Tension is building up in the Niger Delta region as a section of the youth under the auspices of Ijaw Youths Council (IYC) have threatened to cripple activities at the headquarters of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) if the inauguration of the substantive board of the commission is delayed beyond reasonable time.
This is coming following the purported controversial inauguration of an interim management committee to run the affairs of the NDDC by the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio same date President Muhammadu Buhari forwarded names of the commission’s nominees to the senate for screening and confirmation.
Addressing newsmen in Warri, Delta state on Monday, IYC President, Eric Omare, a lawyer said that the youths from the region would not hold back and watch the Minister used the NDDC to feather his political interest.
Omare warned that Senator Akpabio should not contemplate delaying the inauguration of the substantive board because according to him, such action would be an invitation to anarchy in the Niger Delta region.
He said that the Ijaw youths and Niger Delta youths who fought with their blood for the creation of NDDC would vehemently resist any attempt to elongate the stay of the “illegal interim management committee” after the senate may have confirmed the substantive appointees of the board.
“This press briefing is in response to the controversy surrounding the appointment of an interim management committee for the NDDC vis-à-vis the substantive board that is being screened by the senate upon their nomination by Mr. President.
“You recalled that sometimes on August, the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari nominated 16 Niger Deltans to head the board of the NDDC and on Tuesday last week the names of these persons were sent to the senate for clearance in accordance with the NDDC establishment Act 2000.
“The senate President referred the nominees to committee on NDDC and last week Thursday, 15 out of the 16 were screened. But on Tuesday last week, curiously on the date the President sent the names of the nominees to the senate for clearance, the minister for Niger Delta Affairs, Obong Godswill Akpabio in the late hours and very dangerous hours of the night hurriedly inaugurated a three-man interim management committee to manage the NDDC until the conclusion of the forensic audit ordered by Mr. President despite the fact that the senate pursuant to the provision of the NDDC Act has already started the process of confirming the nominees by Mr. President.
Omare who was flanked by other youth leaders, said that the action of the Niger Delta Minister is illegal, an aberration and has no foundation with the NDDC Act adding that “there is no provision for an interim management committee under the NDDC Act”.
He said that the argument being put forward by the promoters of the interim management committee to the effect that the interim management committee was put in place to ensure unhindered forensic audit of the NDDC is faulty and watery.
“That argument again is not tenable the result is that the interim management committee is headed by Dr Joi Gbene Nunieh from River state and the same Dr Joi is the person the President nominated to represent Rivers state on the board of the NDDC.
“So the simply question we are asking is this; if you feel that Dr Joi, an interim management committee member would not interfere with the forensic audit what makes you think that Dr Joi as member of the substantive board will interfere with the audit?.
Omare however gave several instances of forensic audits and investigation panels put in place during the former president Goodluck Jonathan’s tenure while the substantive board, holders of such offices, ministries and agency of government continue with their constitutional functions.
“This is not the first time in the history of this country where forensic audit is being carry out. Under the Goodluck Jonathan’s administration, there was issue of missing billions of naira in the NNPC and a forensic audit of NNPC was done.
“Again when the Buhari’s government came on board there were issues with the management of arms under Col. Dasuki and a special presidential committee was set up through the office of the national security adviser. In all this instances, the NNPC and National Security Adviser’s office were not declared vacate or an interim management committee set up to management those offices. There was a substantive board of the NNPC while the forensic audit of NNPC was going on”.
He said that the case of NDDC cannot be different because of “vested interest”, maintaining that the youths would mobilize enmass to resist the political powers who are trying to use NDDC to promote their political interest.
Railing out the demands of the youths, he said, “We are calling for the immediate dissolution of the illegal interim management committee set up by the Minster for Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio.
“Number two demand is that the board of the NDDC that has been cleared and represents different ethnic groups in the Niger Delta even if there are reservations somewhere should be inaugurated upon the senate confirmation.
“That the forensic audit ordered by Mr. President should be supervised directly by Mr. President and not the Minister for Niger Delta Affairs because we don’t have confidence that he can supervise a transparent process.
“If our demands especially demand number one that the interim management committee should be disbanded and that a substantive board be inaugurated so as to carry out their functions and respond to urgent needs of the Niger Delta, we will have no other option than to resort to mass action across the Niger Delta region. The NDDC headquarters in Port Harcourt will be shut down. We will not allow the illegal contraption called interim management committee to sit down in Port Harcourt and fitter away our resources while our people are suffering in penury.
“We want our demands to be met in reasonable time and if they are not met we will have no option than to embark on a mass action to ensure that our demands are met”, the youths warned.