Niger Delta Elders Forum, Friday criticized the alleged meeting of Minister of the Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio and Ethnic Nationality Youth Groups, where the later passed a vote of confidence on the former.

Describing the meeting as an unnecessary distraction, Chief Tonye Ogbogbula, National President of the forum in a statement called on Akpabio to get President Muhammadu Buhari to inaugurate the NDDC Board.

READ THE FULL STATEMENT BELOW:

“The attention of Niger Delta Elders Forum has been drawn to a statement by Jackson Udom, Chief Press Secretary to the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, posted on his Facebook page on Friday, November 19, 2021, stating inter-alia that “Leaders of Niger Delta Ethnic Nationalities Youth Forum, on Thursday in Abuja, passed vote of confidence” on Minister, Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio.”

“It is unfortunate that in a well-orchestrated subterfuge to divert attention from the collective legitimate demands of authentic Niger Delta stakeholders for the inauguration of the NDDC Governing Board, Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, once again, assembled his pliant “Leaders of Niger Delta Ethnic Nationalities Youth Forum” to pay him a courtesy visit in his office, on Thursday, November 18, 2021, to sing his praises.

“This fringe group, which to all intents and purposes is a portfolio ethnic nationality youth association that the Minister apparently created to endorse his diversionary actions from time to time, and which has been employed on several occasions in the past two years to praise copiously and endorse every action of Akpabio, however dubious or comical. 

“In May last year, after Akpabio failed to conclude the audit, as promised, and put the Board in place, the selfsame portfolio Niger Delta Ethnic Nationalities Youth Forum issued a press statement ‘passing a vote of confidence’ on Akpabio. Such characters do not represent the Niger Delta people. As usual, these fraudulent associations will falsely claim to speak for the various ethnicities of the NDDC states where the more established and recognised unions hold sway. This charade cannot confuse anyone.

“During the courtesy call on Akpabio on Thursday, November 18, 2021, the President of the so-called Niger Delta Ethnic Nationalities Youth Forum, one Terry Obieh, regurgitated Senator Akpabio’s ‘completion’ of NDDC Head office, which was already 80% complete before his assumption of duty in July 2019; the completion of a student hostel block in Uyo; and a rural electricity project in Ondo, as accomplishments by Akpabio’s NDDC in two years. What an embarrassment for a Commission whose combined two-year budget for 2019 and 2020, as approved by the National Assembly was N799 Billion!

“As further proof that Akpabio’s guests are leaders of fictitious and fringe groups, which are to all intents and purposes portfolio ethnic nationality youth associations, none of the recognizable and authentic Niger Delta ethnic nationality groups, such as Conference of Presidents-General of Niger Delta Ethnic Nationalities (CPGNDEN), Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), the Ijaw National Congress (INC), the Ikwerre People’s Congress (IPC) Worldwide, Isoko Development Union (IDU), the Movement for the Survival of Izon Ethnic Nationality in the Niger Delta (MOSIEND), Ijaw Youth Council (IYC), Urhobo Progressive Union (UPU), or Itsekiri Leaders of Thought (ILOT) amongst others were present at the so-called courtesy visit.

READ ALSO: Why inauguration of NDDC board delayed ― Akpabio

“Rather than dissipate energy on diversionary antics that are anti-Niger Delta and do not represent the legitimate demands for the inauguration of NDDC’s substantive governing board, Senator Akpabio should read the mood of the people of Niger Delta. Discredited as they even are, the fringe group that he hosted also stated that they strongly align with the demands of Niger Deltans that the substantive board should come on stream immediately. The hapless youths were obviously aware of the backlash that awaited them back home in the Niger Delta if they had not stated their support for the overwhelming legitimate demand of Niger Deltans that the NDDC Board should come on stream immediately. 

“These unknown youth groups do not represent the leadership of the ethnic nationalities of the Niger Delta states. For the avoidance of doubt, the authentic leadership of the Niger Delta ethnic nationalities have spoken clearly on these matters and they align with the central position of Conference of Presidents-General of Niger Delta Ethnic Nationalities (CPGNDEN), which membership cuts across Isoko Development Union; Urhobo Progressive Union; Oron Nationality; Ndokwa Nation; Itsekiri Nation; Ogoni Nation; and Ijaw National Congress, amongst others; Niger Delta Governors; statesmen; and people; that Akpabio has currently seized the NDDC and is retarding the development of the Niger Delta. 

“Already, across the length and breadth of the Niger Delta region there are unending calls, demands and peaceful agitations of youths, men and women, political and traditional leaders and civil society organisations that the illegality of administering the Commission through the Sole Administrator contraption should stop and the Board should be inaugurated in line with the NDDC Establishment Act to promote and sustain peace, equity and fairness, transparency and accountability, good governance and rapid development and transformation of the Niger Delta Region, and douse the tension of militancy as well as curtail the menace of insecurity in the region. 

“The non-inauguration of the board negates a promise by the President to inaugurate the board after the forensic audit.

“President Buhari promised the nation on the 24th day of June 2021, while receiving the Ijaw National Congress (INC) at the State House in Abuja that the NDDC Board would be inaugurated as soon as the forensic audit report is submitted and accepted.

“The President said: ‘‘Based on the mismanagement that had previously bedeviled the NDDC, a forensic audit was set up and the result is expected by the end of July, 2021. I want to assure you that as soon as the forensic audit report is submitted and accepted, the NDDC Board will be inaugurated.” 

“Regrettably, the report of the forensic audit of NDDC has since been submitted by Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, to President Buhari on September 2, 2021, but more than two months after submission of the forensic audit report, there is increasing tension in the Niger Delta region over the delay in inaugurating members of the board of the Commission. In fact the Ijaw National Congress (INC) had earlier cautioned in a statement issued on September 10, 2021 that “any further delay in the inauguration of the NDDC board is a clear betrayal of trust and display of State insensitivity on ljaw nation and Niger Delta region.”

“The pan Ijaw group followed this up on November 6, 2021, in a statement signed by its President, Professor Benjamin Okaba, titled “Evil Against The Niger Delta: Enough Is Enough, Mr President” in which it cautioned that if President Buhari does not take “prompt action and the indigenous cross-cultural and multi-ethnic feelings of discontentment assume critical mass and become kinetic, we can do nothing to hold things back,”

“Okaba further stated that the INC is “fed up with the lackluster approach of the President to the outlined issues” of “the continued delay of the inauguration of a substantive board for the NDDC” which he described as “an inexplicable aberration that defies logical reasoning and is infuriating the region and the continued existence of the grossly illegal vehicle of Interim Administration at the NDDC.”

“The Niger Delta people are sick and tired of Akpabio’s manipulations while the NDDC shirks its primary duty to spur the development of the region, which is why there is popular support across the region for the ongoing agitations. President Buhari should listen to the voices of the people of the region and put a halt to Akpabio’s charade at the NDDC.

“The South-South governors, Conference of Presidents-General of Niger Delta Ethnic Nationalities (CPGNDEN), and all other authentic stakeholders in the Niger Delta region, not the rag tag youth groups that Akpabio hosted to a meeting, have affirmed their distrust in the machinations of Akpabio at the NDDC and have demanded the inauguration of the Board in line with the requirements of the law governing the Commission.  

“Rather than hide under a finger, Senator Akpabio should hearken to the legitimate demands of Niger Deltans, to undo the damage which he has done to the Niger Delta region, and get President Muhammadu Buhari to inaugurate the NDDC Board without further delay, a move they said is the only way for him to prove that he is truly part of the solution and thereby “open a new chapter in the Federal Government’s avowed quest to emancipate the peoples of the Niger Delta region”.

“Clearly what is needed at this point is for the government to redeem itself now that the Forensic audit report has been submitted to President Muhammadu Buhari since September 2, 2021. The President should do well to heed the call of Niger Delta leaders, governors, youths, women, traditional rulers, civil society organisations, and other stakeholders, comply with the law setting up NDDC, and also fulfill his own promise of June 24, 2021, and inaugurate the board to manage the Commission for the benefit of the people of the nine Niger Delta states.”

Chief Tonye Ogbogbula is National President of Niger Delta Elders Forum

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