Posted By Godwin Onyemaechi
Efforts by the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio to prevail on a former dreaded militant leader, Government Ekpemupolo aka Tompolo, to withdraw his ultimatum for the inauguration of a board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) has hit a brick wall.
Tompolo has warned of consequences if after seven days beginning from May 30th, Akpabio and the Federal Government failed to inaugurate the substantive board for the commission.
Various militant groups had backed Tompolo by issuing similar deadlines and vowing to cripple all oil installations in the region at the expiration of the ultimatum.
The agitation to inaugurate the board gathered momentum following the #Occupynigerdelta protest organised by the Ijaw Youths Council (IYC) led by Peter Timothy Igbifa.
Igbifa, the President of IYC and members of his executive committee were said to have suspended the protest for marathon meetings with the Ijaw National Congress (INC) in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State.
But Akpabio reportedly sent emissaries led by a former IYC President and Special Assistant on Youth Matters to NDDC Sole Administrator, Udengs Eradiri, to Tompolo’s representatives in Warri, Delta State, to prevail on the former warlord to withdraw his deadline.
Tompolo was said to have informed them through his representatives that it was too late to retract the ultimatum and urged them to tell the minister to do the right thing.
Eradiri reportedly used the opportunity to reel out the progress of the ongoing forensic audit in NDDC.
He was quoted as saying: “The forensic audit has unearthed a lot of things and it is ongoing, there is a road going to Ogulagha Kingdom in Delta state which was abandoned and there are several other projects abandoned in the region after collecting money, which we would not know except with such audit”.
At the Ijaw House in Yenagoa, Igbifa and members of his executive committee were said to be holding meetings with the leadership of the INC.
Emerging from the first meeting, which held on Tuesday, Igbifa said all stakeholders in the region including the governors and senators believed in the inauguration of the board.
On his purported suspension by the IYC Eastern Zone, Igbifa said it was an exercise in futility as persons behind the action were not council members.
“This is the reason why the council is initiating membership validation. By the time we do validation, those, who are not council members cannot come out and speak.
“So those, who made the statement, do not have the capacity to do so. We have a Eastern Zonal chairman, Comrade Ibim Ebiwari and he was not part of such gathering. These are issues we need to deal with after membership validation,” he said.
The Founder, Citizens Quest for Truth Initiative (CQTI), Obiaruko Ndukwe, backed the call for the inauguration of the NDDC board describing it as commendable.
She said they were, however, aversed to the seven-day ultimatum issued to President Muhammadu Buhari by Tompolo to reconstitute the board or “risk a total breakdown of law and order that will equally affect crude oil exploration and exploitation activities in the region.”
She said: “Considering the processes that are required for the nomination, screening and inauguration of the board members, we are indeed concerned and worried about the tone of urgency in the ultimatum.
“Could it be a decoy by those that mercilessly raped the fortunes of our region through the NDDC, to, once again, grandstand?
“It is trite knowledge that in the event of any breakdown of law and order, our people at the grassroots bear the brunt most. Nothing should therefore be done, in any guise, to unsettle the already fragile security cord in our region.
“We believe that, rather than issuing threats of total breakdown of law and order in the region, our stakeholders must seek a common platform to robustly engage the authorities”.
She also argued that using the ongoing forensic audit to delay the board’s inauguration was no longer tenable as the auditors already had required materials to do their work.
She said: “In view of this, we call on the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs Senator Godswill Akpabio to, address the people of the region on the timeline for the forensic audit.
“The circumstances, mostly legal issues, leading to the appointment of a Sole Administrator to run the affairs of the Commission are well-known. Having, therefore, empowered the forensic audit, we hereby join our voice in appealing to Mr. President to activate the processes of inaugurating the substantive board for the NDDC.
“The benefits accruable from the timely inauguration of the board are numerous. Besides stemming the incessant threats to the economic well-being of the country, it also guarantees a sense of belonging and buy-in by the Niger Delta people”.
But the Movement for the Survival of Izon Ethnic Nationality in the Niger Delta (MOSIEND) called on Buhari to sack Akpabio saying that the people of the region no longer had confidence in his ability to man the ministr