On Monday stakeholders of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, besieged the commission’s premises in protest against what they described as an “unwarranted audit” of staff of the Commission by the newly appointed Minister of the Niger Delta Affairs, Umana Okon Umana.
The protesters also faulted Umana’s “deep” involvement in the administrative affairs of the Commission which they claimed is contrary to his assigned role as a supervisory minister of the NDDC.
Mr. Victor Idaye Briggs, speaking on behalf of the staff of NDDC, said that it was wrong for the Minister to call for the audit of staff of the Commission, an exercise he claimed was carried out years ago before the commencement of the forensic audit in the commission.
Briggs alleged that the main intent of the Minister was to sack some staff of the Commission and bring in his cronies as a way of compensating them for political reasons.
He said, “We have discovered that his actual intention is to recruit those he will use for the 2023 politics and we will never allow that to happen.
“We are calling on President Muhammadu Buhari to as a matter of urgency stop the minister of the Niger Delta Affairs from destroying the Commission with the ulterior motive of sacking genuine staff of the Commission and replacing them with political cronies. They are our breadwinners. They pay our school fees. If they are sacked now, where do we go to?
“We will be here as long as possible until Mr. President responds to our request. This is very unfair and we don’t want a situation where the region is plunged into an avoidable crisis. You can see that we are all young people who are dependent on their parents or relations in this Commission”.
A staff of the Commission, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said, “undue interference of Umana in the affairs of the NDDC has already gone beyond his supervisory role. He is going too far about the issues affecting the NDDC despite the fact that the office of the director general had since carried out an audit on the staff and contracts in the Commission.
“About two years ago, we did biometrics and all the data for staff audit were submitted to the Head of Service when this Commission was still at Aba road. Umana has no right to order his own staff to carry out a staff audit in NDDC because this is a Commission duly established by law.
“As a supervisory minister then, former Minister Godswill Akpabio never tried that kind of a thing. What is happening in NDDC right now is a clear annexation of the Commission. It is equivalent to what Russia is doing to Ukraine. On that note, we are calling on President Muhammadu Buhari to urgently inaugurate a substantive board to run the affairs of the Commission, going forward”.
Others said the protest came at the right time to forestall the possibility of using the Commission as a cash cow to fund the coming elections.
“First of all, it is our constitutional right to protest peacefully against anything that is against the interest of the staff of this Commission and by extension the Niger Delta region. Our collective demand is that the federal government should do the needful by giving the NDDC a board in accordance to the Act that established the NDDC.
“Secondly, we want the staff of the Commission to be protected from undue interference by politicians. We have discovered that what Umana Okon Umana is trying to do is to politicize this place for political reason. We don’t want that and we will never allow that to happen.”
Some of the placards read, “NDDC not a ground to settle political acrimonies”, “Mr President return NDDC to the office of SGF”, “Umana/perm Sec leave NDDC staff alone” and “President Buhari sack Umana now”, among others.
Efforts were made repeatedly to reach the Corporate Affairs Department for reactions but to no avail.