The Ijaw in Delta State has rejected the nomination of Bernard Okumagba of the Urhabo extraction as the managing director of the new Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) board instead of an Ijaw nominee from the state.
A press statement that was issued by Western Ijaw Consultative Assembly (WICA) and signed by Ebipade Gbegha and Ogbein Zidideke, chairman and secretary of WICA respectively, notified President Mohammadu Buhari and the National Assembly that the nomination of Okumagba “is totally 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 assembly stated unequivocally that any executive position slot for Delta State should be given to the Ijaw as it was their turn in line with the rotational arrangement as prescribed by the NDDC Act of 2000 Section 12 (1) which stated 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.”
It noted that the emphasis on “rotation within member states with the highest production quantum of oil,” was meant to ensure equity, justice and fairness in states like Delta, where there was more than one ethnic group producing oil.
The statement further claimed that the Ijaw riverside communities were 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 Nigeria.”
The WICA attributed the establishment of the NDDC as an interventionist agency to the Niger Delta struggle that the Ijaw sacrificed and contributed more than any ethnic group to actualise. “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”.
“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,” it said.
The assembly went on to remind President Buhari and the National Assembly that the provisions of the NDDC Act had been followed judiciously by previous governments to the letter and vowed that “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.”
The consultative assembly therefore enjoined 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 managing director of the NDDC to ensure peace, fairness and equity is maintained in the region.”