By Levinus Nwabughiogu
Ex-militants from the Niger Delta region have said that the Minister of Niger Delta, Senator Godswill Akpabio is the only one who has the magic wand to turn around the fortunes of the coastal zone for the good of the people.
They also dissociated the Minister from the recent controversy in the Niger Delta Development Commission, NNDC, saying that facts available to them indicated that Akpabio did not mastermind the transfer of the Commission’s administrative powers from the presidency to his ministry.
Recalling the recent court of appeal judgement which ordered a rerun in the Akwa Ibom North-West Senatorial District election in which the minister is a candidate, the ex-militants appealed to Akpabio not to run, saying he was more useful to the people of the Niger Delta is in the ministry than the Senate.
The appeals were contained in a statement issued under the name “Coalition of Niger Delta Agitators”, signed by John Dukku and others and made available to Journalists in Abuja on Sunday.
The ex-militants also withdrew their sack calls on the minister, urging President Muhammadu Buhari to also ignore same from other quarters.
According to them, their position was informed by new information from the leader of the beneficiaries of the amnesty programme, Phase 2 in Akwa Ibom, Imoh Okokoh who engaged them on contemporary issues in the coastal area.
They also pledged their support to both the President Buhari and Minister Akpabio to enable them to succeed in office.
The statement read in parts: “From our investigations and contrary to our earlier belief, the movement of the NDDC from the Presidency to the Ministry of the Niger Delta had indeed commenced practically during the first tenure of the present administration when Godswill Akpabio was serving at the National Assembly as Senate Minority Leader and the immediate-past Board of the NDDC was inaugurated by the then Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Pastor Usani Usani and not the SGF, signaling that the Commission was indeed under the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs. Thus, it is very wrong to insinuate that the Minister, Senator Akpabio was the one who masterminded the transfer of supervisory powers to his Ministry.
“Secondly, from every indication, the appointment and inauguration of the Interim Management Committee for the Commission was indeed approved by the Presidency, and not the Minister’s unilateral decision as erroneously believed in many quarters. Therefore, for Senator Akpabio to be wrongfully accused of usurping Presidential powers in doing what was done, amounts to very serious political blackmail and giving a dog a bad name. We hereby withdraw the ultimatum we earlier gave the Presidency to sack the Minister as this will not solve the present confusion and tension that we are having in the region. Rather, going by his antecedents as an astute and stubborn goal-getter, it is our candid opinion that he is our best man and the magic wand we currently have to get the Niger Delta region working.
“The Coalition acknowledges the recent Appeal Court judgement sitting in Calabar which cancelled the last Senatorial election in the Minister’s Senatorial district and calling for a rerun which is in his favour. However, we appeal to the Honourable Minister to jettison the idea of going for a rerun and rather remain as Minister, as the Niger Delta people need him more than his Senatorial district. The Niger Delta people believe so much in him and really need his services especially at this time.
“While regretting our earlier stance on this issue which we took out of misinformation and ignorance, we call on the various Niger Delta groups and individuals genuinely committed to the Niger Delta struggle, to rally round and support Senator Godswill Obot Akpabio who we sincerely believe will give the Ministry, the NDDC and indeed the entire Niger Delta region the desired positive change.
“We also advise the Presidency to ignore any individual or group attacking the Minister or calling for his removal as they are being sponsored by those who defrauded the NDDC at one point or another and are therefore afraid of the probe that has been instituted.
“On our part, we hereby warn all those calling for Senator Akpabio’s sack to desist from doing so as any further attacks and embarrassment on the person of the Minister, shall be met with stiff opposition and resistance.
“Finally, we wish to assure the Honourable Minister, His Excellency, Senator Godswill Akpabio of our strong support to him. He should, therefore, settle down and work towards delivering the Niger Delta mandate through his Ministry and the NDDC.”