The Niger Delta Integrity Group has criticised Chief Rita Lori Ogbebor for allegedly filing a court action to restrain President Muhammadu Buhari from inaugurating the Governing Board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), pending the submission of the forensic audit report.

In a statement  by Akpoebide Okotiene, President and Edet Ekpenyong, Secretary, the group said Ogbebor’s action was against the spirit and aspiration of Niger Deltans who have asked why a NDDC Board cannot be put in place while the audit of a previous period is ongoing.

“It is clearly this the handiwork of a clique designed to perpetuate the illegal interim management contraptions that has been in place running the NDDC and utilising its funds totalling about N700 billion since October 2019 to date, with no developmental projects in any of the constituent states to show for it,” the group said.

It described Ogbebor’s action as “fattention-seeking, and quite in character,” while accusing her of acting for interests whose sole aim is to introduce some confusion into the legitimate process of Government.

It said the aim of such action was “to frustrate the proper functioning of the NDDC in line with its Act, which provides for the full representation of constituent states to ensure accountability, because there is no law or precedence  that debars a Governing Board from functioning when an audit of a previous period is ongoing. Certainly, not at this time when the July 31 deadline given by Mr. President for the submission of the forensic audit by the Minister of Niger Delta has expired.”

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The Niger Delta Integrity Group said the South South governors, ethnic nationalities, statesmen and civil society organisations had been “calling for the inauguration of the Governing Board in compliance with the NDDC Act and to ensure full representation of the constituent states since 2019, with the Minister of Niger Delta, Chief Godswill Akpabio, finally promising to have the Board in place by the end of July 2021, by which time he said the forensic audit report would have been submitted to Mr President after several postponements.”

It said Ogbebor’s proposal cannot be accepted at this point in time, almost two years after the forensic audit started.

The group said there were interests whose sole aim was to “continue to foster the illegal and illegitimate interim contraptions that have held sway in the NDDC utilising its funds for close to two years now.”

It stated that President Buhari had already nominated a Board for the NDDC in October 2019 whose members were vetted by all relevant agencies of the federal government following which they were screened and confirmed by the Nigerian Senate on November 5 2019.

“They are only now waiting to be inaugurated following the expiration of the July 31 deadline given by Mr. President for the submission of the forensic audit report by the Minister of Niger Delta,” it said.

The group said Ogbebor was “not speaking for our people in the Niger Delta and is merely playing a script being directed by forces who do not wish us well in our region. We therefore urge the general public and all stakeholders  to ignore her.”