From Tony John, Port Harcourt
Youths of the platform Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) Worldwide have given the federal government a month ultimatum to appoint, screen and inaugurate board members for the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
The IYC also frowned at the slow pace of work at the East West road and urged the government to hasten the completion of the project.
The group’s reaction came following its national expanded executive and stakeholders’ meeting in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
Speaking after the meeting, IYC President Peter Igbifa said the stakeholders at the meeting unanimously condemned the deployment of sole administration to manage the affairs of the NDDC, describing it as strange to the law establishing the commission.
Igbifa emphasised the importance of the commission to the Niger Delta and warned that if the government failed to inaugurate the board, the youths would shut down and occupy the entire region.
‘At the moment, we have looked into the issue of NDDC for which council has resolved that we are giving President Muhammadu Buhari and the Federal Government a one-month ultimatum to inaugurate the board of the NDDC,’ he said.
‘We consider the NDDC a critical agency to this region and for this course, we want to make it clear that between now and one month, if the board is not brought in, we may not be able to guarantee the safety of oil workers operating in the region.
‘Council will definitely shut down the entire region if Mr President fails to deliver within one month from today. This message must be taken very seriously.’
Igbifa said the activities that would follow the shutting down of the region would be tense, adding that the development might give way for the people to take over their resources.
‘I said it that #EndSARS will be child’s play compared to shutting down the region. When we say we are shutting down, there will be no activity and that is the major reason in our meeting. We have advised our people to begin to stockpile food,’ he said.
‘We are going to lock down activities in the region. There will be no movement and that is the reason we said we can’t guarantee the safety of oil workers at that point.
‘That is why we gave one month time, an ample time for the government to set the board screen and inaugurate them. When we shut down the region, our people will take over the economy.’
Igbifa explained that the board was mandatory because the Act establishing the NDDC provides that each state must have a representation in the running of the Commission.
‘It means that these people, who man the board will do justice to the development of these various states. The NDDC can only operate in the eyes of the law if a board represented by the states in the region is put in place.’
He regretted the delays in the completion of the forensic audit of the Commission and asked for an immediate end to the audit process.
‘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 boards.
‘But the youths have been suffering since this current administration of NDDC that is not known to law was put in place. NDDC is an act of the law, and the law provides for it to have a board, so that they will be answerable to the region.
‘The council in different presentations has made it clear to the Nigerian Government that the new board that we are expecting will not be hijacked by politicians. We will monitor all its activities including project execution.’
On the East West road, Igbifa said: ‘We must commend the president for having a listening ear. Immediately after the council called for the completion of the East West road, the President released N20 billion.
‘There is no need for political involvement in issues that affects the region. But we want the President to know that the work that Setraco is doing on the East West road is looking like a local government contract.
The East West road has been under construction for decades that we can’t even count anymore and it has taken so many lives. We want massive construction so that this road will be completed within three months.’