October 1, 2023

The Special Assistant on Youth Matters to the Interim Administrator of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Engr Udengs Eradiri has called for calm from the Ijaw Youth Council following the latter’s threat to shutdown the region with protests.

The call was contained in a press stated by Udengs, who is a former President of IYC, in reaction to the Body’s ultimatum issued to the Minister For Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio.

The IYC through it’s President, Dcn Peter Igbifa had given the former governor of Akwa Ibom to inaugurate a substantive board for the NDDC in two weeks or face a stampede of it’s premises by Ijaw youths.

Udengs pleaded with the IYC to apply calm and give room to President Buhari, Godswill Akpabio and the Interim Sole Administration of the NDDC, Effiong Akwa to find a lasting solution to the problems bedeviling the Commission.

The statement reads in full;
My attention has been drawn to renewed plans by the reverred Ijaw Youths Council (IYC) Worldwide, which I once led as President, to begin a protest against the current managerial system of allowing the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) to be run by an interim administration.

I learnt that the youths have given the Minister of the Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio and President Muhammadu Buhari a two-week ultimatum to either inaugurate the NDDC board or risk total shutdown of the region.

In as much as I relate with the IYC and the issues involved in the proposed protest, I want to make the following pleas:

1.That our youths should reconsider their position to shut down the region in protest in view of the prevailing security situations in the country. The security challenges in the country do not favour protest by a large crowd because it can be hijacked by hoodlums, who are always lurking around to infiltrate such movement and hijack it to shed the blood of innocent lives. IYC, as a responsible organisation, cannot create such opportunities for hoodlums and bandits at this trying time in our country.

2. Giving such ultimatum amounts to armtwisting the President, who in his wisdom, based on consultations and advice by the Niger Delta governors, ordered a forensic audit of the commission. Senator Godswill Akpabio has taken his time to explain that Buhari’s intention is to conclude the forensic audit before the inauguration of the board. The delay in concluding the audit is not the fault of Akpabio, who is labouring to ensure that the NDDC is repositioned to deliver on its mandate. The audit was delayed by budgetary constraints, but following pleas by the Minister, the Presidency resolved the bottlenecks by taking over the funding of the audit.

3. That the audit has recorded tremendous progress. The auditors are now on field assignments after which they will write and submit their reports. It is instructive to note that the President desires an end to the audit before inaugurating a new board to give the NDDC a new and responsible beginning. Any attempt to put the board in place without concluding the ongoing investigations will derail the forensic audit.

4. As a former IYC President, I also want the board to be inaugurated. But I have since observed that having a board has never been the problems of the NDDC. The commission has always had a board. But the problems over the years have been institutionalised corruption, failure of an accountable system and misappropriation of our commonwealth. I am convinced that the NDDC requires total cleansing and procedural and managerial changes to restore the dignity of the commission and ensure it realises its mandates. If at the end of the audit, we have a responsible and accountable NDDC, then it is worth the wait.

5. I can assure you that the audit will soon come to an end. I urge all stakeholders and our Ijaw Youths to exercise more patience and allow the conclusion of this audit. As Ijaw Youths, we don’t want to be at the wrong side of history, counted among those, who tried to thwart a process designed to reposition the NDDC for maximum performance.

6. That the NDDC as currently managed, has achieved some feats, which all the past boards of the commission could not boast of. Under Senator Akpabio and Effiong Akwa, the head office complex of the commission abandoned for about 25 years has been completed. The commission is also making efforts to reposition its scholarship scheme to give room for more beneficiaries and develop our tertiary institutions.

7. Besides, through the efforts of the Minister and the NDDC, massive work is ongoing at the East-West Road especially at the abandoned axis between Bayelsa and Rivers states. Among other things, we have concluded the procurement process required for the training of first batch of 1000 youths for the NLNG train 7 project; training for vehicle manufacturing and diagnostics with Innoson Vehicle Company and the talent hunt and sports-related programmes to give youths a sense of belonging .

I therefore call on youths of the region to avoid any temptation to join in any protest and give the government the opportunity to reposition the NDDC for optimum performance as an intervention agency.

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