The fragile contraption called Nigeria is currently going through trying times. Some of the issues putting Nigerians on tenterhooks include the escalating insecurity situation, runaway inflation, double digit unemployment rate, ritual killings and several others.
Besides these debilitating problems, whose effects can be felt by ordinary Nigerians, there are still other issues, which may not appear serious to the common folks, but have the capacity to cause disruptions and dislocations within the already over-heated polity.
For instance, following widespread complaints about mind boggling corruption at the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), the federal government set up a panel to conduct a forensic audit of the interventionist agency with a view to getting to the root of the issue of corruption.
However, several months after the submission of the audit report to the government, through the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, the report of the audit is yet to be made public, despite calls form stakeholders that the report should be made public so that everybody would know those responsible for the backwardness of the region.
Another vexatious issue that has been left unattended to, is the constitution of the board of the NDDC. Section 2(1) of the Act establishing the NDDC provides for a Governing Board, whose members shall hold office for a term of four years at the first instance and may be re-appointed for a further term of four years and no more. The federal government, through a circular with reference No. SGF.19/S.81 XIX/964, dated July 16, 2015, dissolved all the Governing Boards of Federal Government Parastatals, Agencies, Institutions and Government-owned Companies.
The NDDC has been operating without a substantive board since 2015! For six years the board had been run by different Sole Administrators and Interim Management Committee (IMC), which is not only an aberration but also illegal, granted that the position of Sole Administrator and IMC is not known to the Act establishing the Commission.
In response to calls to constitute the board, Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio had,
sometime in June last year when he met with some officials of the IYC in Abuja, said the delay in constituting the board of the NDDC was because there was no budgetary provision for the new board to take off. He also blamed the delay on Covid-19. When Covid-19 had mellowed down a bit and still nothing, Akpabio asked the people of the region to exercise patience till the end of July, last year. When, at the end of July nothing happened, he changed the story to say the board would be constituted as soon as the forensic audit was completed. The forensic audit report has long been submitted, yet nothing.
Akpabio’s position now is that constituting the board of NDDC is not part of his responsibilities. The federal government’s refusal to constitute a substantive board for the commission, which has elicited public outcry from critical stakeholders of the region, is denying the people of the Niger Delta region of quality representation.
The twin problem of non-devolution of power from the centre to the federating states and the refusal of the federal government to operationalise true federalism, where among other things — the states would control and manage the resources in their states and pay an agreed sum to the centre, as well as states having their own police — are also issues that need to be addressed, especially as 2023 is just around the corner.
The electorate must begin to interrogate those presenting themselves as presidential candidates, to know their positions concerning devolution of power, true federalism, resource control, state police, and other such equally important matters, before voting for such persons.
Perhaps, the most serious of the issues requiring urgent attention and have not been attended to, is the delay by President Muhammadu Buhari in assenting to the Electoral Act Amendment Bill.
When the bill was passed by the National Assembly and transmitted to President Buhari, the president was not comfortable with the clause that direct primary would be the only mode by which the political parties can elect their flag bearers to contest for the available elective positions. The president took eternity before returning the bill to the National Assembly, unsigned.
When the bill was returned, the federal lawmakers threw the mode through which parties can pick their candidates, open. Thereafter, they re-transmitted the re-jigged Electoral Act Amendment Bill to Buhari and surprisingly, even after the lawmakers have done his bidding, the president is yet to assent to the bill, almost three weeks after it was sent to him.
Concerned Nigerians and groups have been calling on Buhari to assent to the bill. A coalition of Civil Society Organisations has called on the president to, as a matter of urgency, sign the bill, stressing that any further delay in making the bill become a law will hamper preparations for the 2023 general elections.
We therefore join other well-meaning Nigerians to urge President Buhari to urgently attend to the afore-mentioned issues so as to avoid any glitch in the smooth running of the polity.