Following appeals by prominent Ijaw leaders, Chief E. Clark, King Ateke Tom, Chief Ebikabowei Victor-Ben (Boyloaf) and High Chief Bibopre Ajube, Ijaw Youths from the nine states of the Niger Delta region have announced the decision to shelve their planned massive protest to shut down the headquarters of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
According to the Ijaw Youths, the decision to put on hold the planned protest action was based on consultation with critical stakeholders and leaders of thoughts within the region and critical organs of Council to allow the Sole Administrator of the NDDC, Barrister Efiong Akwa, to conclude the forensic audit proposed by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The Spokesman of the umbrella body of the Ijaw Youths Council (IYC), Comrade Ebilade Ekerefe, while speaking on Monday, in Yenagoa, noted that despite the pressure and compromising stance of a few, the agitation resulted in breaking the silence of the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, on a new timeline for the appointment of a substantive board.
He said: “A substantive board will be appointed in April 2021 by which time the forensic auditors would have submitted their report to the Federal Government.
“What we have gathered from the new timeline is the fact that the Sole Administrator, Mr Akwa Effiong, has a four months tenure to remain in office. Though we have observed that the past promises made by the Federal Government on the issues of NDDC, Amnesty office, the East-West road, and other issues concerning our development, have never been fulfilled. We would be waiting, monitoring and engaging the Federal Government and Minister Godswill Akpabio on these numerous contentious issues.
“And on the Appointment of Engr Udengs Eradiri as SA Youth To The Sole Administrator, though positive and for a purpose, it should not be taken as a means to silence the Ijaw Youths agitating for a Substantive Board for the NDDC,” he warned.
He added that the ability of Eradiri to discharge his duty creditably notwithstanding, their agitation over the appointment of Mr Effiong Akwa as Sole Administrator of the NDDC had not changed.
”We are irrevocably committed to ensuring that a substantive board for the NDDC with fair representation of the Nine member states of the region making up the Commission is immediately constituted as enshrined in the act,” Ekrefe assured.
On the issue of protest, he reiterated that those against the protest were in variance to the overwhelming majority of Ijaw youths who had concluded plans to embark on the peaceful protest, adding that due to consultation with stakeholders and leaders of thoughts within the region and the critical organs of Council, it was resolved to put on hold the planned protest.
He, therefore, warned that “such conscious mass movements cannot be terminated because of the appointment of Engr. Udengs Eradiri as SA youths to the Sole Administrator. However, as a former president of the Ijaw youth council, he will enjoy our support and collaboration in discharging his duties effectively to the admiration of all.”
The Ijaw Youth leader the external forensic auditors to hasten up their assignment and conclude within the stipulated April timeline as Ijaw youths would not tolerate excuses anymore for negligence.
It could be recalled that during a courtesy call on Chief Clerk by key officials of the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs and the NDDC, the elder statesman appealed to the youths and other stakeholders of the Niger Delta region to give the Interim Administrator of the NDDC a chance to execute the mandate handed over to him by President Buhari.
Akwa who visited the Asokoro, Abuja residence of the Ijaw leader alongside his entourage, was welcomed by prominent Niger Delta personalities including Ambassador Godsknows Igali, former Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Power.
While receiving the NDDC team, Clark noted that Mr Akwa was not the first Interim Administrator of the NDDC and wondered why certain persons should make a fuss about his appointment. He stated that in the past, States like Bayelsa, Rivers and Delta had at some point produced Interim Administrators who ran the interventionist agency and appealed to all to support Akwa to succeed.
The elder statesman warned any persons planning anything unruly that would tend to give a bad impression about the Niger Delta region as restive to desist from such acts and called for support for the Interim Administrator to bring developmental projects to the region, noting that it is only in an atmosphere of peace that development can thrive.
During the visit, Akwa informed the Niger Delta leader that his appointment was borne out of necessity being the most Senior Director so as not to create a vacuum since the Court had ordered the disbandment of the Interim Management Committee of the Commission.
The Interim Administrator appealed for the cooperation of the stakeholders in the ongoing forensic audit of the Commission being the mandate handed over to him by the President to see through. He thanked the National Assembly for the support he has received since his appointment, especially the passage of the budget of the Commission.
He said the Commission had concluded the payment of scholarships to her overseas scholars, completed the NDDC headquarters Complex which he said would soon be commissioned by President Buhari.
Also, key stakeholders in the development of the Niger Delta region during a meeting between officials of the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, the NDDC, the Federal Amnesty Programme and a group of ex-agitators at the Palace of the Amanyanabo of Okochiri, in Okrika Local Government Area of Rivers State called on all youth groups and various organisations to cooperate with the new leadership of the NDDC to ensure the rapid development of the Niger Delta region.