From TONY JOHN, Port Harcourt
Human and environmental rights activist, AnnKio Briggs, has called on the Ijaw ethnic group to throw its weight behind the Interim Administrator of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Mr. Efiong Akwa.
The Niger Delta activist, who spoke to newsmen in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, at the weekend, urged the Ijaw people to shun detractors who manipulate the NDDC by throwing up issues of ethnicity and parochial considerations.
She said: “I am from the Eastern zone of the Ijaw ethnic nationality of which Eastern Obolo in Akwa Ibom belongs. There is no denying the fact that Ijaw people have contributed to the struggle for the emancipating the Niger Delta. But, at this particular time in our history, the Ijaw people should not be seen to start laying claim to the leadership of the NDDC.
“They should not be saying that an Isoko man, Ogoni man or Oron man should not be there. Akwa is already there and unless he is doing what is against the development of the Niger Delta, I will not oppose him. Why should I oppose him?”
Briggs observed that some Ijaw people opposed former NDDC Chief Executives, such as Prof. Kemebradikumo Pondei and Prof. Nelson Bambraifa, who were both Ijaws from Bayelsa State, stating: “So, it is not just about Akwa, it is about what we are doing to ourselves.
“The Ijaw Youth Council is being split in the middle. One section is writing for Akpabio, while another is writing against him. Do you see the people of North-East Development Commission writing against themselves? Why can we not learn?”
She said that despite the fact that the Niger Delta region was the first geopolitical zone to have development commissions, such as the Willinks Commission, Niger Delta River Basin, Oil Minerals Petroleum Areas Development Commission (OMPADEC), and now NDDC, the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs and Presidential Amnesty Programme, it had very little to show for their existence.
She declared: “The fact is that we want what is right for the Niger Delta region and that is where it begins and ends. The current NDDC leadership is from the Niger Delta and we should look inwards and begin to solve our problems by ourselves.
“We have our own people in the National Assembly sabotaging the NDDC. A particular name has come up over and over again that collected so many contracts? When something is wrong, it is wrong. Akwa has been appointed for now and he has done nothing wrong. The moment I see something I do not like, I will be the first to speak out. But for now, our attitude towards the NDDC is wrong, we should change it and take the right attitude”.
Briggs warned: “The evil attitude that is manipulating our people must be stopped because it will not get us anywhere.”
Speaking on the on-going forensic audit of the NDDC, she stated that Niger Delta stakeholders demanded the exercise and called for a reputable audit firm, noting: “We do not want an audit that is done behind closed doors because they would be doing the audit for the people of the region, not for the National Assembly.
“The NDDC funding is coming from the Niger Delta. So, if we have an audit, it is public information. The people who have been awarded contracts, who are they? What are the names of their companies? Which contracts were awarded to them, when did they start and finish? Where? In which communities?”
Briggs said that politicians should not trade with the provisions of the Act establishing the NDDC where a position for Bayelsa State should be given to someone from Delta State or vice versa.
She said: “It should not be like that, if it is meant for Bayelsa, it should be for Bayelsa, likewise other states of the Niger Delta region”.
On the supervision of the NDDC by the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, she said that it should not be a problem, if the objective was to ensure sustainable development of the Niger Delta region.