From Femi Folaranmi, Yenagoa
The ripples over the appointment of a sole administrator for the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) reached a boiling point on Monday as hundreds of Ijaw youths blocked the popular East-West road, causing many travellers to be stranded.
The youths under the aegis of the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) said the protest was for the immediate removal of the Sole Administrator, Mr Effiong Okon Awa, and the inauguration of the substantive board.
The protest held travellers stranded for hours and attempts by some armed soldiers backed by an Armoured Personnel Carrier and led by a Major to persuade the protesters to leave the East-West road proved abortive.
A plea by a former Secretary to Bayelsa State Government and ex-Nigerian Ambassador to the Scandinavian countries, Dr Godknows Igali, who was caught in the gridlock, was unable to sway the protesters to clear the blockade.
The protesters, armed with placards with inscriptions such as “Akpabio focus on your ministry, we shall occupy NDDC headquarters in few days if the right thing is not done”, “President Buhari please adhere to the demands of the South-South Governors in appointing substantive NDDC board,” and “we don’t want sole administrator for NDDC,” among others, said the appointment of sole administration will fuel crisis in the region.
The protesters, who were led by IYC National Spokesman Ebilade Ekerefe, the National Treasurer, Ebifoubo O Timilaemi, Clever Iniodu, Zonal Chairman, Central Zone, Ebi James, Chairman Eastern Zone, Frank Akiefa (Western Zone), accused the Minister of Niger Delta, Godswill Akpabio of pocketing the region and playing politics with NDDC thereby undermining the region’s development for selfish gains.
According to Ebilade, the protest was to reject the supposed plot to pocket the NDDC by an individual and derail the development of the Niger Delta.
‘The reason why we are here is very simple, of course, the development in the Niger Delta has come to a point where we must take some strategic and decisive action. We are calling on the attention of the Federal Government to listen to the plight of the people of the Niger Delta.
‘Don’t forget that a few days ago, as a result of the Endsars protest that almost crippled the entire economy of this country, the President commissioned the Chief of Staff to go to the various zones and get various reports from their challenges and very quite frankly they came to the Niger Delta, first that meeting didn’t hold and we were so angry and aggrieved until eventually that meeting held and the position of Ijaw people and the Niger Delta people are encapsulated in a seven-point demand that the governors of this region put forward to the Federal Government.
‘Till date, we have not heard or seen if the President has even received that report or if he has even started acting upon it, and the appointment of a sole administrator for the NDDC has violated that principle of fair representation in NDDC,’ he said.