Ijaw youths have warned Governor Nyesom Wike, urging him to be more cautious in his reaction to burning issues which affect the Niger Delta region.
The Ijaws have also accused him of neglecting the development of the the Ijaw speaking areas of Rivers State.
The Ijaw Youth Congress which fired back, following threats by the Rivers State Governor, Barrister Wike that he would mobilize against any group which attempts to disrupt social and economic activities in the State in the name of organizing protests.
The IYC in a statement issued by its National Spokesman, Ebilade Ekerefe said Wike’s unguarded remarks could threaten the fragile peace which exists in the oil rich region.
Wike had said when the Head of the Commission visited him that no group in the Niger Delta could lay any exclusive claim to owning the NDDC.
The Governor who did not refer to any group in particular insisted that the Commission belongs to all tribes within the region.
Although the IYC agreed with the Governor over ownership matters, it said the contributions of the martyrs of the struggle to develop the Niger Delta region can never be forgotten.
“We insist that when some ethnic groups were maintaining table manners in the peak of the agitations, others paid the supreme price in the region before the eventual creation of the commission by the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2000”, the OYC said in its statement.
The IYC may feel strongly about its facts, but history records that it was the Rivers State Government under the leadership of Governor Rufus Ada George who made the case for the establishment of a commission to manage the 1.5% derivation fund.
That request put before President Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida laid the foundation for the creation of OMPADEC, which became the forerunner of present day NDDC.
“I was serving in the Government House Press Corp when IBB acceded to the request”, Chief Ogbonna Nwuke, Publisher of the Telegraph recalls.
“Late Bob Bikefe wrote that wonderful speech properly delivered by Governor Ada George which turned around the future of the Niger Delta.
“Radio Rivers on the instruction of the Rivers State Government had to give up its newly completed headquarters along William Jumbo Street in order to accommodate OMPADEC”, he added.
Obviously angry with Wike’s comment, the IYC declared, “It is even a logical contradiction for Governor Wike to in one breath assert that NDDC belongs to all ethnic groups, and in another breath, threaten to mobilise against anybody who protests at the NDDC headquarters.
“Is Governor Wike insinuating that Rivers State indigenes, especially Ikwerre, where the NDDC’s temporary headquarters has been situated for many years, own NDDC more than others?”
Ekerefe stressed that the right to protest is the constitutional right of all Nigerians, including Niger Delta groups and as a result, Wike lacks the power to stop any group from protesting at the NDDC headquarters.
He said available evidence suggested that the governor was only concentrating development in his Ikwerre land while Ijaw communities, especially in Abonema, where Ijaw youths gave their lives for his re-election bid, has remained underdeveloped.
On Wike’s threat to use brute force to deal with protesters, the IYC warned, “Such a statement is provocative and disrespectful, and capable of causing dissatisfaction and breach the peaceful coexistence amongst the various ethnic nationalities within the region.”
He added that Wike’s words are capable of “truncating the existing fragile peace in the Niger Delta. We advise him to apply caution in his public comments.
“For clarity, let me reiterate that our position to resume the planned ‘mother of all protests’ at the NDDC headquarters is still on course if a substantive board is not on-stream by April as the Minister of Niger Delta, Senator Godswill Akpabio, alluded.
“We are irrevocably committed to this course and nobody can stop us from legitimately expressing our grievances when that time comes.”
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