Emmanuel Addeh in Yenagoa
Niger Delta youths from the nine oil-producing states have blamed what they described as â€˜perennial leadership failure’ for the region’s underdevelopment, despite the huge monies appropriated and expended by the federal and state governments as well as interventionist agencies.
The youths spoke during a meeting comprising Itsekiri, Urhobo and Ijaw youth leaderships, as part of what they said was the ongoing engagement with ethnic groups in the area.
While one of the groups, Pan Niger Delta Leadership Forum (PANDLEAF), was led by its President Richard Akinaka, the Itsekiri, Ijaw and Urhobo groups were led by Mr. Abateyiniro Weyinmi, Eric Omare and Festus Igherebuo respectively.
Akinaka noted that after years of budgeting and purportedly spending trillions of naira, the region had nothing to show.
“For instance, after the first two to three years of the establishment the NDDC, the agency has perpetually become an instrument in the hands of those who control Abuja from the region to finance elections.
â€œOur region is not without resources or institutions but our region only lacks accountable leadership. The problem of the region is that of perennial leadership failure. We are embarking on this engagement with ethnic youth leaders to instil a renewed sense of responsibility,â€ the youth leader said.
Akinaka told the gathering that though militancy in the past was intended to draw attention to the marginalisation of the region by the federal government and the multinationals, the phase caused more woes as it led to the relocation of economic activities to other areas.
â€œSo, we must take deliberate steps to advance peace to cause these companies to relocate back to the region,â€ he added.
Akinaka explained that the ethnic youth leadership engagement exercise was not a political movement but the gathering of youths irrespective of political affiliation
Also speaking, a member of the National Executive of PANDLEAF, Dr. Selekaye Victor-Ben, noted that the poor leadership problem identified was caused by the imposition of political leaders on the people of the region.
“Most of the young men imposed on us have failed because they listen to the dictates and old ideology of their sponsors.
“We must unite and stand up for peace and development in the region. The youths of the present Niger Delta must come together and uplift the unity and cohesive development of the region. “
President of the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC), Omare, warned the youth leaders to be prepared for anything, stressing that those who benefited from the ills of the past will resist the new movement. He expressed the need for peace and harmony among the ethnic groups, noting that they need to speak with one voice to be able to demand what is due the region from the Nigerian state.