The Nigerian Senate has finally invited the Interim Management Committee of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, to defend the budget proposals and estimates of the Commission, scheduled for Wednesday, 12th February, 2020.

A statement by the Ag. Managing Director/CEO of the Board, Gbene Dr. Joi Nunieh reads thus: “The Senate has invited the NDDC to defend its budget on Wednesday, next week. I am happy to say that the people of the Niger Delta will begin to see the activities of the NDDC. Hopefully, we will make a good case in defending the budget.

“I thank the leadership of the Senate for showing commitment to the development of the Niger Delta region. I assure them that we will use every Kobo budgeted prudently and wisely.

It would be recalled that a crisis of identity over who would defend the NDDC Budget, between the then NDDC reconstituted but not inaugurated Board, by President Muhammadu Buhari and confirmed by the Senate and the three-member Interim Management Committee, inaugurated by Niger Delta Affairs Minister, Senator Godswill Akpabio and endorsed by President Buhari to act as the NDDC Board and conduct a forensic audit of the Commissions operations, before a substantive Board would be inaugurated.

The Senate and House of Representatives had differed over which body would be invited to he National Assembly to defend the Budget, after President Buhari had forwarded the 2019 and 2020 budgets of the Commission to the two chambers of the National Assembly for their consideration and approval, in November 2019.

The Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, referred the budget estimates to the Senate Committee on Niger Delta with a standing instruction to relate strictly with the nominees on the board of the agency screened and confirmed by the Senate since November 5, 2019.

The House of Representatives however had, through the Chairman, House Committee on the NDDC, Olubunmi Tunji – Ojo, differed with the Senate by stating categorically that the House would not have anything to do with the confirmed board.

According to Tunji – Ojo, the House would only have interactions with the Interim Management Committee of the commission as the acting Managing Director, Dr. Gbene Nunieh, would lead her team to defend the budgets.

He had said: “The board doesn’t defend the budget, it is the management that defends the budget. As far as there is no other directive from the leadership of the House of Representatives, our committee will go ahead with the budget defence with the interim management team.

“The budget has been referred to our committee and the management would defend it. Unless the board is inaugurated, we won’t allow them to come and defend the budget'” he said.

A stalemate had ensued and the NDDC Budget had been in abeyance until January 2020, when President Buhari had written another letter to the Senate where it was stated that the earlier board members confirmed by the Senate should be put on hold, pending the conclusion of work by the Interim Management Committee that is carrying out a forensic audit of the commission.

The letter from the President, dated December 27, 2019 and received January 11, 2020, reads thus: “I write to intimate the Senate of the development concerning the appointment of the board of NDDC. The Senate may wish to note that after the dissolution of the board of NDDC, an interim management team was set up to manage the affairs of the commission before a new board was composed and sent for Senate confirmation.

“The Senate is invited to note that while the process of composition and senate confirmation of the appointment of the board was on-going, I had directed that the forensic audit of the commission be carried out which is being overseen by the constituted interim management team.

“This is to allow the interim team continue to manage the commission pending the outcome of the forensic audit.

“Thereafter, a new board of the commission will be re-composed for the confirmation by the Senate.”

The official suspension, by Presidential directive, of inaugurating a new substantive board for the NDDC, has thus, finally cleared the dust of controversy and granted the Dr. Joi Nunieh led Interim Management Committee of the Commission, full clearance and authority to defend the NDDC Budget before the Senate and National Assembly, without further delay.