January 2019, there has been a repetitive appointment of acting officers leading to the formation and administrations of several “Interim Management Committees. It is as well important to note that this current I.M.C makes the fourth of such committee.
The Niger Delta Development Commission Act 2000 (as amended) is clearly silent or rather deficient about what applies when appointments, confirmation and composition of the Governing Board has not been made, this pursuantly creates provision for application of the Interpretation Act 2004. S. 1 of the Interpretation Act 2004 provides This Act shall apply to the provision of any enactment except in far as the contrary intentions appear in the Act or enactment in question”
In its definition of appointment S.11 (1) of the Interpretation Act 2004 herein paraphrased; where an enactment confers a power to appoint a person either to an office or exercise any function whether for a specified period or not, the power includes to appoint a person to act this place, either generally or in regard to specified functions during such time as in considered expedient is vested. The writer makes reference to Jibrilu v. Jubril (2012) ALL FWLR (Pt. 638) 923 C. A.
Therefore the appointment of such officer to act in the time being by the president who has the powers to make such appointment suffices according to the period he may deem expedient for such appointment. This shows an obvious lacuna in our legal system when compared to other jurisdictions particularly the United States of America where there is Federal Vacancies Act that suitably provides for the criteria for such an appointment and appointees.
THE FAILURE OF THE PRESIDENCY TO EMPLOY STATUTORY OR CONSTITUTIONAL MODUS OPERANDI IN ITS FINANCIAL AUDIT
The basic rationale stated by the presidency in appointing acting officers of N.D.D.C hinges firmly on its desire to conduct a forensic audit of the commission. The audit is expected to encompass previous administration up to the creation of the commission in the year 2000. This forensic audit is geared to ensure increasing accountability upon allegations of misappropriations including those administrations under acting capacities as it was. While the motive of the presidency is laudable it is the writer submission that the presidency has failed to employ or avert attention to obvious statutory and constitutional modus operandi established to ensure transparency. These statutory and constitutional establishments aptly include:
- The Monitoring Committee:
S.21 of the Niger Delta Development Commission Act 2000 (as amended) establishes a Monitoring Committee and copiously provides for the appointment of such number of persons from the Public Service or Civil Service at the president direction without a requirement for confirmation by the senate in consultation with House of Representative. This statutory committee is empowered to monitor the management of projects and expenditure of funds of the commission. The committee is also empowered to have access to books of account and other records more so submit a periodical record to the president. This particularly means the statutory monitoring committee can conduct a forensic audit to the presidency without the turmoil or embarrassment of appointing any acting officers and thus such action is apparently ill advised.
- The Anti-Graft Agencies:
The presidency can similarly order for an independent investigation into various allegations of acrimonious squandermania and misappropriation on any official capacity where immunity does not apply although its anti-graft agencies such as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
- Senate and House of Representatives Committees
The National Assembly has broad oversight functions and accordingly empowered to establish committees of its members in order to scrutinize bills or conduct of any government. The presidency may save cost and time by simply adopting this constitutional modus operandi to probe into allegations of misappropriation or squandermania through their reports and recommendations.
It is submission of the author that the presidency did not particularly err-in-law in accordance to the extant law for the appointment of acting officers without the confirmation of the senate in consultation of the House of Representative. Though the writer is aware of the fact that during this period an appointment list was sent to the senate and after the confirmation, it was subsequently rescinded by the presidency. This obviously shows an apparent lacuna in our legal system in comparism to the United States of America. Whereas, the writer also submits that the presidency failed woefully or disregarded the application of appropriate statutory and constitutional modus operandi in its quest for financial audit of the Niger Delta Development Commission.
Bebenimibo Bright is a Legal Practitioner and Consultant
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