Ijaws in Delta state have rejected the nominee for the post of the Managing Director (MD) for the new Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) board.

NDDC

This was contained in a statement signed by Chief Ebipade Gbegha (Chairman) and Ogbein Zidideke (Secretary) on Tuesday.

According to the statement, they said the exclusion of their son as the nominee for the post is marginalization of their people.

They maintained that “any executive position meant for Delta State should be given to the Ijaws as it is our due turn, in line with the rotational arrangement as prescribed by the NDDC Act of 2000 Section 12 (1).”

According to them, “The Ijaws in Delta state wish to strongly notify President Mohammadu Buhari and the National Assembly (the Senate and the House of Representatives) that the nomination of Bernard Okumagba, of the Urhobo extraction of Delta state as the Managing Director (MD) in the new Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) board, instead of an Ijaw nominee from Delta state has been rejected in its entirety.

This is unacceptable to us and it is a clear indication of oppression, injustice and the alienation of Ijaws in Delta state by the present administration. We state this without fear or favour that any executive position meant for Delta State should be given to the Ijaws as it is our due turn, in line with the rotational arrangement as prescribed by the NDDC Act of 2000 Section 12 (1) which states that “There shall be for the Commission, a Managing Director, and two Executive Directors who shall be indigenes of oil producing areas starting with the member states of the Commission with the highest production quantum of oil and shall rotate amongst member states in the order of production”.

The emphasis on the rotation within member states with the highest production quantum of oil is to ensure equity, justice and fairness in states like Delta state where there are more than one ethnic group producing oil.

The Ijaw riverine communities are the highest producers of oil and gas in the region, and by consequence, the highest revenue generators in Nigeria. We also bear the brunt of the pollution, degradation and environmental impacts of the oil and gas exploration, production and transportation.

In spite of our enormous contributions and sacrifices, we are still the most underdeveloped part of Nigeria. The NDDC, which is an offspring of the Niger Delta struggle, was birthed as an interventionist agency to cater for the oil-bearing/impacted communities from age-long neglect. Though all members of the region contributed to the struggle, the Ijaws, without any iota of doubt, sacrificed and contributed the most to the struggle.

Ijaws sacrificed the blood of their children to agitate for the creation of the NDDC and were tagged all sorts of names in the process. We were called militants, trouble makers, armed robbers, barbarians, and all sorts, but today, forces that are against the progress of Ijaws are gradually scheming to erase us out of the equation, and prevent us from enjoying the dividends of the struggle.

From the time of state creation, the Ijaws have always been prejudiced because of our geographic location and the crude oil God blessed us with. Ijaws are balkanize in bits in almost all the states in the Niger Delta and in all these states we have been maliciously distributed as minorities (except Bayelsa state), though we generate the highest revenue from our God-given crude.

As minorities, we suffer oppression, have very weak political voices and tiny political space for survival. As a result, the 13% derivation accruing to the state treasury directly from our soil and waters are also used to develop other non-oil producing areas with plenty political powers.

We are the fourth largest ethnic group in Nigeria with no strength and have been forced in the past to thread the path of violent agitation to get what is due to us or wait for the leftovers of others. This injustice and blatant disregard for the legitimate rights of the Ijaws in Delta state is unacceptable and we will resist it with everything God has empowered us with.

We want to remind President Mohammadu Buhari and the members of the National Assembly that the provisions of the NDDC Act has been followed judiciously by previous governments to the last letter and we the Ijaws in Delta state will resist with everything in us the attempt by this present administration to go against the NDDC Act to oppress our people and deprive us of what is due to us.

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For emphasis, we have taken time to explain the representation of Deltans on the NDDC board by their ethnicity, from inception to date.

In the first NDDC board (2000 – 2004) that had Prof. V.F Peretomode (Ijaw) as the state rep, Godwin Omene (Urhobo) was the MD. Gowin Omene (Urhobo) was later replaced in 2002 with Emmanuel Agwariavwodo (Urhobo) in the first board. Emmanuel Agwariavwodo (Urhobo) was however reappointed in the second board (2005 – 2008) as the MD while Chief Emmanuel Ogidi (Isoko) served as the state rep.

Agwariavwodo (Urhobo) resigned to contest the Delta state gubernatorial election, and this made Timi Alaibe (Bayesla), the then EDFA to step in as the acting MD and Pastor P.Z Aginighan (Ijaw) the then Director of Finance and Supplies step in as acting EDFA respectively.

In the third board (2009 – 2011), Chibuzor Ugwocha (Rivers) was the MD and Pastor P.Z Agnighan (Ijaw) was confirmed as substantive EDFA with Chief Solomon Ogba (Isoko) as the state rep. This board was sacked half-way and people from same state were appointed to continue the third board with the same rotational arrangement from 2011 – 2012.

This reconstituted board had Konboye Lambert (Ijaw) serving as the EDFA while Chief Solomon Ogba (Isoko) was retained again as the state rep. In the fourth board (2013 – 2015), Tuoyo Omatsuli (Itsekiri) was the EDP while Chief Tom Amioku (Urhobo) was the state rep. The fourth board was reconstituted in 2015 and it had Samuel Adjogbe (Urhobo) as the EDP and Ogaga Ofowodo (Isoko) as the state rep.

The fifth board which is this current nomination that the Ijaws in Delta state are rejecting in its entirety has Prophet Jones Erue (Isoko) as the state rep and Bernard Okumagba (Urhobo) as the MD.

From the foregoing, it is crystal clear that the Ijaws in Delta state have been undermined and are maliciously being schemed out of the NDDC equation. The Urhobos in Delta state have occupied executive position four times and appointing another Urhobo man as the MD is a sign of oppression and marginalization of the Ijaws.

The MD position must come to the Ijaws in Delta state as it is our due turn in accordance to the NDDC Act of 2000 12 (1) which states that “There shall be for the Commission, a Managing Director, and two Executive Directors who shall be indigenes of oil producing areas starting with the member states of the Commission with the highest production quantum of oil and shall rotate amongst member states in the order of production”. After all, the Ijaws produce over 50% of the total oil and gas in Delta state.

As a matter of utmost urgency, we want to remind the government of the day that the NDDC Act has been religiously followed in the setting up of previous boards until this ugly aberration by some overzealous politicians. It would interest you to note that similar nomination blunder was committed during the setting up of the outgoing board in 2016.

Nominees from Imo, Ondo and Abia states were rejected on the grounds that it contradicts the NDDC Act but President Mohammadu Buhari was very quick to make amends, thus significantly maintaining the peace in the region and averting serious fundamental security and developmental threats.

The President had to nullify the former nominations and fresh nominations of Lucky Orimiso (Ondo), Chukwa Anwawa (Imo) and Nwogu Nwogu (Abia), were made by the President to the National Assembly in March 2017 as “replacement of those that were rejected for not representing the oil producing areas of their respective states.”

We are therefore demanding same in this situation. We enjoin the government of the day as a matter of urgency to please present fresh nomination from the Delta Ijaw extraction for the position of the MD to ensure peace, fairness and equity is maintained in the region.

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Again, we seriously appeal to the Buhari administration to do diligent consultation as done before setting up previous boards to keep the ethnic balances intact. It is of utmost importance that President Mohammadu Buhari and the National Assembly listens to the voice of reason to not complicate our sufferings by deliberately sidelining and suffocating us in the scheme of things.

A situation where one major player is deliberately trampled on and sidelined after cooperating with existing protocols and have humbly waited for their due turn will surely breed bad blood amongst us. Enough is enough.”

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