Niger Delta elders mount pressure on Buhari to inaugurate NDDC board

Posted by News Express | 24 November 2021 | 548 times

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Niger Delta authentic leaders, Conference of Presidents-General of Niger Delta Ethnic Nationalities penultimate week held a well-attended meeting in Yenagoa and quickly followed-up, last weekend, with a protest march in Yenagoa. Their actions and ongoing sensitisation have given new impetus to the unending legitimate demand of stakeholders for President Muhammadu Buhari to abide by the NDDC Establishment Act, and also fulfill his promise of June 24, 2021 to inaugurate the NDDC Board upon receipt of the Commission’s forensic audit report, writes Nseobong Okon-Ekong

On Saturday, November 13, 2021, the Conference of Presidents-General of Niger Delta Ethnic Nationalities (CPGNDEN) met in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State and in the communiqué issued after its meeting, they called on President Muhammadu Buhari “to keep his promise and inaugurate a substantive board for NDDC following the submission of the forensic report, and in line with the law establishing the agency,” noting that the Niger Delta was in dire need of development which the absence of the board has so far stalled.

In the communiqué which was read by its President, Professor Benjamin Okaba, CPGNDEN also contended that the running of the NDDC by a sole administrator was contrary to the law establishing the commission.

CPGNDEN membership cuts across Ijaw National Congress; Isoko Development Union; Urhobo Progressive Union; Oron Nationality; Ndokwa Nation; Itsekiri Nation; and Ogoni Nation, amongst others.

Present at the meeting were Professor Chris Akpotu (Isoko Development Union), A. A. Onoharigho (Urhobo Progressive Union), Ante Ita (Oron Nationality), Brig. Gen. Mike Ndubisi (rtd) (Ndokwa Nation), Edward Ekpoko (Itsekiri Nation) and Young Kigbara (Ogoni Representative), among others.

The Conference of Presidents-General of Niger Delta Ethnic Nationalities (CPGNDEN) again, over the weekend staged a protest march to highlight the injustice by the Federal Government to the Niger Delta people. Addressing protesters at the march, Professor Okaba, who is also the President of Ijaw National Congress (INC) stated unequivocally that “The Federal Government should leave the NDDC for the Niger Delta people.”

According to him, “Inaugurate the (NDDC) Board now. We are tired of seeing NDDC in the hands of a family. Interim managers upon interim managers have taken over NDDC as if it is a family affair. As we speak, monies are spent, people are employed, yet there is no representation from any of the constituent states on policy issues. We have decided to take it upon ourselves to engage the public on these protests and we believe that the Federal Government will take us very seriously because doing otherwise is to their peril.”

In his own remark at the protest march, Professor Chris Akpotu, Secretary of CPGNDEN, and President-General of Isoko Development Union (IDU) restated that what Niger Deltans demand is an NDDC “substantive board that will ensure even and equitable distribution of the development programmes as far as the Niger delta is concerned. We are equally concerned about the NNPC road infrastructure programme of the Federal Republic where all the states of the Niger Delta are obviously marginalised.”

Prince Biira, President, Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni people (MOSOP) remarked that “Interim Caretaker-ship of the NDDC is a symbol of corruption, it’s a symbol of misappropriation. The essence of that Commission (NDDC) is to develop the Niger Delta area. They should put the structures of the Board in place as quickly as possible.”

Recall that, in tandem with the demands of stakeholders across the Niger Delta region, the pan Ijaw group, Ijaw National Congress (INC), in a statement on Saturday, November 6, 2021, entitled “Evil Against The Niger Delta: Enough Is Enough, Mr President” had also stated that the “continued delay of the inauguration of a substantive board for the NDDC is an inexplicable aberration that defies logical reasoning and is infuriating the region.”

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.”

This followed President Buhari’s promise to 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.”

According to The Conference of Presidents-General of Niger Delta Ethnic Nationalities (CPGNDEN), the timely intervention of President Muhammadu Buhari would douse the growing tension in the region.

CPGNDEN also kicked against moves to include Bauchi, Ogun and Lagos as new oil-producing states in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).

Also last week, renowned Ijaw group, the Ijaw Interest Advocates (IIA), also known as Izanzan Intellectual Camp urged the Presidency to remember to keep good legacies by abiding to the law establishing NDDC, call the minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Sen. Godswill Akpabio to order, to stop using the name of President Buhari as flimsy excuses over the delay in inaugurating the NDDC board.

In a statement signed by its leader, Arerebo Salaco Yerinmene Snr “the recklessness and consistent use of Mr. President’s name by Akpabio to defend illegalities in NDDC is putting President Buhari’s name and image in a bad light before the good people of Niger Delta region.”

The Group noted that “The Presidency and the President’s family should remember to keep good legacies even after office. The government’s flagrant disobedience of the laws guiding the establishment of an agency created to develop an impoverished region is unacceptable. We are again appealing to President Buhari to shun the excuses of Akpabio and save the Niger Delta Development Commission by inaugurating the substantive board.”

It is therefore worthy of note that Senator Akpabio has been compelled to issue statements on the inexplicable delay of NDDC Board inauguration twice in the past two weeks, with a promise last week that the NDDC Governing Board will be put in place as soon as the summary of the forensic audit report is submitted to the President, according to a statement by Deworitshe Patricia, Director of Press & PR, Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs.

Unfortunately, Akpabio made this commitment to a hand-picked audience, Niger Delta Ethnic Nationalities Youth Leaders Forum, described by authentic stakeholders as impostors and portfolio associations. The group paid Akpabio a courtesy visit in his office, last week, in Abuja.

In a swift response to the courtesy visit that was largely seen as a charade, Niger Delta Elders Forum, through its National President, Chief Tonye Ogbogbula, in a Press Statement, stated that 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.”

NDEF asserted that this is a “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.”

Ogbogbula regretted that 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. In the estimation of NDEF, it is “an embarrassment for a Commission whose combined two-year budget for 2019 and 2020, as approved by the National Assembly was N799 Billion.”

NDEF restated that “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.”

Niger Delta Elders Forum therefore admonished Akpabio that “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.” Consequently they urged him to hearken to the legitimate demands of Niger Deltans, 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

Only time will tell if Senator Godswill Akpabio is reading the mood of the people even as CPGNDEN intensifies its sensitization of the entire region to stay focused on their legitimate demand for the Federal Government to abide by the law and inaugurate the NDDC Board without further delay.

Clearly, the point has been made by Niger Delta stakeholders that the Buhari Presidency needs 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.

(THISDAY)


Source: News Express

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