We have watched with considerable trepidation and disappointment, the enduring unjustifiable violations of the extant enabling law setting up the oil MINERALS producing areas development commission otherwise known as NIGER DELTA DEVELOPMENT COMMISSION(NDDC). The law setting up the NDDC is known as An Act to provide for the repeal of the Oil, Mineral Producing Areas Commission Decree 1998, and among other things, establish a new Commission with a re-organised management and administrative structure for more effectiveness; and for the use of the sums received from the allocation of the Federation Account for tackling ecological problems which arise from the exploration of oil minerals in the Niger-Delta area and for connected purposes
12th day of July 2000
Enacted by the National Assembly of the Federal Republic of Nigeria
Establishment, Etc. of The Niger-Delta Commission and the Governing Board
1. (1) There is hereby established a body to be known as Niger-Delta Development Commission (in this Act referred to as “the Commission”).
(2) The Commission-
(a) shall be a body corporate with perpetual succession and a common seal;
(b) may sue and be sued in its corporate name.
(3) The Commission shall have its head office in Port Harcourt, Rivers State and shall establish an office in each member state of the Commission.
2. (1) There is hereby established for the Commission a governing Board (in this Act referred to as “the Board”), which shall consist of-
(a) a chairman;
(b) one person who shall be an indigene of an oil producing area to represent each of the following member States, that is,
(i) Abia State,
(ii) Akwa-lbom State,
(iii) Bayelsa State,
(iv) Cross River State,
(v) Delta State,
(vi) Edo State,
(vii) Imo State,
(viii) Ondo State, and
(ix) Rivers State;
Gentlemen, we are also concerned about the general state of infrastructural marginalization of the entire crude oil producing areas. The case of the Imo State Crude Oil producing areas is particularly humiliating and constitute the gravest violations of environmental and fundamental human rights. The state of degradation of the environment caused by the activities of the operators of the crude oil minerals drilling firms and the central government is to put it mildly, utterly despicable and reprehensible. To now observe that these specific areas in Imo State that is statistically noted for being the home to some of the largest crude oil minerals deposits in the Country and holds the records as being the area in which the largest concentration of Gas deposits in Africa are found, but yet this uniquely gifted crude oil minerals producing area in Imo State has consistently got the short end of the stick in virtually all the previous strategic management appointments of the top three officers of the NDDC, is unjust, unconstitutional, unfair and morally disgusting making it of the highest imperative need for us in the organised human rights community in Nigeria to appeal to Mr. President who is the appointing authority to do the needful by considering nominees from the Imo State crude oil producing areas to hold one of the top three executive positions in the NDDC so the longstanding injustices against these marginalized people from a place that is the hen that lays the Golden Egg for Nigeria ‘s sustainability for years, are carried along and adequately given their due rights and privileges.
We do hope that President Muhammadu Buhari in his comprehensive drive to sanitise the management of the NDDC with the forensic auditing of the financial health of the NDDC, will inevitably see the need for the correction of lopsided appointments in the leadership of the NDDC. This we think is the basic requirement of the fundamental principles of equity and fairness which the All Progressives Congress campaigned vigorously around these key thematic issues that won them the central government in the 2015 general elections. The general principle of equity says:
Principles of equity as adumbrated by Ananya Gaeg, a student at Chanakya National Law University (INDIA).
The body of the Law of Equity is preserved in the following twelve maxims. These maxims are general principles adopted to administer justice and fairness. They govern the Law of Equity and are discretionary.
Equity will not suffer a wrong to be without a remedy: This maxim, in Latin, is “Ubi Jus Ibi Remedium ” which means “where there is a right there is a remedy”. The maxim states that in situations where the common law confers a right, it also gives a remedy for infringement of that right.
Equity follows the law; This maxim is also expressed as “aequitas sequitur legem”, which means that equity will not allow a remedy that is contrary to the law. This maxims lays down that equity supplements law and does not supersede it.
He who seeks equity must do equity; This maxim states that the plaintiff is also subject to the powers of the court and is thus obligated to perform his duties following the principle of equity.
He who comes to equity must come with clean hands; This doctrine relates to the past conduct of the parties and states that the person who comes to the court seeking equity must not have involved in an inequitable act himself in the past.
This principle was upheld in the case of D & C Builders Ltd v. Rees where the claim of the plaintiff to apply promissory estoppel was rejected because he had taken unfair advantage of the poor financial position of the defendant’s builder company and thus had not come with clean hands.
Delay defeats equity
The Latin maxim for this principle is “Vigilantibus non dormientibus aequitas subvenit” which means that Equity assists the vigilant and not those who sleep on their rights.
Equality is equity; This principle is expressed by the Latin maxim Aequitas est quasi aequalitas which means equality is equity.
Equity looks to the intent rather than the form;This is the maxim by the means of which an equitable remedy was established which allows for the terms of a contract to be interpreted by taking into account the intention of the parties.
Equity looks on that as done which ought to have been done;This maxim states that in cases where individuals are required, by law or by agreement, to perform any act of legal significance, equity will regard that act as having been done as it ought to have been done even before it actually happened.
The bias appointment, which has persisted since the Commission came into existence over the years, has assumed a critical and sensitive dimension of great concern that if left uncorrected is capable of threatening the operations and truncating the activities of the Commission.
HURIWA is aware of a subsisting petition to Mr. President on this issue by the urashi people’s congress, an amalgamation of all crude oil producing communities in IMO state. It has become expedient to bring to the notice of President Buhari, the continued violation of the Act establishing NDDC in the hitherto lopsided appointment of the management staff of the Commission.
Part IV of the Act, which defines the appointment of Staff, explicitly stated in 12. (1) that; there shall be for the Commission, a Managing Director, and two Executive Directors who shall be indigenes of oil producing areas, starting with the member states of the Commission with the highest production quantum of oil and shall rotate amongst member states in the order of production.
(a) have such qualification and experience as are appropriate for a person required to perform the functions of those offices under this Act; and
(c) be appointed by the President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces and confirmed by the Senate in consultation with House of Representatives.
It is pertinent to inform you that a compromise was reached where the position would be rotated within the nine oil producing states, namely: Abia, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Edo, Imo, Ondo and Rivers.
However, the appointments into the key positions implicitly confirm that the position of Managing Director of the NDDC especially, has been skewed in favour of only four states of Rivers, Akwa-Ibom, Bayelsa and Delta states, out of the nine member states that made up the NDDC.
For the records, between 2001 to 2021 the list of managing directors and their states include; Dr Godwin Omene, Emmanuel Aguariavwodo, both from Delta state, Timi Alaible, Bayelsa, Chibuzor Ugwoha, Dr Christian Oboh, both from Rivers, Nsima Ekere, Dan Abia, both from Akwa-Ibom, Nelson Brabaifa, Bayelsa, Joy Nunieh, Rivers, Kemebradikumo Pondei, Bayelsa, Okon Akwa, Akwa-Ibom state.
The crux of the matter is that this particular Act has not been obeyed since the past 21 years the Commission came into existence because only four states of Akwa-Ibom, Rivers, Delta and Bayelsa, have benefitted from the management positions stipulated by the law because the authorities have continuously done this without any member of the other five states complaining.
Essentially, a cursory look into subsequent appoints made, will further confirm that nobody from the South East States of Abia and Imo has been appointed into the management positions either as a Managing Director, or the other two Executive Directors previously.
The mood of South East members of the NDDC, caught up in this situation, is not only fast turning to frustration, helplessness, and despondency, but also that of anxiety borne out of the fear of a deliberate attempt to side-line the Igbo states in the NDDC from the mainstream scheme of activities in the Commission.
It is also imperative to note that Ohaji Egbema and Ugwuta Local Government Areas (LGAs) in Imo State have the highest gas deposit in the whole of West Africa, currently explored by Seplat, Shell and these two LGAs in imo State house the highest number of Oil Wells and Flow Stations in Nigeria.
This issue has crystalized into a disturbing extent that requires your urgent intervention before it escalated into an intolerable, disturbing extent capable of disorganising activities in the Niger Delta and derailing the successes the Commission has recorded so far.
HURIWA’S OBJECTIVE ARE;
1. To deploy the members’ creative talents as writers to promote, protect and project the human rights of all Nigerians and other law abiding citizen’s resident within Nigeria;
2. To organize periodic seminars and training workshops locally for human capital development specifically on the tenets and ideals of Human Rights and the rule of Law;
3. To attend international workshops and seminars targeted at the promotion and protection of human rights;
4. To conduct periodic studies on ways, means strategies for promoting and protecting human rights of law abiding citizens;
5. To highlight human rights challenges confronting the persons in conflict with the law and seek for constructive modalities for redressing such violations; and
6. To recognize excellence and good governance standards in the polity through yearly award ceremonies for exceptionally good, tested and trusted leaders in both the corporate and public sectors. The process of selection would be transparent mass participation strategies.
COMRADE EMMANUEL ONWUBIKO; NATIONAL COORDINATOR, HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA).
6TH JULY 2021.