The Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio has said the inauguration of a substantive board for the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) was delayed due to lack of budgetary allocation, poor logistics and the COVID-19 pandemic.
The minister stated this yesterday in Abuja after a meeting with the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC). The youth said the protests in the region was as a result of a lack of communication between the government and the youths, They added that it now clear to them that the ministry was not behind the delay in the inauguration of the NDDC board.
Ijaw youths had yesterday shut down the NDDC Headquarters in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, following the expiration of the deadline given to the Federal Government over announcing a substantive board of the commission.
The protesting youths had in their numbers erected two tents in front of the main entrance of the complex singing and dancing solidarity songs.
The Eastern Zonal assistant Secretary of IYC, Ibiso Harry, stated the group’s national President, Peter Igbifa, had directed the action.
He noted that over 19 years since the existence of the commission, it has failed to meet up its expectations and it is not in the place of elders or youth of the region to agitate for the repositioning of the board.
The commission’s minister, however, reassured the youth that the Federal Government’s hand is on the desk in reviewing the process of issues that led to the protest and ensuring that urgent steps are put in place to return the region to normalcy.
Akpabio added that the ongoing forensic audit of the commission is in the sole interest of the region and future of NDDC, stressing that: “Even the staff members of the NDDC are interested in the forensic audit because it will enable them to secure their pension after retirement.”
Meanwhile, the Akwa Ibom State chapazter of IYC has also shut down the state office of the NDDC to protest against the delay in the inauguration of the commission’s board after six months.
Yesterday, the group embarked on a peaceful protest in Uyo, lamenting that they would not vacate the office premises until an agreement was reached. They blasted the Federal Government for not yielding to their one-month ultimatum given to constitute a substantive board.
The leader of the protest in the state, Uruang Solomonking, beckoned on the Federal Government not to remit $1.6 billion to the NDDC until a new board was duly constituted in line with the constitution.