- Board chairman, members in power tussle
- Onochie seeking to double as managing director – Source
By Dauda Ismail
Barely two weeks after the inauguration of the governing board of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC which has been without a board for nearly four years following some controversies surrounding the leadership of the commission, has a renewed crisis hit the commission. Chairman of the Governing Board of the Commission, Lauretta Onochie, is said to have moved to take over the duties of the Managing Director, Dr Samuel Ogbuku.
Impeccable sources at the Commission said a board meeting called by Onochie during the week was shunned by board members. The former aide to President Mohammadu Buhari was said to have attempted to create the office of the ‘Executive Chairperson’ and also proposed to have 18 Special Assistants, which were rejected.
“NDDC Commissioners have moved against Onochie. Imagine this woman tried to create the office of ‘Executive Chairperson’. She even demanded to have 18 Special Assistants to be working for her.
“She asked to be allowed to draw budgets and take over the duties of the Managing Director. The Federal Commissioner however, resisted her by refusing to attend a meeting she summoned.
“They later sent a message to her that she’s only to chair board meetings and allow the MD to do his job”, our source said.
It would be recalled that despite being the Personal Assistant to the President on New Media, Buhari had in 2020 nominated her as a commissioner for the Independent National Electoral Commission, sparking public outrage.
Many criticised the appointment considering her position as a presidential aide, an alleged member of the ruling All Progressives Congress and a vocal campaigner for the party and critic of the opposition parties.
They described Onochie as partisan, saying she will never be objective and neutral as an INEC commissioner.
In July 2021, the Senate rejected Onochie’s controversial appointment as INEC National Commissioner after considering the report of its committee on INEC.
In its report, the committee disqualified Onochie based on Federal Character principles. It was also noted that there was a serving commissioner from her home state, Delta.
Her appointment as the Chair of the Governing Board of the NDDC also attracted criticism.
For instance, a human rights lawyer and activist, Chief Malcolm Omirhobo, described Onochie as unfit for the post.
The lawyer described Onochie as a woman who lacked moral standards to administer the affairs of the NDDC.
Omirhobo had said in a statement, “In view of the importance of NDDC to the people of Niger Delta, it follows that its chairman must be sound, upright, credible Nigerian with high level of integrity and moral standing which is why when I read that Lauretta Onochie has been appointed as its chairperson, I became concerned because I know it as a fact that Onochie is not qualified to occupy that position and my argument is simply that she is a desperate, bloody liar.
“In 2021 in a bid to clinch INEC appointment while appearing before the Senate for screening threw away her dignity and self-respect when she lied to the entire country that she was not a member of the APC and an ardent supporter of President Buhari.
“Despite telling a lie and keeping a straight face, she could not erase the fact that she had earlier registered as No. 2 in Ward 4, Aniocha North Local Government Area of Delta State, during the APC Nationwide membership registration exercise.
“In addition, in the case of Lauretta Onochie Vs Emeka Agwuonye before the FCT High Court, Abuja, she had deposed affirmatively inter alia that she is a member of the All Progressives Congress and a Volunteer at the Buhari Support Organisation, B.SO.
“The above shows clearly that Onochie lacks integrity and moral grounds to be entrusted with such a sensitive job that borders on modifying the will of the people of the Niger Delta. I urge the Senate to reject her nomination by President Buhari as chairman of NNDC”, he had said.
In December, the leadership and members of the Coalition of Delta Ijaw Oil Producing Communities, CDIOPC, had described the appointment of Lauretta Onochie as the chairman of the Niger Delta Development Commission as a “slap in the face”.
This is even as they congratulated Hon. Samuel Ogbuku on his appointment as managing director of the NDDC.
In a statement, the national coordinator of the coalition CDIOPC, Comrade Covidolor, expressed appreciation to President Muhammadu Buhari for constituting the long-awaited board and making a credible Bayelsan the managing director. He, however, said the appointment of the chairman was unacceptable and totally condemnable.
He said; “The Delta Ijaw has never tasted the position of the chairman right from inception and we felt, we have been marginalised, deprived relegated to the background again.
“Making Mrs. Lauretta chairman of the NDDC is not just an insult but, a heavy slap to the Delta Ijaws. The Ijaw communities in Delta State produces highest barrel of crude oil compare to other ethnic groups in the state yet, we have been treated as second class citizens”.
Also, some Ilaje stakeholders in the oil-producing area of Ondo State have sued President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration over the composition of the agency’s board.