Western Ijaw Threatens to Fight Back over Denial of NDDC Headship

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Dike Onwuamaeze

The Western Ijaw Consultative Assembly (WICA) has threatened to resist the current injustice being meted out on the Ijaws in Delta State by the federal government with all the resources within its possession, especially loud and painful denial of its sons and daughters the statutory appointments and opportunities that were due to them.

WICA warned those who were still in doubt of what the Ijaws could do to recall that “if the Ijaws of the Niger Delta sneezes, Nigeria shall not only catch cold, Nigeria will starve.”

The assembly said in a press statement signed by the Chairman and Secretary of WICA, Mr. Ebipade Gbegha and Mr. Ogbein Zidideke respectively that the injustice, marginalisation and oppression meted on the Ijaws would no longer be endured in silence and humility so that it would not amount to stupidity.

The WICA singled out what it termed the deliberately painful exclusion of the Ijaw indigenes in the recent provocative appointment of another Urhobo national as Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Mr. Bernard Okumagba instead of an Ijaw person as the height of the oppression of the Ijaws by the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.

The assembly stated that the appointment of Okumagba would be the third time an Urhobo would be at the helms of the affairs of the NDDC at the expense of the Ijaws in Delta State that had never tasted the position.

“We are calling on all well-meaning Ijaws to rise up and protest against this robbery and injustice. We are aware of sycophants and traitors in our midst playing selfish anti-ijaw politics on this very important issue, and we warn them to desist. We are calling on President Muhammadu Buhari to correct this injustice as a matter of urgency. Remember, even thunder warns before striking,” the assembly said.

Gbegha and Zidideke regretted that the NDDC, which was established to cater for the oil bearing/impacted communities of the Niger-Delta and appointments to the board was meant to be carried out rotationally to foster fairness, peace and harmony amongst the various nationalities of the region, has become a tool for victimisation and oppression the Ijaws in Delta State.

“From inception, the office of the managing director of the NDDC, has been occupied twice by the Urhobos and one Urhobo has also occupied the Office of Executive Director, whereas their Delta Ijaw brethren has never been considered for the MD position.

“Now, time and the principle of rotation as enshrined in the NDDC’s Establishment Act, has offered the good people of Delta State the opportunity to produce at least another MD. This rare opportunity offers any good leader with a sense of history to correct the ethnic bias inherent in the previous board appointment.

“However, this very unique opportunity has been snatched by people parading themselves as close allies of the “Federal Powers,” to feather their ungodly anti-Ijaw, anti-progress ploy for the sake of satisfying narrow and parochial ethnic agenda by the nomination of another Urhobo national for the third time to occupy the position of managing director of the NDDC,” the WICA said.

It added: “This is not fair to the Ijaws that produce the bulk of the oil and gas in Delta State, neither does it engender inter-ethnic peace and harmony. How long are we going to allow this wickedness, oppression and marginalization to continue?

“The NDCC Act 2000 section 12 (1) is very clear “There shall be for the commission, a Managing Director, and two Executive Directors who shall be indigenes of Oil Producing Areas starting with members state of the Commission with the highest production quantum of oil and shall rotate among memberstates in the order of production.”

“If there is a position of MD or any other position of Executive Director or Chairman allotted to Delta State, it should be the rightful turn of theIjaws and not Urhobos, because the Ijaws are the highest producers of oil in Delta State.

“Furthermore, the Urhobos have produced two MDs and currently the outgoing Executive position too. For them (the Urhobo) to produce MD again for the third time is an anathema to equity, fairness and natural justice. This is a slap and broad- day robbery on the Ijaws, who contributed so much with the blood of Ijaw youths for the creation of NDDC.”

The WICA blamed its current woes on Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege, whom it accused of working assiduously to maliciously push the Ijaws out of the political power play in Nigeria.

But “we must come out to fight them with everything in us.Politicians like Ovie Omo-Agege and his cohorts have taken liberty of their position in the Federal Government to oppress us. He has shown that he is anti-Ijaw and does not want our development and progress. This is a man clamoring to be the next Governor of Delta State. If he can treat us this badly as a Deputy Senate President, imagine what will become of him if elected as governor. We must fight him including any other enemy who is against the progress of the Ijaws. Enough is enough! We must wake up, put aside other differences and grievances to collectively fight this oppression and forge a progressive and favorable future for ourselves and our children. We must look beyond party-lines and focus on our collective existential interests as a people, by refusing to be excluded and cleansed from any political and economic arrangement in the Niger Delta region and Nigeria.”