NDDC Board: Ijaw youths move to lock down Niger Delta region
By Kenechukwu Obiajuru, Yenagoa
Following the expiration of the ultimatum given to federal government to inaugurate a substantive board for the Niger Delta Development Commission NDDC, youths in the Niger Delta state, under the auspices of the Ijaw Youth Council, IYC have made good their threat by carrying out protest to lockdown the Niger Delta region.
Recall the umbrella body of Ijaw youths, the IYC had, in a national expanded executive and stakeholders meeting, issued a one-month ultimatum to the FG to constitute a board of the NDDC, warning that if the government failed the youths will have no choice than to shut down and occupy the entire region.
The grouse of IYC was the use of sole administration to manage the affairs of the NDDC, describing it as strange to the law establishing the commission, they also kick against the delay in the completion of the forensic audit of the commission and asked for the immediate end to the audit process.
The statement reads in part, “They have made the forensic audit of the NDDC look bigger than that of the NNPC. The board alone has a lot to do with the youths. Before now the youths were surviving with different capacity programmes rolled out by the NDDC board.”
The protest, led by the IYC president, Comrade Timothy Igbifa, blocked the East-West Road making commuters stranded and commercial activities ground to a halt, the protesters also shut down the headquarters of the NDDC in Port Harcourt and other offices in Bayelsa and Delta states.
But the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, in a bid to whittled down the protest by Ijaw Youth Council, IYC, last Thursday, convened a meeting with representatives of IYC, which divided the ranks of the youth group.
The Ijaw youths were led to the gathering by their national spokesperson, Ebilade Ekerefe, who addressed newsmen after the meeting, appealing to the youths to remain calm for the agitation not be hijacked.
Ekerefe noted the purpose of the protest was to force the federal government into a dialogue and that, since it had promised the constitution of a substantive board for the NDDC by July, it was necessary to wait for the July deadline.
He said IYC president, Peter Igbifa, had been on his way to Abuja to lead the council in discussion with the minister when he was abducted but that, after their president’s release, he said he was not intimidated by his experience, insisting that the protest must continue with the aim of shutting down the region until the federal government inaugurated the commission’s board.
The president disowned Ekerefe and other executive members that conferred with the minister saying they were on their own and that he never authorised the meeting. Igbifa went on to call on the Ijaw youths to troop out en masse to continue the demonstration.