He used to be the spokesman of the Ijaw Youths Council before presenting himself for election as president of the IYC. Eric Omare is one of the leading voice in the Ijaw struggle. He told TNN in this online interview that the federal government must take steps to address issues pertaining to the running of the NDDC. For him, the NDDC as it is, is not doing enough to address the development needs of the region.
He also spoke on the controversy surrounding the tenure saga for the NDDC board.
Who is Eric Omare? The name rings a bell in the Ijaw struggle
I am the incumbent president of the Ijaw Youth Council. Before now I was the spokesman of the Ijaw Youth Council before my election as president
But Mr Oweilaemi Pereotubo is the one we know as the president of IYC
It is not correct to use the phrase "we know'. May be you are speaking for yourself and not for the generality of our people. And by the way, who are the 'we'. I was elected at Burutu on the 1st of March, 2017 at an election organised by the immediate past president, Udengs Eradiri. So when you say who you know is one Roland. Who handed over to him by the way? Eradiri handed over to me
Perhaps, this suggests that there is a division in the IYC leadership
You may say so, but as far as I am concerned, there is only one IYC leadership under me.
There was an IYC election in Bayelsa where Pereotubo was elected.
There was no IYC election in Bayelsa State. What happened was that after the elections in Burutu on the 1st March, 2017, some former leaders were not happy, hence they went to Okrika, Rivers State to organise another election. But the issues are before a competent court of law to decide. So let's leave the rest for the court to decide
You have been involved in the Ijaw struggle for sometime now. Do you think the Ijaws are getting any better under the present dispensation?
Whether Ijaws are getting a better deal under the present dispensation or not depends on the context you look at it from. As compared to previous administrations such as Obasanjo, Yar'Adua and Jonathan, I will say no. Considering the fact that the Ijaws are the forth largest ethnic group in Nigeria to have only a minister of state for agriculture in the federal cabient is unacceptable
How do you mean?
In effect, I am saying that the Ijaws are not treated fairly in the present dispensation. We deserve more.
Would you say that the federal government, through agencies like the NDDC, is doing well to develop the region?
NDDC was established to primarily focus on the infrastructural development of the Ijaw nation, but it has not performed up to expectation. The NDDC has become an instrument of political patronage than instrument of development.
And as an Ijaw leader, what have you done to address this? What do you think can be done to rejig the NDDC?
We have been at the front agitating for good governance and accountability in the NDDC and other agencies of government. I think the problem of bad governance in the NDDC is a reflection of the general state of governance in Nigeria. On rejigging the NDDC, the president needs to send the right mesaage to the NDDC that it should not be business as usual. The president's vision for the NDDC I think is the most important thing. Then the right persons who would focus on development instead of using the NDDC to fund elections need to be appointed into the board. Also Niger Delta stakeholders need to be more vigilant and insist on good leadership in the NDDC.
Talking about NDDC board, there has been a trending issue on the tenure of the current board. How do you see the development?
I was the first to draw the attention of the Nigerian public to the issue of the dubious intention to extend the tenure of the present board of the NDDC for another three or four years. The IYC position is that such a move is not only illegal but satanic. There is no room for second tenure for the board of NDDC or tenure extension especially in respect of the office of MD and chairman. There is an established rotational policy in the NDDC in respect of the MD and chairmanship for a single term of four years, hence we are vehemently opposed to any attempt to change this established position.
But the NDDC Act empowers the president to re-appoint the board for a second term of four years
The provision of section 3 which empowers the president to appoint for a second term is subject to section 4 of the NDDC Act dealing with rotation. What it simple means is that the rotation principle as enshrined in section 4 and 12 of the Act takes precedence over the provisions of section 3 on a second term. So in effect, whereas the president can appoint board members of the NDDC like state Rep for a second term, the chairman and MD cannot be so appointed because of the principle of rotation.
And only yesterday, the SGF issued a statement, denying any tenure elongation plot and saying that what has merely happened is that the current board is only being made to enjoy the four years they ought to have enjoyed as a fresh board.
I completely disagree with that purported position from the SGF's office. The true position is that this board was appointed to complete the tenure of the Dan Abia led board whose tenure started in December 2013. This was clearly stated in their appointment letters. The issue of fresh four years as claimed by the PS(permanent secretary) in the SGF office is an after-thought and a product of manipulation
So what is the way forward?
The president should start the process of nominating a new board of the NDDC so as to take over from the current board by December this year when they tenure expires.