Senate Committee on Niger Delta Affairs on Thursday screened nominees for the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) governing board.
The senators had a heated argument over whether a nominee, Otobong Ndem, who had discrepancies in his curriculum vitae, should take a bow and go.
President Muhammadu Buhari sent the nominees list to the Senate on Tuesday for confirmation amid stakeholders’ protests, days after he ordered a forensic audit of NDDC.
A group, the Niger Delta Civil Society Coalition (NDCSC) warned that there should be no sacred cows in the audit.
It said rather than the Niger Delta Ministry, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) should supervise the audit.
Some stakeholders kicked against the nomination of Chief Bernard Okumagba as Managing Director and former Edo State Deputy Governor Pius Odubu as board chairman.
Ondo State is to have felt sidelined in place of Edo and accused Buhari of jettisoning the age-long formula for selecting NDDC board chairman, which would have favoured it.
The nominees are Dr Odubu (Edo); Okumagba (Delta), Executive Director Projects Otobong Ndem (Akwa Ibom), Executive Director Finance and Administration Maxwell Okoh (Bayelsa), Prophet Jones Erue (Delta State representative), Chief Victor Ekhatar (Edo), Dr. Joy Yimebe Nunieh (Rivers) and Nwogu Nwogu (Abia).
Others are Theodore A. Allison (Bayelsa); Victor Antai (Akwa Ibom); Maurice Effiwatt (Cross River); Olugbenga Elema (Ondo); Uchegbu Kyrian (Imo); Aisha Murtala Muhammed (Kano, Northwest representative), Ardo Zubairu (Adamawa, Northeast representative) and Badmus Mutalib (Lagos, Southwest Representative).
Odubu and Okumagba were the first to be screened on Thursday.
Odubu, a House of Representatives member from 1999 to 2007, was asked to “take a bow and go” in line with the parliamentary tradition of the Senate to extend such courtesies to former members of the National Assembly nominated for appointment.
Okumagba was also asked to “take a bow and go” after the committee’s chairman Senator Peter Nwaoboshi and Senator James Manager attested to his suitability for the job.
There was, however, drama when Ndem appeared before the committee.
Senator Matthew Urhoghide pointed out some discrepancies in Ndem’s curriculum vitae and sought to know why his educational progression was not chronological.
For instance, the lawmaker pointed out that from the CV, Ndem had his school certificate in 2007, National Diploma in 1999 and a Higher National Diploma in 2002.
Senator George Sekibo noted that the nominee also claimed to have obtained his master’s degree in 2012 and Bachelor of Science degree in 2019.
The Senator asked Ndem, a former Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly member, why he described himself as “right honourable”.
“As a former member of the House of Assembly, were you a Speaker or Deputy Speaker? If no, why did you prefix your name with the words ‘Right Honourable?” Sekibo asked.
Another member of the committee, Senator Rochas Okorocha, said since Ndem served in a House of Assembly, he should be allowed to “take a bow and go”.
He recalled that the Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, being a former Rivers State House of Assembly member, was accorded a similar courtesy during his screening by the Senate.
This suggestion generated a heated argument among the committee members.
Senator Manager engaged Okorocha in heated exchange for insisting that the nominee be asked to take a bow and go.