Former Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, on Tuesday, on the floor of the Senate accused the Presidency of sabotaging the legislative arm of government.
The senator representing Enugu West made the remarks in his contribution to the confirmation of 16, out of the 17 nominees for the board of the Niger Delta Development Commission(NDDC) sent to the Senate by President Muhamadu Buhari.
Chairman of the Senate Committee on Niger Delta, Peter Nwaoboshi, ( Delta North) whose Committee was assigned to screen the nominees laid his team report before the Red Chamber.
Senator Ekweremadu said the composition of an Interim Management committee to manage the agency by the Presidency while the Senate was screening the nominees’ list dispatched to it was indicative of lack of respect for the legislative arm.
Findings revealed that the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio had inaugurated the Interim Management Committee with Dr Joy Yimebe Nunieh as chairman. Incidentally, Dr Nunieh was the Rivers state nominee in the list sent for Senate approval by President Buhari but she did not show up for the screening.
Senator Ekweremadu said the interim committee was meant to sabotage the statutory, legislative role of the Senate.
He said: “Some of us are aware that there is an interim management committee. We cannot be encouraging that kind of sabotage or undermining the powers of the national assembly. We made a law here stating that there would be a board for the NDDC and anything outside that for me amounts to sabotage and the names of the nominees are supposed to be sent to the national assembly.
“This is one of the few acts of the National Assembly that requires the approval of the Senate and the House of Representatives. I think the other approval is that which relates to the Service chiefs, outside these two it is usually the Senate that approves nomination from the President where it is required, that tells you it is important for the approval of the national assembly in the NDDC boards.
“So for any person to begin to set up Interim Management Board, I believe it is something that should not be acceptable to the national assembly. So the earlier we approve of these nominees and sent to the President the better for all of us so that they can get to work and the issue of the interim management would be set aside. I want to use this opportunity to appeal that henceforth, we must be able to abide by the laws we made for ourselves and not try to sabotage any arm of Government.”
While trying to placate his agitated colleagues, the President of the Senate said the interim committee would cease to exist once President Buhari approved the list of screened nominees.
He said: “I think there is no ambiguity in this matter. The President sent to the Senate his request for us to confirm his nominees. As soon as we conclude on this process the confirmation I am sure, that any other structure that exists now is vitiated so I don’t think we have anything to worry about because that is one thing that is very clearly established by the law.
“I also want to urge our committee on NDDC that after this management takes over the management of the NDDC, we need to.do proper oversight. This goes for all other committees.
“You will recall that the President had cause to ask for a total probe of what happened with the finances of the NDDC. This I think is not an indictment on us but I think it should be a cause for worry because I think we have to continuously oversight where public funds are put for the development of our people.
“The NDDC committee, you have a lot of work to do, you must make sure that whatever is budgeted for the Commission is prudently and efficiently put to use and I believe that in the next few days, we will communicate to the President the outcome of our confirmation.
“What we pray for is for the nominees that have been entrusted with the management of the NNDC to keep the trust, to discharge the responsibilities bestowed on them by the NDDC Act to ensure that people of Niger Delta get the value for the money, that all the development projects, are projects that will change the lives of the people for the better. As I said at the beginning, we have to do our oversight. We must ensure that every kobo counts. We must ensure value for money. Unfortunately, the NDDC has established some undesirable reputation and that is why Mr. President set up the panel for the probe on what has happened in the past. We must ensure that we remain alert as a legislature because it is our responsibility to ensure that public funds are properly put to use while we wish this team the best in their endeavour that they stay committed to the ideals for which the NDDC was set up in the first place.”
The nominees confirmed by the Senate were, Dr Pius Odubu (Edo), Chairman; Bernard Okumagba (Delta), Managing Director; Engr. Otobong Ndem (Akwa-Ibom), Executive Director (Projects); Maxwell Oko (Bayelsa), Executive Director, Finance and Admin; Jones Erue (Delta), and Chief Victor Ekhator (Edo).
Others were: Nwogu N. Nwogu (Abia), Theodore Allison (Bayelsa), Victor Antai (Akwa-Ibom), Maurice Effiwatt (Cross River), Olugbenga Edema (Ondo), Hon. Uchegbu Chidiebere Kyrian (Imo), Aisha Murtala Muhammed (Kano), Shuaibu Ardo Zubairu (Adamawa), and Ambassador Abdullahi Bage (Nasarawa).
The nominee from Rivers state, Dr Yimebe Nunieh was rejected by the lawmakers as she failed to turn up before the Senator Nwaoboshi Committee for screening.
The Senate also confirmed Justice John Tsoho appointment as the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court and Justice Benedict Bakwaph for appointment as Honourable President of the National Industrial Court, sequel to the report submitted by Senator Opeyemi Bamidele, chairman Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters that screened the nominees.