By Mike Odiegwu, Port Harcourt
Avoidable crisis is looming in the Niger Delta region following the decision of a former militant leader and King of Okochiri Kingdom in Rivers State to back the seven-day ultimatum issued by Government Ekpemupolo alias Tompolo on the inauguration of the substantive board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
Tompolo, a former dreaded militant leader, in an ultimatum that expires on June 7th, had warned of negative consequences if the Federal Government failed to constitute the board after seven days.
Also on Friday, kinsmen of Governor Nyesom Wike at home and in the diaspora under the auspices of the Ikwerre People’s Congress (IPC) Worldwide backed the ultimatum describing the actions of the government and Minister of Niger Delta Affairs in NDDC as criminal.
The Ijaw Youths Council (IYC) Worldwide led by Peter Timothy Igbifa, commended Tompolo and Ateke for their steadfastness and warned that from Monday the entire region would be totally shut down.
Ateke, a former Leader of the defunct Niger Delta Vigilante Force, in a statement signed by his Chief of Staff, Chief Tamunokonba Akaluogbo, said he backed the ultimatum because of “the continued insincerity and open deceit adopt by the Niger Delta Affairs Minister, Senator Godswill Akpabio in handling the affairs of the NDDC and the region at large.”
The king called on President Muhammadu 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: “It is clear that Akpabio is deceitful and he means no good to the Niger Delta region particularly the Ijaws given his attitude towards reconstituting the board of the Niger Delta Development Commission, (NDDC). Time and time, the minister has failed in his promises and he is using the forensic audit as a decoy for his selfish aims.
“I urge him to do the needful before the region tint towards upheaval of break down of law and order again because his ineptitude and lack of genuine concern for the demands of people are capable of degenerating into violence which I don’t pray for.”
Also, the IPC in a statement signed by its Chairman, Livingstone Wechie; General Secretary, Stanley Worgu and Director, IPC Diaspora, Bright Chukwumati, lamented many years of running the NDDC by one man against the Act establishing the commission.
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.
“IPC warns that we shall no longer tolerate this veiled conspiracy against our region”, the group said commending its Ijaw brothers for their roles in championing the demand for the reconstitution of the NDDC board.
IPC said: “We particularly commend the renowned Niger Delta Agitator from Gbaramatu Kingdom, High Chief Government Oweizide Ekpemupolo, alias Tompolo for insisting that the NDDC board must be reconstituted within the issued ultimatum and we agree with him.
“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.
“Going forward, the people of this region must now mobilise and resist all attempts to short-change our people from our statutory Entitlements by those known blackl-egs planted amongst us to sabotage our development and blackmail the region.
“IPC holds that the failure of the Federal Government and the Minister for Niger Delta Affairs Senator Godshill Akpabio in not reconstituting the NDDC Board for years now is criminal and deliberate. It can only be a setup aimed at undermining the Niger Delta people and pocketting 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 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.”