Oil companies operating within the Niger Delta have been reminded of the need to heed an ultimatum to vacate the region before it is too late.
In a couple of days the ultimatum issued by the Ijaw Youth Congress, IYC on the 25th of April, 2021 would expire.
The IYC which is getting ready to launch into action said the decision to shutdown oil operations in the Niger Delta is sequel to the Federal Government’s refusal to set up a substantive board to run the affairs of the NDDC.
Ijaw youths are insisting on the appointment of a management team in line with necessary guidelines contained in the Act establishing the NDDC.
The youths had threatened in the past to shutdown the operations of the NDDC, a major step which almost resulted in a face off between the youths and the Rivers State Government.
It is difficult to understand why the Federal Government is still insisting on running the interventionist agency through an ad hoc leadership arrangement.
But that decision which may be linked to an ongoing forensic study within the NDDC may result in a new phase of the Niger Delta or Ijaw struggle if utmost care is not taken.
Incidentally, the IYC which recently addressed the press isn’t coming to the table, bearing arms and issuing threats as the deadline issued to the Federal Government draws close.
It is rather urging the oil giants to take their time within the ultimatum period to shut their operations inside the Niger Delta.
“We are not coming to your flow station”, Peter Igbifa, IYC president said, “shut them by yourself, we want you to shut the flames by yourself and vacate your personnel.”
Urging oil firms to to do the needful, perhaps to avoid unpleasant consequences, Igbifa remarked, “Within these days remaining in the ultimatum, you can take three to four days to shut down and evacuate”,
Nobody knows what will happen after the expiration of the ultimatum, but many here hope that whatever the differences are, they would be resolved amicably.
The Ijaw Youth President who seems not to believe in threats calmly told the media, “We are not going to carry gun and chase anybody as Ijaw youths, but we will stand on our right until our demand for substantive board is inaugurated in the NDDC,”
“In line with the ultimatum as the days are counting, we should have nine days remaining to go. All IOCs operating in our region should begin a peaceful and gentle evacuation of their personnel.
“It should be a very gentle and peaceful evacuation because we do not want anybody to take advantage of the shutdown.
“We want them to take responsibility for their personnel, remove them gently. If you have IOCs that operate flow stations, take the remaining days and time and shutdown them down gently by yourself.”
Some other groups in the Niger Delta have been urging the Federal Government to heed requests that are coming from major stakeholders in the region.
One of such groups, the Niger Delta Peoples Forum which is supporting the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) said in a statement signed by its National Chairman, Chief Boma Ebiakpo, that it is important that the “peace of the Niger Delta is not troubled at this time when Nigeria is facing multiple conflicts across the country.”
The group said the inauguration of the NDDC board will ensure that the agency is run in line with the NDDC Act.
Recall that a meeting held at Presidential Hotel in Port Harcourt about a month ago, the IYC issued the ultimatum.
On that occasion, Igbifa had said “Council has resolved that we are giving the Federal Government, the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari, one month ultimatum to close-out on the Board inauguration for the NDDC.
“We consider NDDC a very critical agency for us in this region. And for this cause we want to make it clear that between now (April 25) and the one month if the Board is not brought in we may not be able to guarantee the safety of oil operations in the region.”
Allaying the fears of the Federal Government over the misuse of a new Board, Igbifa had similarly assured in course of the meeting in Port Harcourt that “Council, in her different presentations has made it clear that we want to assure that the substantive Board that will come in won’t be a Board that politicians will take hold of”, promising that the new appointees “will be held accountable to the people of the region.”
The Ijaw Youth Council, according to what we have gathered, is not only planning to shut down oil companies alone, the youths might be thinking of bringing the entire Niger Delta region to a halt if their one-month ultimatum is ignored by the Government.
“When we say we are shutting down, there will be no activity”, Comrade Igbifa stressed, “we have advised our people, anybody you can help, the moment we get close to this, anybody you can help with garri, beans, please do because we are going to lock down activities in the region.
“No road movement, no water movement, no activity within that period. And that is why we say we cannot guarantee the safety of oil workers at that time.”
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