Senator Godswill Akpabio, Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, has made a rare trip to Government Ekpemupolo alias Tompolo’s enclave in Oporoza, Gbaramatu Kingdom, Warri Southwest, Delta State, in an attempt to end a seven-day ultimatum issued by a former dreaded militant leader, Government Ekpemupolo alias Tompolo.
However, the Minister, whose chopper landed at Warri’s Osubi Airport on Thursday afternoon, was dissatisfied with the meeting’s setting since the stakeholders he met in the Palace of the King of Gbaramatu, Oboro Gbaraun11, Aketekpe Agadaga, jointly destroyed the purpose of his visit.
The minister, who was transported to the creeks by five gunboats, was told by Ijaw elders represented by the Ijaw National Congress (INC), leaders from Isoko, Urhobo, and Itsekiri, among others, to go and immediately inaugurate the board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
They also told him, in unison, that Tompolo’s seven-day ultimatum was still in effect.
Kingsley Otuaru, the Deputy Governor of Delta State, who met with the minister and accompanied him to Gbaramatu, instructed Akpabio to immediately reorganise the commission’s board.
“Today is a day of pain and joy,” Otuaru stated. It is a sad day because our beloved country is on the verge of collapsing. With the exception of the Niger Delta region, all six geopolitical zones are in chaos. As a result, the fact that there appears to be a leadership failure speaks volumes.
“On the streets of the Niger Delta, the talk is: ‘Has our brother (Akpabio), the governor with the unusual transformation plan, joined the bandwagon of failing leadership?’
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“We don’t understand why an institution created by an Act, such as the NDDC, is being conducted in flagrant violation of the powers granted to it under the cover of a forensic audit. We live in a representative democracy, which means you must pay attention to the people’s voices.
“The people’s voice is that a meaningful board is required. For God’s sake, the Delta government and traditional rulers are enduring sleepless nights to ensure that the peace in this region is maintained. We knew what had happened to the region in 2016, to the point where we couldn’t pay our civil servants’ salaries. God forbid we ever find ourselves in such a scenario again.
“You must pay attention to the people’s voices. The NDDC’s substantive board is required. There is no theory that states that a statutory organisation cannot be audited. We don’t want anything bad to happen in this area. We want to do the right thing.”
Prof. Benjamin Okaba, President of the Ijaw National Congress (INC), spoke for elders from other ethnic groups in the region, insisting that Tompolo’s ultimatum was still valid.
While praising Akpabio’s visit, Okaba said that Akpabio had failed to repeat his achievements in Akwa Ibom while he was governor of the Niger Delta as a minister.
“This nation recognises Akpabio as a miracle worker, as a transformer, and your legacies in Akwa Ibom will never be surpassed by subsequent governors,” he remarked. As a result, when you were appointed, people applauded you because they believed you would build on your incredible successes in rebuilding the Niger Delta.
“I’m sorry to tell you this, but the people of the Niger Delta are not happy. I’m trying to avoid using the word “disappointment.” We are dissatisfied. Since 2015, there has been a problem in the NDDC’s multiple management structures.
“Any establishment’s auditing can go hand in hand with the system’s operation. The 1999 constitution that has obvious infractions is being altered but we have not suspended Nigeria. We have not appointed a sole administrator to run Nigeria.
“We also know that in the organogram and composition of the NDDC, the management board constitutes a little proportion of the workings of that place. We have directors and heads of department that are still working. Monies are going out. We have further cases of infractions without the board.
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“The seven days ultimatum stands. Governors of the Southsouth told the world that as part of the demands for peace to reign you must reconstitute the NDDC board. The Ijaw youths, Isoko, Itsekiri youths gave 30 days ultimatum. There was no intervention from anybody. What other way is there to inform the people that they are idiots? What other way is there to tell the people that they can go and die? We’re a sour bunch. High Chief Tompolo has the support of the whole Niger Delta. If nothing happens after the ultimatum expires, no one will be held responsible. We’ve seen this happen previously, which is why we’re being extra cautious.”
Though Akpabio attempted to highlight some of the NDDC’s accomplishments at the meeting, he further enraged stakeholders when he stated that the board would meet in July.
Chief Godspower Gbenekama, the Fiyewei of Gbaramatu kingdom, was visibly enraged by Akpabio’s offer and warned the minister that the ultimatum was not a joke.
“You (Akpabio) should be held responsible for everything that occurs to the oil industry if the NDDC board is not inaugurated,” he warned. Why is everything in the Niger Delta temporary? You have an interim administrator at the NDDC, and an interim coordinator in the Presidential Amnesty Program. Is interim management simply supposed to help people in the Niger Delta?
“The people here are not IYC executives you can contact in Abuja, the presence of military in our region is not the reason for peace, it is because of our resolve, we want that board to be created, the ultimatum stands, don’t blame anyone if nothing is done after the ultimatum.”
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