…Otuaro asks Akpabio to respect wish of N’Delta people
…Board to be inaugurated July—Akpabio
…Commission has been turned to yahoo yahoo centre —Evah
…Urhobo youths protest, call for substantive board
…Ndokwa youths support ultimatum
…Another group petitions Buhari, gives ultimatum
…IYC insists on protest as Ijaw leaders’ intervention fails
By Emma Amaize, Dapo Akinrefon, Etop Ekanem & Jimitota Onoyume
Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, was in Oporoza, traditional headquarters of Gbaramatu Kingdom in Delta State, yesterday, where he met General Officer Commanding, GOC, Niger Delta struggle, Government Ekpemupolo, aka Tompolo.
This came as Niger Delta Avengers Groups vowed to cripple oil installations in the region, if the Presidency fails to constitute a substantial board for Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC.
It will be recalled that last Sunday, Tompolo gave President Muhammadu Buhari a seven-day ultimatum to inaugurate the governing board of NDDC, a development that triggered fresh tension in the region.
Meanwhile, the Coordinator of the Ijaw Monitoring Group, Chief Joseph Evah, has thrown his weight behind the ultimatum.
During the visit, Akpabio pleaded with them to see reason with him, but the people stood by the seven-day ultimatum given by Tompolo, and agitators to constitute the substantive board of NDDC.
Representatives of Ijaw, Isoko, Ndokwa and Itsekiri ethnic nationalities in Delta State, Ijaw kings and youth groups from Bayelsa, Ondo and Edo states were in attendance.
Akpabio who braved the odds to visit Oporoza, where he met separately meet with Tompolo and the ethnic nationalities, said they should give him June and July for the inauguration of NDDC board.
He arrived 3p.m., affirming that the list of board members was ready but indicated that board inauguration could not be within the period of the ultimatum, as the forensic audit was yet to be completed.
Deputy Governor of Delta State, Mr Kingsley Otuaro, who welcomed the minister and his entourage at Osubi airstrip, Effurun, near Warri, urged Akpabio to listen to the voice of the people, saying the ethnic nationalities were unanimous that NDDC board should be inaugurated.
Fiyewei of Gbaramatu Kingdom, Chief Godspower Gbenekama, who spoke for the ethnic nationalities, told him that they could not guarantee what would happen if the board was not inaugurated within the period of the ultimatum.
All the ethnic nationalities present endorsed Gbenekama’s statement as their position, but the minister did not make any pledge that the board would be constituted on or before June 6.
National President of Ijaw National Council, apex organisation of Ijaw ethnic nationality, Prof Benjamin Okaba, advised the minister to respect the ultimatum.
He met privately met with Tompolo at a different venue, which was the main reason for his going there, but details of their meeting was not known at press time.
The minister and his entourage went with speedboat from Warri to Oporoza and there was no definite agreement.
Avengers vow to cripple oil installations
The Niger Delta Avengers Group handed down the warning in a statement by General Ayayeibo Edmos; spokesperson, Adaka Boro Avengers, General Christ Etareotu; spokesperson, Niger Delta Creek Warriors, NDCW, Brig General Etigbein Oghene; spokesperson, Ogunuma Camp of Niger Delta, OCOND, General Ovie Yinks; spokesperson, Niger Delta Redemption Fighters Coalition Group, RFCG, General Santana Otuks; spokesperson, Niger Delta Republic Seekers, NDRS and Brig General Esuku.
The groups in a statement, yesterday, said: “Forensic audit can go on even when the substantive board of NDDC is inaugurated, Akpabio should not use the forensic audit as an excuse to delay the inauguration of NDDC board.
“We, therefore, urge the Federal Government to constitute the board of NDDC, as it is long overdue. The ongoing forensic audit in the NDDC should not be a ground for the refusal to constitute the board. The audit relates to the past and would not hinder the board from functioning.
“We could remember that the establishment of the NDDC from year 2000 has ushered in boards managing over $40bn (N15 trillion) for the development of the region. Some of these appointments came at a time when our region took the centre of leadership in the national leadership of this country.
READ ALSO: Akpabio in Delta to meet Tompolo
“To say that the development of the region under the board is and has been commensurate with the monies allotted to the commission will be left as an empty page for every individual to fill his/her answer- at least, a borehole project of the NDDC is still left abandoned in many communities in Niger Delta for over five years now.
“Rationally, we don’t see the possibility of a true, detailed and a holistic forensic audit of the commission that will be carried out even in the next four to five years that its conclusion will be given as a window to usher in new a board, except, it will be business as usual.
“Don’t forget that Effiong Akwa, who is the present Interim Administrator of NDDC until his appointment was the Executive Director, Finance and Administration, who served under Prof Pondei as chairman with many dramas of financial issues, with no headway till date. Secondly, the Presidential Amnesty Programme, PAP, which is led by Milland Dikio is just another political jamboree, where few rare individuals in the Niger Delta region connived to enrich themselves.
“We, therefore, call on President Buhari to immediately intercede in combing the crisis that will rock the oil sector if the presidency fails to do the needful. The oil sector in the region will suffer a big blow. We will carry out our threats if the presidency fails to constitute the NDDC board and call the Amnesty Programme Coordinator to order. Failure will lead to destruction. We will shut down all major flow stations, oil wells and pipelines owned by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC.
“Akpabio’s strangulation of the NDDC was frustrating the tireless peace efforts of some political leaders such as Pa Edwin Clark, King Alfred Spiff, King Edmund Dakoru, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, Governor Nyesom Wike and Deputy Senate President, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege.”
NDDC has been turned to yahoo yahoo centre—Evah
Evah in a statement faulted Akpabio for the delay in the setting up of the NDDC board.
He said: “The patriotic citizens of Niger Delta are behind Tompolo’s ultimatum, the childish excuses that the forensic audit is behind the delay in following the laws setting up NDDC are no more acceptable. It is a delay strategy by Akpabio to blindfold Mr President to hijack the NDDC and use the commission for his political jamboree.
“Since last year, when Akpabio manipulated Mrs Joy Nuhiuen as head of NDDC, a woman who was appointed into the board of NDDC for screening by the Senate but refused to go for the screening, yet the lady became interim head of the commission. Later, the lady fought Akpabio and exposed all the dirty deals of Akpabio and left the office, yet Akpabio is still allowed by the president because the NDDC has been hijacked by a mafia. Why will only NDDC forensic investigations be carried out by politicians and not by the EFCC or ICPC?”
Urhobo youths protest at Warri office
President of Urhobo Progress Union, Mr Efemena Umukoro, said he was in league with other youth bodies in the region to demand the constitution of a substantive board for the commission, adding that it was no longer acceptable to continue to run the commission with interim leadership.
Some of the placards carried by the protesting youths had inscriptions such as “Mr President inaugurate a board for the commission”, “We are tired of interim leadership running the NDDC,” among others.
Ndokwa youths back ultimatum
Also, Ndokwa National Youth Movement, NNYM, Worldwide in a statement by Idi Ifeanyichukwu, Secretary-General, said: “Our attention has been drawn to the ultimatum given by one of our respected leaders in the Niger Delta struggle, Tompolo and if these are not enough to push the minister to do the right thing and inaugurate the board as soon as possible, we will mobilise thousands of our youths to join the protest and make Akpabio understand that the NDDC is not his personal property.
“On the forensic audit going on at the commission, we are tired of hearing the same story all the time. We see it as a ploy by Akpabio and his gang to tactically deny our people their legitimate representation while creating loopholes to further plunder our commonwealth.”
Another group petitions Buhari, gives ultimatum
Meanwhile, Niger Delta Youth Congress, NDYC, has petitioned President Buhari, urging him to heed to their demands within two weeks or face unrest from the region.
Following key resolutions adopted at an emergency congress in Sapele, Delta State, NDYC expressed disappointment at Buhari’s efforts at developing Niger Delta on ground of slow pace of intervention in the oil-rich region.
In the resolutions by Ogboka Umeda, President-General, NDYC, the group noted that NDDC management, as currently structured, “denies the region’s youths many opportunities like empowerment, skill acquisition, contracts and even scholarship to the extent that there is a cartel in whose control activities of the board are now shrouded in secrecy.
“Also, the ongoing construction of East-West road is in a snail movement and we doubt if the job will be completed before you exit office in 2023.
“The forensic audit at the commission is a sham and ploy to foot-drag development in Niger Delta through the one man show of Akpabio and his Akwa brother, hence the imperative for immediate sack of the sole administrator.”
IYC insists on protests as Ijaw leaders’ intervention fail
Meanwhile, Ijaw youths under the Ijaw Youth Council, IYC, Worldwide has rejected the appeal by its parent body, the Ijaw National Congress, INC, to call off its ongoing protests against the refusal of Federal Government to inaugurate a substantive board of NDDC.
Rising from a meeting in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, the elders had appealed for the suspension of the current and further planned mass actions by the IYC and other Niger Delta agitators.
A statement by INC after its meeting by its President, Prof. Benjamin Okaba;National Secretary, Ebipamowei Wodu, and Publicity Secretary, Ezonebi Oyakemeagbegha, said: “The INC express concern about the growing tension in Ijawland and Niger Delta arising from the protests by Ijaw youths and the ultimatum issued by Tompolo and some Niger Delta agitators over the non-constitution of the board of the NDDC.
“The INC recalls that governors of Niger Delta had months ago reviewed the matter and called for the constitution of the board of the NDDC, which indeed reflects the position of the vast majority of the people of the region.
“There is currently an overwhelming anger over the state of affairs in NDDC and except President Buhari takes proactive steps, things may go out of hand.”