…Ijaw factions, ex-militant groups fight on over NDDC Interim C’ttee, Board
By Emma Amaize,
Regional Editor, Niger Delta
WHEN the Ijaw Youth Council, IYC, led by Mr. Eric Omare, threatened, November 4, to shut down the office of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, over continued administration of the Commission by the Interim Management Committee, IMC, instead of the Board already approved by the Senate, many felt stakeholders should tread cautiously.
Omare-led IYC, which described the IMC, constituted by Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, as unconstitutional and strange to the enabling law that set up NDDC, made a three-point demand viz: The dissolution of the IMC and inauguration of the new Board, otherwise the group would embark on mass action to shut down the Commission’s office.
He maintained that Akpabio’s action would slow down the development of the Niger Delta, saying that virtually all the roads in the region were bad, and rather than the NDDC going to work, it was embroiled in unnecessary crisis.
48 hours after Omare IYC fired the warning, another faction of the group, led by Pereotubo Oweilaemi, reprimanded the former.
Oweilaemi, on November 6, urged the Federal Government not to listen to “noisemakers” masquerading as IYC, saying, “As for the threat to shut down the Commission, IYC wishes to reiterate its stand that it did not emanate from IYC national or any of its organs”.
Since the row between the two IYC factions, both led by legal practitioners, started in the first week of November, the oil region has been restless over the supervision of NDDC, the major interventionist agency in Niger Delta allegedly riddled with staggering corruption and mismanagement.
Various groups are at each other’s throat over the propriety or otherwise of IMC with a privileged source explaining that President Muhammadu Buhari, on whose table the buck stops, was the one that directed the inauguration of the IMC contrary to the thinking that it was entirely an Akpabio affair.
Meanwhile, the saga took a new turn on Wednesday when a militant group which identified itself as the 21st Century Youths for Niger Delta and Agitators with Conscience, gave the Federal Government seven days ultimatum to inaugurate the new Board or face mass protest and shutting down of NDDC.
Leader of the group, self-professed ‘General’ Izon Ebi, in a statement, said, “We urge that action be taken in this regard or we will be forced to liaise with like minds and groups for a massive protest and shutting down of the NDDC within the next one week to press home our demands.
“We, therefore, plead with Mr. President to urgently inaugurate the Board as the delay on its inauguration is starving the Niger Delta of the development that we crave for”.
The group commended the National Assembly, “most especially the Senate, for standing up to the occasion of saving the Niger Delta from dark forces that profit from anarchy and crisis.”
Though it also congratulated the Presidency “for hearkening to the voice of reasoning by appointing people with proven integrity and capacity to the Board of the Niger Delta Development Commission NDDC,” it implored it “to inaugurate the new Board and mandate them to start their jobs in the Commission immediately.”
It asserted that if the Board was not inaugurated, “the forensic audit of the NDDC will be in jeopardy, taking into cognizance the filth and malfeasance in the Commission as unearthed by the interim management team.”
The group went on, “We think it is time the constituted managers take over responsibility in the Commission to give its managerial a sense of direction.
“We understand that the interim management had to step in due to the hiatus occasioned by the absence of the President in the country during the confirmation of the appointees by the Senate.
“Now, that is in the past and the President is around, we the agitators and Niger Deltans think the job of the interim board is done and they should hand over to the duly constituted, approved and confirmed Board of the Commission.
“We use this medium to thank the interim management committee for unearthing the serial corruption in the Commission.
“We also urge them to do the region a favour by naming the persons and companies involved in this sleaze, especially the company behind the N1billion monthly consultancy, the three percent in all allocations due to the Commission and the multi -contracts allocation to a single individual.
“With these, we feel the interim management committee has discharged its responsibility credibly and, as such, should vacate the management of the Commission.
“Interim Management Committee is unknown to the Act setting up NDDC and the Act does not recognize it as being under the purview of the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs. To this end, all actions to the contrary are ultra vires”.
Earlier this month, a group that calls itself the Reformed Niger Delta Avengers, RNDA, and a coalition of nine other militant groups that had declared ceasefire in the region, which took sides with Akpabio, had warned those threatening fire and brimstone in the region over the inauguration of IMC, including 21st Century Youths, to end their threat or face its wrath.
‘General Officer Commanding’, RNDA, self-styled ‘Major General’ Johnmark Ezonbi, aka Obama, had said, “The RNDA will resist such threats with any means necessary and those behind such moves will be dealt with, not minding the negative impact of our action in the region.”
He said those calling for the sack of Akpabio over the three-man NDDC IMC “should have their heads examined.
“It is so disgusting that the same power- drunk politicians from the region, who have held the development of the Niger Delta down, are still trying to rear their ugly heads.
“It is obvious that forensic audit of the Commission will expose their atrocities and how they have short-changed the interventionist agency.
“Any attempt to remove Senator Akpabio as Minister of Niger Delta, or plot to remove the supervision of the NDDC from the Niger Delta Ministry to the Office of the Secretary to the Federal Government to satisfy their plot, will only lead to collateral damage on crude oil installations in the Niger Delta.
“We have warned and there will be no going back as enough is enough with playing politics and power tussle with the NDDC.
RNDA, however, urged the new NDDC Board, headed by a former deputy governor of Edo State, Dr Odubu, “to remain calm,” saying, “Senator Akpabio is not opposed to the appointment of Dr Pius Odubu as Chairman of the NDDC as speculated by rumour peddlers and mischief makers.”