By Ndu Samuel
A socio-cultural group, known as Western Ijaw Consultative Assembly (WICA) has faulted the appointment of Bernard Okumagba, of the Urhoboh extraction as the Managing Director of Niger Delta Development Commission NDDC) by President Muhammadu Buhari.
This was contained in a press release signed by the duo of Chief Ebipade Gbegha and Mr. Ogbein Zidideke President and Secretary of the group, a copy of which was obtained by The Liberator.
They described the appointment of Okumagba instead of an Ijaw nominee as unacceptable, and ”a clear case of oppression, injustice and alienation of Ijaw in Delta State by some selfish politicians acting like new pirates in power”
The group maintained that it is the turn of the Ijaws to produce the executive director in line with rotational arrangement enshrined in the NDDC act in section 12 (1) which states ” There shall be for the Commission, a Managing Director, and two Executive Directors who shall be indigenes of oil producing areas starting with the member states of the Commission with the highest production quantum of oil and shall rotate amongst member states in the order of production”
They explained that ” emphasis on the rotation within member states with the highest production quantum of oil is to ensure equity, justice and fairness in states like Delta, where there are more than one ethnic group producing oil. ”
According to the group ” The Ijaw riverine communities are the highest producers of oil and gas in the region, and by implication, the highest revenue generators in Nigeria. We also bear the brunt of the pollution, degradation and environmental impacts of oil and gas exploration, production and transportation. In spite of our enormous contributions and sacrifices, we are still the most underdeveloped part of Niger ”
”The NDDC, which is a product of the Niger Delta struggle, was initiated as an interventionist agency to cater for the oil-bearing/impacted communities from age-long neglect. Though all members of the region contributed to the struggle, the Ijaw no doubt sacrificed and contributed the more in the struggle. ”
” Youths of the Ijaw laid down their lives in agitating for creation of the NDDC and were tagged all sorts of names in the process. We were called militants, trouble makers, armed robbers, barbarians, kidnappers and all sorts, but today, forces that are against the progress of the Ijaw are gradually scheming to diminish and possibly erase us from reckoning. They want to prevent us from enjoying the dividends of the struggle. ”
”From the time of state creation, the Ijaw have always been at the receiving end and on the defensive because of our geographic location and the crude oil God blessed us with. We are balkanize in bits in almost all the states in the Niger Delta, and in all the states, we have been maliciously spread to make us minorities (except Bayelsa State), though we generate the highest revenue from our God-given crude. ”
” As minorities, we suffer oppression, have very weak political voice and space for survival. As a result, the 13% derivation accruing to the state treasury directly from our soil and waters is also used to develop other non-oil producing areas with heavy political power. We are the fourth largest ethnic group in Nigeria with no strength and have been forced in the past to thread the path of violent agitation to get what is due to us or wait for the leftovers.
”This injustice and blatant disregard for the legitimate rights of the Ijaw in Delta State is unacceptable and we will resist it with all the strength God has bestowed us.” The said.
While ex- raying in a chronological order, the representation of Delta ethnic nationalities in the NDDC board since its establishment, they reminded President Muhammad Buhari and members of the National assembly that previous government had respected the the provisions of the enabling act.
” We want to remind President Mohammadu Buhari and members of the National Assembly that the provisions of the NDDC Act had been followed judiciously by previous governments to the letter and the Ijaw in Delta State will resist any attempt by the present administration to subvert the NDDC Act so as to oppress our people and deprive us of our due position. For emphasis, we have taken time to explain the representation of Deltans on the NDDC board by their ethnicity, from inception to date.”
In the first NDDC board (2000 – 2004) that had Prof. V.F Peretomode (Ijaw) as the state rep, Godwin Omene (Urhobo) was the MD. Gowin Omene (Urhobo) was later replaced in 2002 with Emmanuel Agwariavwodo (Urhobo) in the first board. Emmanuel Agwariavwodo (Urhobo) was however, reappointed in the second board (2005 – 2008) as the MD while Chief Emmanuel Ogidi (Isoko) served as the state rep. Agwariavwodo (Urhobo) resigned to contest the Delta state gubernatorial election, and this made Timi Alaibe (Bayesla), the then EDFA to step in as the acting MD and Pastor P.Z Aginighan (Ijaw) the then Director of Finance and Supplies step in as acting EDFA respectively. In the third board (2009 – 2011), Chibuzor Ugwocha (Rivers) was the MD and Pastor P.Z Agnighan (Ijaw) was confirmed as substantive EDFA with Chief Solomon Ogba (Isoko) as the state rep. ”
” The board was sacked midway into it’s tenure and people from same state were appointed to continue the third board with same rotational arrangement from 2011 – 2012. In the reconstituted board, Konboye Lambert, an Ijaw, served as the EDFA, while Chief Solomon Ogba (Isoko) was retained as the state rep. In the fourth board (2013 – 2015), Tuoyo Omatsuli (Itsekiri) was the EDP while Chief Tom Amioku (Urhobo) was the state rep. The fourth board was reconstituted in 2015 and it had Samuel Adjogbe (Urhobo) as the EDP and Ogaga Ofowodo (Isoko) as the state rep. The fifth board which is this current nomination that the Ijaws in Delta state are rejecting in its entirety, has Prophet Jones Erue (Isoko) as the state rep and Bernard Okumagba (Urhobo) as the MD.”
The maintained that ” From the foregoing, it is crystal clear that the Ijaw in Delta State have been undermined and are deliberately being schemed out of the NDDC equation. The Urhobos in Delta State have occupied executive positions four times and appointing another Urhobo man as the MD is the height of oppression and marginalization of the Ijaw. The MD position must come to the Ijaw in Delta State as it is our due turn in accordance with provisions of the NDDC Act of 2000 12 (1) which states that “There shall be for the Commission, a Managing Director, and two Executive Directors who shall be indigenes of oil producing areas starting with the member states of the Commission with the highest production quantum of oil and shall rotate amongst member states in the order of production”. After all, the Ijaws produce over 50% of the total oil and gas in Delta state. ”
”We wish to reiterate with emphasis, that the NDDC Act had been religiously followed in constituting previous boards until this ugly aberration by some ignoble politicians. It would interest you to note that a similar nomination blunder was committed during the setting up of the outgoing board in 2016. Nominees from Imo, Ondo and Abia states were rejected on the grounds that it contradicts the NDDC Act but President Mohammadu Buhari was quick to make amends, thus significantly maintaining the peace in the region and averting a calamitous security breach in the region.Mr. President nullified the earlier nominations and forwarded fresh nominees: Lucky Orimiso (Ondo), Chukwa Anwawa (Imo) and Nwogu Nwogu (Abia), to the National Assembly in March 2017 as “replacement of those that were rejected for not representing the oil producing areas of their respective states.”
”We demand a reversal in this situation. We enjoin the government of the day as a matter of urgency to please present fresh nomination from the Delta Ijaw extraction for the position of the MD to ensure peace, fairness and equity is maintained in the region. Again, we seriously appeal to the Buhari administration to do diligent consultation as was the case before setting up previous boards, to keep the ethnic balance intact”
” It is of utmost importance that President Mohammadu Buhari and the National Assembly heed the voice of reason and not complicate our sufferings by deliberately sidelining and suffocating us in the scheme of things. A situation where one major player is deliberately trampled on and sidelined when it is time for them to enjoy a legitimate right, will surely breed bad blood amongst us. ”