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Storm gathers over non-constitution of NDDC board

By Mike Odiegwu, Port Harcourt and Bassey Anthony, Uyo

  • Total shutdown of region begins Monday – IYC

  • I had fruitful meeting with Tompolo, says Akpabio

Some traditional rulers, opinion leaders and ex-militants in the Niger Delta are throwing their weight behind former militant leader, Government Ekpemupolo alias Tompolo, following his seven-day ultimatum to the federal authorities to inaugurate the substantive board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).

Niger Delta Affairs Minister Godswill Akpabio, who met Tompolo in his Oporoza den in Warri Southwest, Delta State on Thursday, said they had a fruitful discussion.

Akpabio gave no details beyond saying he would fast track things.

The Tompolo ultimatum expires Sunday and the President of the Ijaw National Congress (INC), Prof. Benjamin Okaba, vowed that the ultimatum remains valid.

On his arrival in Delta State on Thursday, the minister first met with Niger Delta Stakeholders at the palace of the King of Gbaramatu, Oboro Gbaraun11, Aketekpe Agadaga, where he tried to reel out some of the achievements of the NDDC.

But he seemed to have infuriated the gathering when he said the NDDC board would come on board by next month.

The Deputy Governor of Delta State, Kingsley Otuaru, who received the minister and accompanied him to Gbaramatu, told Akpabio to immediately reconstitute the board of the commission.

Otuaru said: “Today is a day of sadness and joy. It is a day of sadness because our dear country is at the threshold of self-implosion. If you look at the six geopolitical zones other than the Niger Delta region, everywhere is in turmoil. So, it speaks volume of the singular fact that there seems to be a failure of leadership.

“On the streets of the Niger Delta, the discussion that holds sway is ‘has our brother (Akpabio), the uncommon transformation agenda governor, joined the bandwagon of failed leadership?’

“We cannot explain why an institution like the NDDC that is a product of an Act is being run in flagrant abuse of the powers establishing it under the guise of a forensic audit. We are in a representative democracy which warrants that you must listen to the voice of the people.

“The voice of the people is that there must be a substantive board. For goodness sake, the government of Delta and the traditional rulers are having sleepless nights to ensure that we maintain the peace in this region.

“In 2016, we knew what happened to the region to the extent that we could not pay the salaries of our civil servants. God forbid that we return to such a situation.

“You must listen to the voice of the people. We need the substantive board of the NDDC. There is no philosophy that forecloses a statutory organisation for the sake of the audit. We don’t want anything untoward in this region. We want the right thing to be done.”

Also, speaking the President, Ijaw National Congress (INC), Prof. Benjamin Okaba, who spoke for elders from other ethnic nationalities in the region, insisted that the ultimatum issued by Tompolo remained valid.

While referring to Akpabio’s visit as the saving grace, Okaba said Akpabio had failed to replicate his feats in Akwa Ibom when he was the governor in the Niger Delta as a minister.

He said: “This nation knows Akpabio as a miracle worker, as a transformer.  Your legacies in Akwa Ibom can never be beaten by successive governors. So, when you were appointed, the people acknowledged you because they felt that you were going to leverage on your wonderful achievements in transforming the Niger Delta.

“I want to frankly tell you that the people of the Niger Delta are not pleased. I don’t want to use the word disappointment. We are not pleased. Since 2015, we have been having a crisis in the various management of the NDDC.

“Auditing of any establishment can go together with the running of the system. The 1999 constitution that has obvious infractions is being altered, but we have not suspended Nigeria. We have not appointed a sole administrator to run Nigeria.

“We also know that in the organogram and composition of the NDDC, the   management board constitutes a little proportion of the workings of that place. We have directors and heads of department that are still working. Monies are going out. We have further cases of infractions without the board.

“The seven-day ultimatum stands. Governors of the South-south told the world that as part of the demands for peace to reign, you must reconstitute the NDDC board.

“The Ijaw youths, Isoko, Itsekiri youths gave 30 days ultimatum. There was no intervention from anybody. How else do you tell people that they are fools? How else do you tell the people that they can go and die?

“We are very bitter. The entire Niger Delta is standing behind High Chief Tompolo. If nothing happens at the expiration of the ultimatum, don’t blame anybody if anything happens. We have seen this happen before and that is why we are very careful.”

The Fiyewei of Gbaramatu Kingdom, Chief Godspower Gbenekama, said: “Anything that happens to the oil industry if the NDDC board is not inaugurated, you (Akpabio) should be held responsible. Why is it that everything in the Niger Delta is interim?

“In the NDDC, you have an interim administrator, in the Presidential Amnesty Programme, you have an interim coordinator. Is it only Niger Delta people that interim management should be serving?

“Our resolve is we want that board to be constituted. The ultimatum stands. After the ultimatum and nothing is done, don’t blame anybody.”

After the meeting, Akpabio and his entourage were ferried into the creeks’ abode of Tompolo for their own meeting.

He released a video in which he summarised how the meeting with “my brother Chief Tompolo” went.

He said it was fruitful and that he clearly understood the message of the stakeholders; that they wanted representation. He pledged to fast track things.

Ateke Tom supports Tompolo

The traditional ruler of Okochiri Kingdom in Rivers State and a former militant leader, Ateke Tom, said he backed the ultimatum because of alleged continued insincerity and open deceit in handling the affairs of the NDDC and the region at large.

Ateke in a statement through his Chief of Staff, Chief Tamunokonba Akaluogbo, asked President Muhammad Buhari to listen to the cries of the people and heed the clamour for immediate inauguration of the substantive board despite the unending forensic audit.

Ateke said the stakeholders in the region desired to sustain the existing peace in the region despite the rising insecurity in the Southeast and other regions.

He said the constitution of a substantive board was not too small to ask by a region disposed to keeping the peace and rejecting secessionist pressure.

He said Akpabio, the minister, has failed in his promises and he is only using the forensic audit as a decoy for other reasons.

He warned that further delay could be dangerous.

A’Ibom ex-militants issue own 14-day ultimatum to sack Akwa, Dikio

Also Friday, a coalition of ex militants from Akwa Ibom State gave the federal government a 14-day ultimatum to remove the sole administrator of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Mr. Efiong Akwa, and reconstitute the commission’s board.

Besides, they asked the FG to sack Colonel Milland Dikio (rtd) and appoint a substantive special adviser/coordinator for the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP) within two weeks.

The ex-militants, under the aegis of ‘Unyek Isong’, made the demands in a press release signed by ‘General’ Dede Udofia and ‘Major Ibanga Ekeng’.

Their words: “We view the appointment of the Interim Management Commission (IMC) and now a sole administrator to run the affairs of the NDDC as well as oversee the NDDC forensic audit as illegal even when the nominees for the new NDDC board had already been screened and confirmed by the Senate in 2019.”

They alleged that running the NDDC and the PAP with interim administrators has resulted in fraud, financial recklessness and the usurpation of the resources of the Niger Delta region by self-seeking politicians.

…IPC too

Kinsmen of Governor Nyesom Wike of River State, operating under the banner of the Ikwerre People’s Congress (IPC) Worldwide, said the practice of running the NDDC by one man against the Act establishing the commission has done a lot of damage to the region.

IPC said all stakeholders had been denied their statutory entitlements in the commission, adding that it was aimed at further compromising the commission and destabilising the Niger Delta region in general.

It warned that it would “no longer tolerate this veiled conspiracy against our region”, and commended Tompolo for insisting that the NDDC board must be reconstituted immediately.

“He has acted statesmanly for mobilising the region at this time to assert our dignity from those who seek to mischievously repress our rights. This is a position we share because Chief Ekpemupolo spoke the mind of the entire Niger Delta region and we are not going back on it,” IPC said.

Continuing, it said: “IPC holds that the failure of the Federal Government and the Minister for Niger Delta Affairs Senator Godswill Akpabio in not reconstituting the NDDC board for years now is criminal and deliberate. It can only be a set up aimed at undermining the Niger Delta people and pocketing such an important agency as if they are doing the region a favour.

“Ikwerre, a major contributor to the national purse, a leading oil and gas producing and critical stakeholder-ethnic nationality played key roles as well as paid the highest price along with our brethren of other ethnic nations particularly the Ijaws, Isokos, Urhobos, Itsekiris, etc for the establishment of the NDDC and other agencies.

“We view the attitude of the government towards the Niger Delta at this time as most irresponsible and unfortunate. This is considering the fact that Nigeria depends on the oil and gas from the Lower Niger to survive. But at this time, anything less of our entitlement, we will not take it anymore.”

IPC, however, called for the inclusion of Ikwerre ethnic nationality in the affairs of NDDC, saying it was fully mobilised to drive home its demands like any other ethnic nationality.

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