President Goodluck Jonathan has warned the new board members of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) to deviate from political patronage and the provision of welfare to politicians.
He said gone are the days when NDDC heads would camp political thugs in the Hotel Presidential in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State Capital, as Nigerians are currently very angry with the operations of the board.
Speaking at the inauguration of the new NDDC board at the Chamber hall of the Presidential villa in Abuja yesterday, Jonathan tasked the team to focus on the development of the Niger Delta Region and not follow the footsteps of their predecessors.
“I believe you will learn from the mistakes of your immediate predecessors. I always emphasise that people must not play politics with the development of our people. NDDC must stop this political patronage, political warfare. The past board was camping all kinds of criminals in hotels in the name of helping politicians. If I hear that, I will be very angry with you. You must focus on the development of the Niger Delta. You are not sent there to solve political problems” he said.
He also frowned at the trend of using the NDDC as a spring board for running for governorship elections and using the youths they are supposed to help as political thugs.
“Before this time, anybody who gets into NDDC wants to be governor of a state. This time around, we feel that we have to select people who we don’t know their political interests because we want people who will go and develop the place.
“The day you feel you want to be the governor of your state or a senator, please let us know early enough, so that you leave NDDC and go and pursue your political career.You can’t combine the two because it is a sensitive body,” he said.
He also urged them to avoid in-fighting, which was what led to the summary dissolution of the previous board that had two more years to go in its tenure.
“Our experience in this board that you are to complete its tenure is quite disturbing. People were asked to go and see how they will use the little resources available to develop the people but there was so much of in fighting, they were fighting among themselves for reasons best known to them.
“As you take the responsibility, you will be able to know what caused the fight. I always believe that when you see people fighting unnecessarily, then there must be an element of greed in the whole thing. When you see people fighting, there must be an interest rather than the interest of the Niger Delta people, the Nigerian people, the interest of the nation and the interest of the world. So we dissolved that board based on the report,” Jonathan said.
According to the President, he had not intended to totally dissolve the old board but the reports of the committee set up to look into the crisis in the NDDC showed that the members of the board could simply not continue working together, due to the long period of in-house fighting.
“The issue is not whether somebody is corrupt or somebody has done the wrong thing. But the issue is that from their observation, stories, interviews and statements, they cannot work together,” he said.
In his response, the new Chairman of the nineteen-man board, Terillah Tebepah, pledged to meet with the establishment requirements of the commission and added that he will work in line with the transformation agenda of the Jonathan administration.
In a related development, the President charged members of the Technical Committee on Land Reform to put in place modalities for protecting land owners in the country.
Delivering his remarks at the inauguration of the committee, which has Peter Adeniyi as its Chairman, also in Abuja today, Jonathan frowned at the current practice where landowners, who are predominantly farmers, cannot access credit facilities using their land.
He noted that at a time when the country is counting on growth from agriculture, such knotty issues on land administration had to be resolved.
According to him, agricultural growth and development can only come with adequate land reforms that protect land owners.