Allegations of ethnic and religious bias in appointments into top management positions in the nation’s cash cow, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, yesterday, drew the ire of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere, the Pan-Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, and other opinion moulders in the South, who described it as a threat to national unity.
While Afenifere described it as an act of impunity, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, the apex Igbo socio-cultural group, raged that President Muhammadu Buhari was not walking his talk on the plea for national cohesion. The stance of Ohanaeze was endorsed by the South East Senate caucus.
Two rival Niger Delta groups, the Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, and Pan Niger Delta People’s Congress, PNDPC, in an unusual harmony, railed against the federal administration, describing the appointments as insensitive and further marginalisation of the oil producing region.
While Afenifere and Ohanaeze urged the President to immediately review the appointments, other groups and political stalwarts from the South, including former Senate Chief Whip; Senator Roland Owie, termed the appointments as provocative.
The uproar followed news of a major shake-up in the NNPC, last week. Out of 15 appointments made, 10 were from the North (mostly Hausa Fulani), three Yoruba, two from the South-South and there was none from the South East.
Reacting to the appointments, President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief John Nwodo, in a statement he made available to Oblong Media, while calling on the President to review the appointments, said Ohanaeze was appalled at what it described as the consistent and unrepentant disposition of disdain for the South East by Buhari’s administration as seen in the reorganization at the NNPC.
The apex body said it had thought that after the President’s declaration in a broadcast recently that Nigeria’s unity was settled and not negotiable, that he would take all necessary actions in his governance to achieve it but the recent NNPC shake up has not shown that the administration is walking its talk. He said: “This brazen disregard, marginalisation, and non-compliance with the Federal character provisions in our Constitution are the causes of lack of confidence which our youths have in our present governance structure. “As long as President Buhari continues to live out his speech abroad that his government will favour those who voted 97% for him against those who voted 5% for him, so long will the dissatisfaction and unrest in our polity subsist,” Nwodo warned. “There is no oil well anywhere in Northern Nigeria. Four of the five states in the South East have proven oil resources some of which provide our nation’s revenue, yet our people are not found fit to be adequately represented in a key corporate institution like the NNPC,” he said as he called for an immediate review of the appointments. S-East senators The stance of Ohaneze was endorsed by the South East Senate caucus.
Speaking with Oblong Media, yesterday, Chairman of the caucus, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, noted that the senators were in full support of Ohanaeze, saying “ we support Ohanaeze’s stance on what Buhari should do.” Also speaking with Oblong Media, Senator Mao Ohuabunwa, PDP, Abia North, called on the President to have a rethink on the issue, saying “this one is a clear evidence of the marginalization that we have been saying about this government. “What happened at the NNPC is evidence that what we have been saying is not imagined, but real.”
Afenifere in its response articulated by its spokesman, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, said: “The issue for us is not about whether it favours us or does not favour us; it is about justice to all and being that it is skewed and that is not the way to build an inclusive society. “You must carry everybody along. Does that mean that there was nobody qualified from the South East? “Why the sheer impunity? I think that those who are running Nigeria now should be mindful of the need to build an inclusive society. “You must earn the confidence of all, and it is not too late for this administration to listen and do something that is more balanced in a multi-ethnic society.”
Coordinating Secretary of PANDEF, Dr. Alfred Mulade, said the organization would come out with its formal position soon, but nevertheless stated that the group made its stand on NNPC, including participation in the oil industry/ownership of oil blocks known to the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, when the Chief Edwin Clark-led group visited him on August 3. Clark had noted then that only one person from the South-South was represented on the nine-member board of the NNPC. PNDPC PNDPC leader, Ayemi-Botu, alias Lion of the Niger, who spoke to Oblong Media on phone, said: “The present government is insensitive to the calls of well-meaning Niger Deltans on the lopsided appointments and management of the NNPC since the present administration of President Muhammadu Buhari came on board. “The President actually started with 33 appointments clearly against the region, later it replaced the Group Managing Director of NNPC with a northerner and even when the 16-point agenda was presented to him, November 1, last year, his attention was drawn to the composition of NNPC board, dominated by northerners. “There is no gainsaying that NNPC is an offshoot of oil that is derived from the Niger Delta and the people must have a say in what happens, but even while the anger has not subsided, the President came with the latest reshuffling or whatever they call it, where the north again has taken over the NNPC. This is unacceptable to the region. “I dare say that the President should wake up and redress this anomaly for the region is very disturbed about it. We own the oil; it belongs to us, we should not be marginalized in our own resource, that is why everybody is calling for restructuring,” he added.
Worse than quit notice.
Senator Owie on his part, said: “It is regrettable that we blame IPOB, Arewa youths or Niger Delta youths over threats capable of disintegrating the country but the series of appointments made by this administration even up till now have shown that the administration is worse than those issuing ultimatum to the Igbo. “We have observed a systematic plan to strangulate the South, particularly the South East in appointments, and it seems that this administration is not bothered at all which is sad. “I want to appeal to President Buhari to know that this country belongs to all the ethnic groups, he should not create problem for the North where he comes from because no matter how he sees it, he would not have become President without the support of other ethnic groups. Also angry about the appointments, former Provost Marshal of the Nigerian Army, Brig. Gen. Idada Ikpomnwen, retd, said: “It is not too different from what we have been observing for quite a while, that is since the coming of this administration. The truth is that the reason is not far-fetched. “The administration has said that the majority of the votes that put the President there were Northern votes, so they need to take care of their interest, which to me is not a good position in the sense that after the election, the President becomes every body’s President. “Therefore, they are entitled to positions, particularly when it is true that if it were not for some reasonable votes from other ethnic groups, he would not have met the constitutional requirements in terms of votes across the country. He got 1/3 in most of the states in the South.
Factional president of the Ijaw Youth Council, Mr. Eric Omare, on his part said: “We are disappointed, it is lopsided, unfair and unjust against us and it is a continuation of this government’s discriminatory treatment of the Niger Delta people. “Further, it is also a violation of the 1999 Constitution because that law requires that when you are making appointments at the federal or state levels, you must look at the divergence of the ethnic and cultural units and above all, the appointments are unacceptable to our people.”
The Ndokwa National Youth Movement, NNYM on its part, described the managerial appointments into the board of NNPC, as a continuation of Northern supremacist agenda in the country. NNYM, in a statement by its National Secretary, Presley Idi, urged the Federal Government to as a matter of national importance and unity, review the appointments “in which out of the top 15 positions, the South-South region only got two.” “How a region that produces the very commodity that led to the creation of the corporation will have only two managers on its new list of appointees is a total aberration, an insult to our collective intelligence and a further proof that this government doesn’t have genuine intentions of keeping this lasting peace currently being enjoyed in the region. “Going through the leadership structure of the corporation, it is appalling and disheartening to see that our people don’t even make up to five per cent of its set up and we desire to see changes made immediately. “Certainly, we have industry players from the region that are over qualified and very capable of contributing better to the overall development of NNPC, with their achievements in the oil sector, something that the current set up can only dream of.” “Again, we have always continued to advocate peace, we have never hesitated to leave the comfort of our homes to reach out to our brothers in the trenches when need be, we have instantly moved to contain rising tensions when they arise but if the implementation of the 97% vs. 5% formula is allowed to continue, we know not how long these brothers of ours whose demands and concerns are very genuine will continue to listen to our plea for calm. “We will not call for violence, we will not push for separation, rather as intellectuals we will continue to dialogue, but it’s a known fact that he who makes peaceful changes unachievable, makes a violent one inevitable.”