The Ijaw National Congress (INC), led by Professor Benjamin Okaba has appealed to the Ijaw Youths Council (IYC), to suspend the current mass action over the appointment of a substantive board of the Niger Delta Development Commission.
The INC also made similar appeals to former leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), Chief Government Ekpemupolo, alias Tompolo and other ex-agitators in the region over their planned action on the same issue, and allow it take further steps to interface with critical stakeholders.
The INC made the appeal in a communiqué signed by Professor Okaba, Engr. Ebipamowei Wodu, National Secretary and Engr. Ezonebi Oyakemeagbegha, Publicity Secretary, which was made available to newsmen, after a two day meeting with executives of the IYC as well as other stakeholders at the Ijaw House in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State.
The INC expressed concern about the growing tension in Ijawland and the Niger Delta region arising from the protests by the youths and the ultimatum issued by Tompolo and other ex-agitators.
It also recalled that governors of the region had recently reviewed the matter and called for the constitution of the board of the NDDC which indeed reflect the position of the vast majority of the people.
According to the INC, there is currently an overwhelming anger over the state of affairs in the NDDC and except President Muhammadu Buhari takes proactive steps, things may go out of hand.
The apex Ijaw body used the opportunity to request President Buhari to as a matter of urgency set up the NDDC board with a Bayelsan as Managing Director and a Deltan as Chairman in line with the NDDC Establishment Act 2000.
On the recent allocation of marginal oil fields, in Ijaw land and some other parts of the Niger Delta region, the INC faulted the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources and the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) for doing so without guarantee of host communities’ stake.
It also frowned at the allocation of the marginal oil fields without an internationally certifiable clean-up, remediation and restoration of damaged environment by the federal government.
“When the bid process for the award of marginal oil fields was advertised, two Ijaw sons and a daughter went to court in suit no. FHC/YEN/CO/81/2020: High Chief Phillip Brown Agu and others v. AGF and others seeking for an injunction to restrain the Federal Government from allocating the marginal oil fields in Ijaw land.
“The suit was to compel the Federal Government to first carry out a comprehensive baseline environmental evaluation of all oil and gas fields awarded, renewed or divested since 1956 in accordance with relevant laws and international best practices before the fresh allocations.
“Sadly, the INC noted that while the matter was ongoing, the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources and the DPR awarded the new marginal oil fields”.
While rejecting the allocation of new marginal fields without addressing the concerns and interests of the region’s host communities, the INC says it would follow up with the litigation in court challenging the marginal oil fields award process to its logical conclusion.
It noted that their position on the constitution of the board of the NDDC and award of marginal oil fields does not in any way invalidate the Ijaw age-long stance on 100 percent resource ownership and management or fiscal federalism, stressing that if implemented fully there will be no need for a federal interventionist agency like the NDDC.
The INC while calling on the leadership of the IYC to be calm, said a committee has been set up to investigate the issues arising from the IYC protest, while it continues with the engagement of relevant stakeholders with a view to addressing the issue of constitution of the board of the NDDC and the award of new marginal oil fields.
Similarly, the INC has demanded for immediate remediation of the massively degraded Niger Delta environment, relocation of the Headquarters and operational base of IOCs, and the legitimization of auxiliary refineries which are of immediate concern to the people.