•By Samuel Oyadongha & Emem Idio
Comrade Ebilade Ekerefe is the spokesman for Ijaw Youth Council, IYC, Worldwide. Ekerefe speaks, in this interview, on issues concerning the Niger Delta including the protest against the appointment of a sole administrator for the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, among other issues.
IYC has been antagonizing the appointment of a sole administrator for the NDDC and recently embark on a protest on the East West Road. Why is the IYC taking antagonistic stand?
It is quite sad that since this government came on board, what that has been a tradition in the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, has now become something that our people cannot even imagine. The NDDC was established to primarily intervene in terms of the huge developmental challenges of the Niger Delta. But what they do is to award contracts that cannot impact the well being of our people and we are saying no to that.
So what elicited our protest on the East West Road was to demonstrate to the Federal Government that we are not comfortable with what is going on and there was no better way for us to express our anger but to demonstrate on the East West Road and our demands are very simple – that the Federal Government should, as a matter of urgency, correct itself from the error of judgment. The President was ill advised and we know who within the Niger Delta is selling the region out.
Without mincing words, the Ijaw Youth Council, IYC, has accused the Minister of the Niger Delta, Senator Godswill Akpabio, of abandoning his responsibilities as the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs and is now concentrating all efforts on the NDDC and we ask questions that if not because of the huge financial purse of the NDDC, would Akpabio pay attention to the NDDC? The Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs has the mandate to construct the East West Road, why has he failed to speed up the construction of the road so that people within the Niger Delta can benefit from plying the road for their economic sustainability? So we want him to concentrate his energy on the construction of the East West Road and allow the NDDC to operate and intervene in serious developmental challenges of the region.
IYC not against ethnic nationality
Let me correct an erroneous impression: We are not against any ethnic nationality within the Niger Delta who is to benefit from any managerial position in the NDDC. What we are demanding is a substantive board. To the best of my knowledge, the last substantive board that we had was headed by Mr. Dan Abia, and he is from Akwa Ibom State.
Other states got their fair share of positions and everyone was carried along in a well constituted board by the nine states that make up the NDDC. What we are saying is that with the sole administrator, you are shortchanging the region from presiding over the development of the Niger Delta. So we are not against any ethnic nationality within the Niger Delta from benefiting from the NDDC. What we want is a substantive board because with a substantive board every state will have its fair share and a substantive board will not have flimsy excuses to give in terms of development. The Presidency should remove the NDDC from the shackles of the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs and take back the supervisory role as it used to be. This is the only way that can guarantee stability and development of the region.
The NDDC has just managed to have its 2020 budget passed when we are already in 2021. Why do you run a very serious agency that has to do with the development of the Niger Delta with lip service? But that is not what is happening in other parts of the country. There is the North East Development Commission, we have not heard that it is a sole administrator that is running the affairs of the commission, they have a substantive board and there is rapid development going on in the North East.
Anything that has to do with the Niger Delta as far as this government is concerned is always politicized and I can give instances. Take a look at the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP). We are supposed to have a substantive head coordinator. Before, it used to be Special Adviser on Niger Delta and Coordinator PAP, but they have expunged the Special Adviser and now it is just Coordinator under the Buhari government. As we speak today, we don’t even have a substantive Coordinator but an interim administrator, what an insult to the region.
The PAP has been able to stabilize the region and this also stabilizes the oil production capacity of this country and you are treating such a programme with kid gloves. We have come to the irreversible conclusion that this government is not ready to do what is constitutional, what is lawful and what is legitimate in the Niger Delta. We have accused Akpabio that he is the one orchestrating all the imbalances in the NDDC.
The protest at the East West Road is a tip of the iceberg compared to the mother of all protests that we intend to carry out in January. We will mobilise Ijaw youths massively across the Niger Delta including other ethnic nationalities within the region to stage a protest at the headquarters of the NDDC to demand that there should be a substantive board. We believe that the lack of substantive board has given excuses to politicians to underdevelop the region. They told us that they are carrying out forensic audit and on top of that they have opened up floodgates for unprecedented corruption in the NDDC. This is what informed our protest and I think that we are speaking the minds of our people and they are happy with the step that the IYC is taking.