This was sequel to the adoption of a motion moved by Senator Emmanuel Paulker (Bayelsa-Central) at the plenary on Wednesday, which was entitled, ‘The Illegal Extension of the Tenure of the Board of the Niger Delta Development Commission.’
In the motion, Paulker alleged that the former acting SGF, Dr. Habiba Lawal, who succeeded Babachir Lawal, allegedly extended the tenure of the former Majority Leader of the Senate as chairman of the NDDC board without legislative approval.
The Majority Leader, Senator Ahmad Lawan, however, said he had met with officials in the Office of the SGF to know the circumstances surrounding the tenure extension.
Lawan said, “I want to appeal to all of us here that since we have a new SGF who wants to work with us, in the spirit of this season and the interest showed by the SGF that he wants to deal with this issue, I will advise and move that we ask our Committee on the NDDC to liaise with the Office of the SGF to look into the real issues so that we can deal with them.”
The Senate President, Bukola Saraki, while commenting on the motion, made a veiled reference to the former SGF, Babachir Lawal, who dismissed his indictment by an investigative panel set up by the chamber as balderdash.
Saraki said, “Yesterday, after the budget (presentation by President Muhammadu Buhari), paper from the SGF coming to thank us, he also took this matter up. And I think that, in the spirit of the relationship, we are not here to always antagonise the executive. The days of balderdash are over. We have a new SGF and we must also show that. Let this matter be referred to the NDDC committee and let it take the matter up with the SGF.”
The initial prayer of the motion, as moved by Paulker, was to mandate the Senate Committee on Niger Delta “to investigate the illegal renewal of the tenure of the present board of the commission.”
In the motion, Paulker said the NDDC had a board made up of members drawn from Abia, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Edo, Imo, Ondo and Rivers states.
He also said that Section 4 of the NDDC Act stated that the office of the chairman shall rotate among member states of the commission in alphabetical order.
He added that the chairmanship of the NDDC started with Abia State and had now rotated to Cross River State.
Paulker said, “The Senate observes that the NDDC Act also states 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 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’.
“The Senate observes that the board headed by Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba (SAN) was appointed by the President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces to replace the one headed by Senator Bassey Henshaw.
“The Senate observes further that Section 5 (3) of the Act dictates that the board headed by Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba serves out the remainder of the term of the board chaired by Senator Bassey Henshaw, which will terminate in December 2017.
“The Senate notes that, contrary to the clear provisions of Section 5 (3) of the NDDC Act, the tenure of the present board of the commission has been illegally extended to four years by the immediate past acting Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Dr. Habiba Lawal; it is worried that contravention of the NDDC Act portends grave danger to the relative peace we enjoy in the Niger Delta.”