From Femi Folaranmi, Yenagoa and Tony John, Port Harcourt
Intense pressure is being mounted on ex-leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), Chief Government Ekpemupolo aka Tompolo over the seven days ultimatum he issued to President Muhammadu Buhari and Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio to constitute and inaugurate a substantive board for the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) or face the militants’ wrath.
Tompolo broke his silence after a long withdrawal from the public, when he, in a letter addressed to President Buhari demanded the constitution of the NDDC board within seven days.
He kicked against the continued use of a sole administrator to run the affairs of the NDDC, noting that the action would likely set the Niger Delta region on fire. According to him at the expiration of the ultimatum which is today (Saturday) without the board being constituted, there will be massive protest by members of the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC).
Saturday Sun investigations revealed that, rattled by Tompolo’s pronouncement which instantly received the endorsement of militant leaders in the region, the presidency dispatched Akpabio to Delta State to plead with him over the ultimatum. He was said to have arrived Warri on Thursday and proceeded to Oporoza where he engaged Tompolo’s representative in discussion over the NDDC matter, pleading for understanding.
The outcome of the meeting did not seem to have met the expectation of the Presidency because leaders of the Ijaw National Congress (INC) have also been enlisted to prevail on Tompolo and other militants to give peace a chance. Sources said Tompolo insisted on the constitution of the board which can continue with the forensic audit of the Commisison.
The President of the INC, the umbrella body of Ijaw-speaking people, Prof Benjamin Okaba in a statement backing the criticism against the continuous running of the NDDC through a sole administrator, however, pleaded with militants to sheathe their swords and allow INC to engage critical stakeholders which would enable it to seek audience with President Buhari to brief him on the precarious security situation in the region due to the delay in constituting the board of the NDDC.
In a related development, King Michael Ateke Tom, the Amayanabo of Okochiri Kingdom in Rivers State has thrown his weight behind Tompolo. The ex-militant leader of the Niger Delta Vigilante Force in a statement through his Chief of Staff, Chief Tamunokonba Akaluogbo, said the decision to queue behind Tompolo is due to the continued insincerity and open deceit adopted by Akapbio in handling the affairs of the NDDC.