The supremacy battle for the soul of the Niger Delta Development Commission has worsened with both chambers of the National Assembly now united to challenge the activities of the Interim Management Committee allegedly handpicked by the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs , Senator Godswill Akpabio.
Investigations by our correspondent revealed that some powerful stakeholders who are currently playing major roles in the All Progressives Congress – led Federal Government and Akpabio, are involved in high level politicking on the NDDC affairs.
The Senate had taken a firm decision to reject the continued control of the agency by the IMC by hurriedly approving the nominees for the Niger Delta board forwarded to the Senate last year and vowed not to interact with Akpabio ’ s caretaker team.
Our correspondent learnt that the Senate concluded the process of screening and confirmation despite the fact that the President , Major General Muhammadu Buhari ( retd . ) allegedly reached out to the Senate leadership to halt the process .
However , the Senate appeared to have lost out in the power game when Buhari refused to inaugurate the board members, who were screened and confirmed by the members of the Senate.
The action of the Presidency , through a statement by its spokesperson , Femi Adesina , announcing plans to recompose a fresh list for the NDDC board , was said to have further angered the senators
While members of the Senate panel on the Niger Delta Affairs ignored the IMC and the combined 2019 /2020 budgets of the agency presented to it by General Buhari , their counterparts in the House of Representatives were romancing the caretaker committee members .
However , the honeymoon between the reps panel and the IMC seems to be over as the leadership of both chambers had allegedly taken a firm position on the crisis rocking the NDDC.
Investigations by our correspondent revealed that the National Assembly leadership had realised that its panels rather than the Akpabio ’ s IMC, should coordinate a forensic investigation into the finances of the agency since its establishment.
A member of the Senate panel, who spoke with our correspondent on condition of anonymity on Friday, alleged that Akpabio hurriedly put the IMC together when the joint panels of the National Assembly announced plans to probe the agency.
He said , “ When we discovered that the NDDC management shunned our invitations to them for the presentation of the 2018 performance , we made up our mind to probe the agency ’ s financial transactions in the last 10 years.
“ There are series of intrigues within and outside the Niger Delta region , regarding the NDDC’ s affairs.
“ The commission ’ s 2019 budget proposal was supposed to have been presented to the National Assembly , and approved before July 31 , 2019 when the commission ’ s 2018 budget expired.
“ We demanded the 2018 budget performance then but the management of the agency deliberately ignored us .
“ We also planned a forensic investigative audit into some transactions of the agency but the management is playing politics with it. ”
A member of the House of Representatives committee on the NDDC , who also spoke on condition of anonymity on Friday , confirmed that the green chamber ‘‘ is now on the same page with the Senate on the agency ’ s affairs. ’’
He said , “ We have discovered that the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs was playing politics by attempting to employ divide by rule tactics with the two chambers.
“ The best thing is for an agency to present and successfully defend the budget performance of an outgoing year before an approval could be given for a fresh proposal.
“ I can confirm to you that both chambers of the National Assembly are united at the moment on the issue of NDDC budgets before us.
“ Granted that there is a smooth working relationship between the President Buhari ’ s- led federal executive and the 9 th National Assembly but we have to do the right thing . ”
Attempts to get the reaction of the Niger Delta Ministry through the Minister of State , Senator Tayo Alasoadura, failed on Friday as he declined comments.
Alasoadura, who did not pick his calls , however replied to the text message sent to him by simply writing “ No comment please . ”
However , the Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on the NDDC , Mr Olubunmi Tunji – Ojo , confirmed to our correspondent that the green chamber would await the submission of the agency ’ s 2018 budget performance before proceeding with the processing of the 2019 /2020 budgets pending before his panel.
He said , “ We requested the 2018 budget performance of the NDDC which is a normal thing to do .
“ We are on break now . We hope they will bring it when we resume so that we can continue further work on the budget before our committee. ”
Investigations by our correspondent revealed that the non – submission of the NDDC 2018 budget performance was adversely affecting the processing of the 2019 and 2020 budgets of the agency .
It was learnt that management of the agency , upon expiration of its 2018 budget in July 2019 , started spending some money yet to be approved by the National Assembly.
The development forced the National Assembly , to issue series of queries and summons to the agency ’ s management .
The total size of the expired NDDC ’ s 2018 budget is N 346. 5 bn.
It is made up of N2 . 883 bn for Capital Expenditure , while N 311. 371 bn was approved for development projects.
The sum of N 19 . 521 bn was for Personnel, while N12 . 737 bn was for Overhead Expenditure.
Also in 2017 , the NDDC got a total of N364 bn as its annual budget , out of which N329 . 850 bn was approved for capital projects.
Senate President , Ahmad Lawan had said the current NDDC management had become voided with the confirmation of the appointment of the commission ’ s board.
However , the IMC has continued to manage the commission ’ s affairs with presidential backing .
The minister had said the committee would run the NDDC for six months and oversee its forensic audit, which the National Assembly was also planning to carry out.
UPDATED: S’Court Affirms Delta Gov’s Election
The Supreme Court has affirmed the election of the Delta State Governor, Sheriff Oborevwori.
The court dismissed the appeals by the All Progressives Congress and its candidate, Ovie Omo-Agege, and the Labour Party and its candidate, Ken Pella, against the governor
In the Omo-Agege appeal, the five-member panel led by Justice Okoro said the appeal lacked merit and the appellant was unable to discharge the burden of proof placed on him.
Pella’s appeal was also dismissed for lack of merit.
The court of appeal in Lagos had affirmed the election of Oborevwori as the governor of Delta State, dismissing the appeals by the governorship candidates and their parties
Oborevwori polled 360,234 votes to defeat his closest opponent, Omo-Agege of the APC who scored 240,229.
Pela of the LP came third with 48,027 votes, while Great Ogboru of the All Progressives Grand Alliance came fourth with 11,021 votes.
Only One African Country Ready For Public Health Emergency – CDC
The Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (AfricaCDC) says only one country is ready to respond to a public health emergency.
The Director-General of the Africa CDC, Dr Jean Kaseya, said this in Lusaka, Zambia, at the third International Conference on Public Health in Africa (CPHIA), held from November 27 to November 30.
Kaseya spoke during a side event to unveil a five-year strategic plan for strengthening public health emergency operations centres in Africa and countries in the Eastern Mediterranean region on Thursday.
He said the only African country ready to respond to a public health emergency was South Africa.
He urged member states to accelerate measures and mechanisms to enhance responses to public health emergencies.
Kaseya explained that the absence of preparedness from other countries exposes all countries in the Africa region to the risks of outbreaks, if any occur.
“If we want to consider the score for vulnerability, how countries are rated, ready, and well prepared to respond to outbreaks, only one country in Africa is ready.
“It means all other countries are at risk. If we know that, then we can say we are all exposed.
“The Africa region is facing an average of two to three outbreaks per week.
“From January to November 2023, we already have 158 public health emergencies that we are managing.
“You can imagine that we are out of COVID-19, but we still have other 158 public health emergencies.
“The only way to prevent and respond to outbreaks is through strong Public Health Emergency Operation Centres (PHEOCs),’’ he said.
He noted that there were still gaps to be filled, as disparity still exists.
He, however, said some progress had been recorded in strengthening emergency preparedness and response but called for partnerships to foster the implementation of the five-year strategic plan.
“The disparity that we see is calling us to have a strong partnership.
“This is why we are calling all of our colleagues and all of our partners to consider what we will achieve under this five-year strategic plan—90–90 per cent of at least countries with PHEOCs.
“We need $181 million to implement this plan. Let us put our hands together, let us be sure that we are working, and let us ensure that we provide at least the $181 million that we are requesting,” Kaseya noted.
He pledged a commitment to sensitising member states to contribute towards the implementation of the plan.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the five-year strategic plan for 2023–2027 is in partnership with the AfricaCDC, the World Health Orgnisation, member states, the UK Health Security Agency, and other development partners.
The five-year strategic plan for 2023–2027 is expected to be operational in at least 50 African countries to enhance health preparedness and response.
The strategic plan is to guide the implementation of the PHEOCs in Member States of the African and Eastern Mediterranean Regions towards meeting the minimum requirements or core capacities of the PHEOC.
The plan will guide nations as they actively work to position PHEOCs as central nerve centres for risk assessment, planning, and sharing of critical resources.
The PHEOC is critical to meeting the requirements of international health regulations by assisting Member States to build and improve their public health emergency management capabilities.
However, it is estimated that $181,837,498 is needed to implement the activities planned for the next five years in both regions.
The budget will cover costs related to renovating the PHEOC facilities, procurement of information and communication technology equipment, salary and daily subsistence allowances for experts, workshop participation, training and simulation exercise programmes, and establishing regional PHEOCs of excellence, among others.
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In her remarks, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO Regional Director for Africa, noted that the strategy will shape the future of public health in the African region and the Eastern Mediterranean region.
According to her, the devastating impact of disease outbreaks and conflict jeopardises the health of millions of people and poses challenges that threaten their health.
“Together, we are working on the next phase.
“Ensuring a safer, healthier, and more resilient future where public health emergencies no longer hold us captive with fear because we have broken the chain that makes it impossible to respond and recover,’’ Moeti said.
NAN also reports that on the sidelines of 41st Ordinary Session of the Executive Council of the African Union and the fourth Mid-Year Coordination Meeting of the AU and the Regional Economic Communities, in Lusaka, Zambia, on July 6, 2022, urged all African Union Member States and partners to recognise and prioritise PHEOCs as an important pillar in health emergency preparedness and response.
It had also called upon the AU and Africa CDC to put in place a continental mechanism and structure to coordinate the accelerated establishment and strengthening of the PHEOCs in Africa and collaborate with all relevant stakeholders.
Ijaw Thanksgiving Day: CAN Prays For Development Of Ijaw Land, N-Delta
The Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, has fervently prayed for progress and development to thrive in Ijaw land and the Niger Delta region to alleviate extreme poverty and underdevelopment in the oil-rich region.
The Christian body offered the prayers at the occasion of the 25th Ijaw Day of Thanksgiving, yesterday at Bomadi, headquarters of Bomadi Local Government Area, Delta State.
Chairman of CAN, Bomadi Local Government Chapter, Apt. (Dr) Liberty Usiayo, in his remark said the essence of the annual thanksgiving was to show appreciation to God for His love and care for Ijaw ethnic nationality in all situations.
He said: “the essence of this annual thanksgiving is to appreciate God for His goodness and mercies for Ijaw nation. We’re also here praying for unity and well being of Ijaw land.
“The scripture says in Isaiah 41:21 that we should come to God with a strong reason why He should answer our prayers; our prayer is that God should do greater things for Ijaw nation.
“We’re also using this medium to appeal to Gov. Ifeanyi Okowa to either give Bomadi a higher educational institution or locate faculties of the existing state institutions in the riverine area”.
However, the Christian body rededicated Ijaw land to God with a 14-point prayer list for better living standards which included completion of ongoing development projects as well as prayers against project duplication and the spirit of abandoned projects in Ijaw land among others.
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