John ODHE, Yenagoa
The Ijaw Youths Council (IYC) has dared the governor of Rivers State, Barr. Nyesom Wike, stating that the governor has no guts to stop their planned protest to the headquarters of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NCDC) in Port Harcourt.
The pan Ijaw youth body’s outburst is in reaction to Wike’s recent alleged threat against ethnic groups planning to protest against the NDDC over perceived short-comings on issues that concern the development of the region.
The Rivers state governor had allegedly threatened to mobilize against any ethnic group that may protest at the headquarters of the NDDC in Port Harcourt, the Rivers state capital and further said that the NDDC does not belong to any particular ethnic group but to all the people of the Niger Delta.
But the IYC, In a press statement issued by its national Spokesman, Comrade Ebilade Ekerefe, said though the Ijaw youths agreed with the governor that the NDDC belongs to every Niger Deltan, it questioned the right he has to stop peaceful protest by youths of the region.
IYC maintained that since Wike acknowledged that the NCDC belongs t to all Niger Deltans, he should allow all ethnic groups in the region to have their say on the issues concerning the region’s commission.
“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 statement read.
The IYC Spokesman further asserted 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.
The statement further read: “It is even a logical contradiction for Gov. Wike to in one breath assert that NDDC belongs to all ethnic groups, and in another breath, threaten to mobilize against any body who protests at the NDDC Headquarters.
“Is Gov. Wike insinuating that Rivers indigenes especially Ikwerre where the NDDC temporary headquarters has been situated for the past 2021 years own NDDC more than others?”
The group admonished the governor to treat the entire Rivers state as equal stakeholders since he believes in the school of thought that NDDC belongs to everyone in the region.
The aggrieved Ijaw youths further hit Wike, stating that “available evidence suggests that the governor is only concentrating development in his Ikwerre land while Ijaw communities, especially in Abonema where Ijaw youths gave their lives for his re-election bid remains underdeveloped.”
On governor Wike’s threat to use brute force to deal decisively with youths of the region who engage in any form of picketing of the NDDC headquarters in Port Harcourt, the youths asserted that the governor did not make proper findings and did not get his facts correctly before threatening fire and brimstone.
“Such statement is provocative and disrespectful, and capable of causing dissatisfaction and breach the peaceful coexistence amongst the various ethnic nationalities within the region and truncating the existing fragile peace in the Niger Delta,” the group said, advising Wike to apply caution in his public comments.
IYC recalled that the decision to locate the NDDC headquarters in Rivers state does not deny the people of the region the right to protest peacefully in expressing their grievances anytime.
Ekerefe stated that the renewed agitation for a substantive board in the NDDC became inevitable having noticed that it has become a deliberate ploy by the federal government to undermine the region and underdevelop it when other interventionist agencies outside the region do not suffer similar fate.
He explained that the IYC is not against any ethnicity from occupying any position in the NDDC board if the act which establishes it is implemented.
“But a continuous none adherence to the act is inimical to the full operational capacity of the NDDC and should be resisted by every rightful thinking person who means well for the development of the region.
“For clarity, let me reiterate that our position to resume the planned mother of all protest at the NDDC headquarters is still on course if a substantive board is not on-stream by April as the Minister of Niger Delta, Sen. Godswill Akpabio alluded.
“We are irrevocably committed to this course and nobody can stop us from legitimately expressing our grievances when that time comes,” he added.