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Thousands of travellers stranded as IYC barricade East-West road, demand substantive board for NDDC

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By Ebiowei Lawal – Yenagoa

Angry Ijaw youths yesterday blocked the East-West road in protest over the appointment of a Sole Administrator instead of a substantive board for the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).

The protesters under the aegis of Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) worldwide massed at the strategic Mbiama-Yenagoa junction of the federal highway as early as 6.30am using trailer, trucks and other objects to barricade the road leaving thousands of travellers and other road users stranded for about three hours.

Attempts by some armed soldiers backed by an Armoured Personnel Carrier and led by a Major and former Secretary to Bayelsa State Government and ex Nigerian Ambassador to the Scandinavian countries, Dr. Godknows Igali, who was also caught up in the gridlock was able to convince the protesters to clear the blockade failed.

Most of the early morning travellers were caught in the gridlock on the usually busy road spanning more than two kilometers on the Bayelsa and Rivers State stretch of the road.

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 the National spokesman, Comrade Ebilade Ekerefe, the National Treasurer, Comrade Ebifoubo O. Timilaemi, Comrade Clever Iniodu, Zonal Chairman, Central Zone, Comrade Ebi James, Chairman Eastern Zone, Comrade 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 .

Comrade Ebilade said, “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 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 report 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 is 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.

“One of the demands of the governors and critical stakeholders in the Niger Delta region is that without any further delay the President should appoint a substantive board that would oversee the developmental challenges of the Niger Delta.

“The NDDC for over a year plus has been in limbo, nothing serious is happening in the NDDC and majority of the people and the economy of the Niger Delta is dependent on that NDDC. And if they begin to now play politics with development of the region we have a duty to speak out and defend our people.

“We are opposed to a sole administrator, the same way we were oppose to Interim Managment Committee because to us it is clearly not constitutional and it is not in the Act that established the NDDC.

“Matters of this region are being treated with levity. There is the North East Development Commission in this country, have we ever heard that the North East Development Commission is being handled by an interim board or a sole administrator? So why are they now playing politics with the development of this region. We have made a position before now that we are completely against the appointment of a sole administrator.

“We have supported the forensic auditing that is already going on but we are saying that we don’t have confidence in the forensic audit the reason is because it has become an endless exercise. This government told us that by December the forensic audit will be completed and we want people that are found wanting to be held accountable for the underdevelopment of this region and we have always supported that move. So, why are you bringing in sole administrator at this point in time?

“Where are the board of directors that will join that sole administrator to preside over the affairs of the NDDC? There are strategic positions when it comes to the NDDC, like the Executive Director of Finance, and Executive Director of Projects, these are very key offices that are supposed to function with the head of that agency.”

Also Speaking, the Chairman of the Central Zone of the IYC, Comrade Clever Inodu, said the decision to embark on protest march is to drive home the point that the Niger Delta people are demanding for true federalism and restructuring,” a situation where Zamfara can mine their gold and pay tax to the Federal Government, the Niger Delta people are demanding for the certification of Ijaw youths to drill for oil and refine it and pay proceeds to the Federal Government.”

Also Speaking, the National Treasurer, Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) Worldwide, Comrade Ebifoubo O. Timilaemi called on the Minister of the Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Akpabio to focus on the completion of the East-West road project instead of engaging in unhealthy politics at the NDDC.

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