Efforts by the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio to persuade leaders of the Ijaw Nation to prevail on former warlord, High Chief Government Ekpemupolo alias Tompolo to drop his 7 days ultimatum met a brick wall yesterday.
Tompolo, a former leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), had last Sunday, issued a 7 day ultimatum for the inauguration of a substantive board of the NDDC.
The Ijaw leaders had gathered at the palace of the Pere of Gbaramatu kingdom in Oporoza, headquarters of Gbaramatu Kingdom in Warri Southwest Local Government Area of Delta State on the request of Akpabio.
Akpabio who came in company of the NDDC sole administrator, Mr. Akwa Effiong had pleaded with the leaders to give the federal government a little time to set up the NDDC board latest by July.
But the leaders refused, saying the need for a substantive board to drive the peace and development of the region was long overdue, noting that the ongoing forensic audit shouldn’t be a reason for the continuous delay.
The Deputy Governor of Delta State, Deacon Kingsley Otuaro said: “We cannot explain why an institution like the NDDC, that is a product of an Act, is being run in flagrant abuse of the so called powers that established it on the guise of a forensic audit.
“We must not allow our region to boil. There has been a process set in place. The process is such that a critical set of people are meant to work very closely with him (Akpabio), to ensure that the processes are expedited almost immediately by tomorrow (Friday), as soon as he gets to Abuja”.
A member of the Gbaramatu Kingdom Chiefs Council, Chief Godspower Gbenekama, said the people have been too patient with the avalanche of excuses by the federal government and cannot continue to keep quiet.
He said the prevailing peace in the region is because of the decision of the people and not because of the number of military deployment in the area and therefore the government should avoid any fresh crisis that will disrupt the peace.
He said: “You’re here today because there is an ultimatum. Since you became Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, have you called for this kind of consultative meeting?
“The people sitted here are not IYC executives that you can just call to Abuja, the presence of soldiers in our region is not the reason for peace, it is because of our resolve. We want that board to be constituted, the ultimatum stands, after the ultimatum and nothing is done, don’t blame anybody”.
An obviously disappointed Akpabio after the meeting said the process of constituting a substantive NDDC board will be fast-tracked.
The minister said: “We had a robust discussion and consultation. The meetings have been fruitful. The consensus of stakeholders is that there is a need for more representation in the NDDC and so a board needs to be constituted.
“I have also assured them that as soon as I get back, I will commence the process and fast track the process.
“We have agreed that my office will fast-track the process of the constitution of the new board. We have also looked at what is affecting the region. The youths applauded, but they want to see more progress, more employment opportunities”.
Present at the meeting were the President of the Ijaw National Congress (INC), Professor Benjamin Okaba, the lawmaker representing Burutu Federal Constituency in Delta State, Hon. Julius Pondi, traditional rulers from Bayelsa, Delta and Ondo as well as top military personnel.