Niger Delta

Itsekiri groups warn FG over NDDC board

By Kelvin Ohoror & Gabriel Elozino

A coalition of Itsekiri groups has warned that if an Itsekiri indigene is not appointed as the Chairman or Managing Director of the next Board of Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, the Federal Government should not constitute it.

The coalition comprises Itsekiri Interest Group, Itsekiri Liberation Group, Itsekiri Coalition for Good Governance, Itsekiri Freedom Congress, National Association of Itsekiri Students, Sisan Ebiren – Iwere and Iwere Women Consultative Forum.

The coalition handed down the condition during a peaceful protest in Warri, Delta State. They vowed that the protest would continue until FG appoints an Itsekiri as Chairman and/or MD of NDDC. Members of the groups later presented their demands to a representative of the Igba of Warri Kingdom, Chief Rita-Lori Ogbebor.

The protesters carried placards with inscriptions such as: ‘We just quiet since, if FG nor appoint Itsekiri as Chairman or MD of NDDC, Peace no go reign oooo’, ‘Na we dey produce the highest crude oil in Delta State, but have the least developed communities’, ‘No Itsekiri, No NDDC’ and ‘8 years of marginalization, enough is enough.’

They said: “Since the year 2000 when NDDC Board was created, no Itsekiri has been considered to serve in the capacity of Chairman or MD of the Board, despite being the highest oil and gas producing ethnic group in Delta State. This is not acceptable to us anymore.”

President of Itsekiri Interest Group, Gbubemi Awala, while addressing newsmen at the Merrick Lori Cultural Centre, Warri, urged President Muhammadu Buhari to “face fact and leave the politics surrounding the NDDC Board inauguration.”

He implored to Ogbebor and the father of Itsekiri Nation, the Olu of Warri, His Majesty, Ogiame Atuwatse III, to present their demand to Buhari.

Chairman of Itsekiri Liberation Group, ILG, Comrade Oris Mone, in his address, said: “It is not a crime to be minority in Nigeria, Itsekiri has the highest quantum of crude oil and gas production in Delta State, that makes it a must for an Itsekiri to be considered as Chairman and MD of NDDC.”

President of Itsekiri Freedom Congress, Comrade Igiogio Matthew, expressed sadness over the perceived long marginalization of the ethnic group in the Board of NDDC by the Federal Government, saying: “NDDC is rotational for oil and gas producing ethnic groups, which Itsekiri happens to be the highest oil producing ethnic nationality in Delta State and second highest in Nigeria.”

Gbubemi Awala, on behalf of the coalition, presented the letter to Ogbebor, represented by the Director of Merrick Lori Cultural Centre, Warri, Mr. Frank Uromieyaghan, who assured them that he would present their demands to her, commending them for the peaceful protest.

However, two other groups disagreed with the Itsekiri, describing the continued delay in inaugurating the board as becoming repulsive to the people of the area and endangering peace.

They are Community Development Committee of Oil and Gas Producing Communities of Niger Delta (CDCOGPCND) and Mothers of Oil and Gas Producing Communities of Niger Delta (MOGPCND).

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In a joint statement signed by Joseph Ambakederimo, Chairman Board of Trustees, CDCOGPCND and Lady Happy Kagogo, Convener of MOGPCND, the groups stated that the “process of appointing a substantive board has been completed a long time ago,” and that “what is going on in the NDDC is repulsive and all people of good conscience must condemn and oppose it.”

The groups held that the Federal Government was deliberately taking the people of the region for granted over time again and again, adding that, it was ready to disappoint the government on its plan to instigate fresh hostilities in the region.

It said, “It seems the government and its agents only understand the language of violence and destruction, but we will not give in to such provocation. Whatever they think they are doing, the import of it is that they have completely destroyed the integrity and high esteem of President Muhammadu Buhari in the region. The President’s hands have been misdirected too many times by his appointees. There should be consequences on the part of those who have entrenched this kind of behaviour with impunity. Certainly this attitude of l don’t care is a recipe and a call to violence.

“The patience of the people of the region is running thin, any moment from now the government should accept whatever comes out of the frustrations of the people without no fault of theirs. All indicators on ground are pointing to a possible turmoil that may erupt in the region. We have made representation to the Minister on this but our concerns have been treated with levity so far.

“The resources that have accrued to the NDDC and have been mismanaged under this illegal sole interim administration will soon dry up as a result of the continuing impunity for not wanting to acquiesce to due process and allow a board with the enabling law to administer the Commission for the benefit of the people of the region who are the ultimate beneficiaries of a working and democratic NDDC.

“We have been taken on a circus show for too long and the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs must understand that there comes a time when the people will come out of their cocoon and force the government to do what is right. In this instance it is to inaugurate the standing board without further delay.

“The process of appointing a substantive board has been completed a long time ago, but to allow the appointees assume work has become confrontational with no clear cut reason only for a phantom forensic audit to be announced. If President Buhari must know, the resources of the commission has far more been mismanaged or stolen under the illegal occupation of the Commission by Interim Management Committess/Sole administrator more than the entire period covered by the audit.

“What is going on in the NDDC is repulsive and all people of good conscience must condemn and oppose it. Even when we believe that we now have a man of good conscience and an incorruptible man in the person of the Honourable Minister, Obong Umana Okon Umana, it seems he too has been indoctrinated wrongly to tow the path of his predecessor who showed absolute disdain to due process.

We urge the Minister not to take the bait sold to him by those who do not wish him and the entire region well. An appointed and Senate confirmed board is standing and waiting to be inaugurated and that should happen as soon as possible to help tone down the renewed anxiety for violence and destabilisation in the region.

“We should not forget quickly what has happened in the past in the region which should be a guide and direction on how very important issues that affect the region and its people are addressed. Never again must we encourage the path to stifle the economy of this country by ways of untoward action.

We have had enough troubles on our plate and no more should be added as there will be dire consequences for the nation. We must continue to express our disgust and revulsion to what is happening in the NDDC until the right thing is done. Enough of this trajectory we all seem to be trying to accept as normal when in the true sense of the word it violates the NDDC Act, is morally wrong and reprehensible. We vehemently oppose the one man show running the NDDC.”

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