Imeabe Saviour Oscar, an Ogoni son, is the National President, South-South Youth Initiative, a Non Governmental Organisation that has been advocating for the enthronement of a legal board for the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC.
Oscar was in the corporate head office of TNN in Port Harcourt where he spoke on his organisaiton’s plans to shut down the head office of the NDDC if the federal failed to inaugurate the board of the commission.
You’ve been on this other side of the struggle for the inauguration of the board for the NDDC. Somebody went to court a few days ago, trying to get an order restraining the federal government from inaugurating a board for the NDDC. What does all of this mean to you?
My name is Comrade Imeabe Saviour Oscar, I represent south-south youth initiative as a national president. You see, it’s quite unfortunate that we have a system of government that does not care about its citizens. It’s also very unfortunate that we have a situation around our country that citizens are made to make demands, to challenge government on the good deed or for a delivery of the dividends of democracy. It becomes so alarming that even the government does not look at the high level of youth restiveness on the street. Just recently, UNIPORT graduated how many thousands of students into the street, Rivers State University of Technology will be graduating more students into the street. as we speak, college of health is writing their exams now, meaning that in the next few months, or few weeks to come, more students will be graduating from that institution into the street. Now, we also have other schools across the state, especially in the south-south and the Niger Delta. If all these schools graduate their students into the street, we will be having how many millions of students on the street, and one of the reasons for the establishment of NDDC was to help reduce the level of youth restiveness in the Niger Delta region, was also to build human capacity development, it was also meant to look at the system of infrastructure, the development of the Niger Delta people, but is that actually accomplished? No. Ever since the establishment of NDDC, it is quite unreasonable, and quite unfortunate that up till now, we do not have anything as what we have benefitted from that commission, there is nothing tangible you can point out that this is what NDDC has done.
How do you mean, they are doing roads, they are doing…
(cuts in) most of the roads, most of the projects that NDDC is doing or constructing, if you look at the road, the materials are substandard. Most of the things that NDDC is doing are substandard, and this time, we were actually privileged, we were very happy when a son of the soil was appointed as the minister of Niger Delta. When that was done, we were all happy that at least we have a son that is at the helms of affairs. What we were expecting is a very simple thing, we are just expecting that we are going to have massive development in the Niger Delta region because we have a son that is at the helms of affair. But unfortunately, the reverse is the case. What we have is an unfortunate situation. As we speak, we know that even the office of the acting MD is limited, let alone a sole administrator, even when you act in the acting capacity of NDDC that position alone you have a limited responsibility to dish out to the people, let alone when you have a sole administrator. We will be forced to protest that Akpabio should be sacked as a minister of Niger Delta, that’s the point we are going to get to because the protest we are planning to lead, to block or shut down the operation of NDDC in Port Harcourt, one of our demands is that Akpabio should be sacked.
Why are we demanding for the sack of Akpabio? It’s quite obvious that the minister of Niger Delta, Sen. Godswill Akpabio does not listen to the yearning of the people. It is also unfortunate and alarming that the minister of Niger Delta, Sen. Godswill Akpabio does not mean well for the people of the south-south and the Niger Delta region because if he does, he will always look at himself and look at where he is coming from. It’s quit unfortunate that a Niger Delta son, a south-south son, instead of thinking of how to benefit the people with the position you were given, all you think about is your ambition for 2023, even though the minister for Niger Delta wants to aspire to be a president of this country, is it this way we are going to give him the vote?
The South-South Youth Initiative is an organization that is poised to give out or to speak out the truth, and when we see a stakeholder that is not responding the way he ought to respond, if we see a stakeholder that is not giving out the dividends of democracy to people that you are asked to represent, we will definitely expose you, and this is in line with one of our objectives, to ensure that we speak and talk to the appropriate authorities about problems that is facing us and we are not going to keep quiet when we see something that is affecting us.
In one of the statements you issued, you mentioned the fact that the board that was screened and confirmed should be the one that should be inaugurated. Are you still maintaining that position?
Why we are going to maintain that position is simple. We are having an issue about the forensic audit, forensic audit that should have ended before now. When the president, Muhammadu Buhari came up with forensic audit, it was supposed to last for six months; unfortunately, it has gone beyond that, it’s now extended to several months, how many years now for forensic audit? Meanwhile it was an exercise meant for six months, it’s now going into years, what is the reason, what is the secret behind all this? Now, considering the fact that there was already nominated names that has already been screened by the National Assembly, we look at the fact, or we look at the situation that if we start looking at how politicians will start nominating names, those that call themselves stakeholders that are speaking for us, who are not speaking for us, those that claim that they speak for us their actions do not speak for us, by the time they start nominating names… we don’t want all those process, we want the minister for Niger Delta to continue with the already screened names by the National Assembly.
We maintain that the already screened list by the National Assembly should come up as the substantive board, that’s what we also expect, while we are also expecting that, we are also looking forward that this forensic audit should end immediately.
One of the promises that Akpabio made when he came to visit the ex-militant was that before the end of June, this forensic audit will end and then a board will be set up. How many months now? This is August, when did you make that promise? That’s not the first time the minister for Niger Delta is making that promise, this promise has been made before. So, why did you keep deceiving the people in the name of constituting a new board, if you are not ready to constitute a new board then you step outside because you don’t have the capacity, at this point we want to believe that the minister for Niger Delta does not have the capacity to constitute the board for NDDC.
So, are you trying to infer that Akpabio is a serial liar?
He is an incompetent person, he is just incompetent for that office because if he was competent to deliver, by now he would have done the needful. In as much as we know he also wants to benefit, fine, we know he wants to benefit, he can benefit from every other ways. If he sets up a board, the board will be under him, so what are you afraid of? What is the minister for Niger Delta, Sen. Godswill Akpabio afraid of?
Let’s look at the protest you are planning to hold in the next 14 days. What is the shape of that protest going to be like? Recently there was one like that at the East-West road, Akpajo, so are we expecting something in the shape of what happened along the east-west road?
Well, we have given an ultimatum and the ultimatum is 14 days, that ultimatum start counting from today, being the 5th. If you look at the heading of our letter, the letter was addressed to the office of the minister of Niger Delta, was also copied the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari was copied, the chief of staff to the president was also copied, the director general of DSS was also copied, the IGP was also copied, media houses were also copied and the reason we did that is because we are not acting in secrecy. We also want to make our position known to the public, that’s why we copied the media and that’s why we are also ready to address the media.
What happened at east west road, what will happen at NDDC gate, will not be compared. You cannot compare what happened at east west road to what will happen at NDDC gate. That is why today, we have gone to NDDC to make our survey, the only thing they are going to use against us is security, the Army that is there should be ready to kill us all, because we are not out to fight the Army, we are not out to fight the police, we are not out to fight any other security agencies that may be stationed there to secure the office, we are also not out to destroy or vandalise any properties, the only thing we are out to do is to ensure that we shut down all operations. We will block the gate against all operations when the 14days elapse, and we are not issuing it as a threat, that’s not a threat, that’s what we are going to do. So, once the 14 days elapse, we are going to switch into action. It is expected that the protest will last longer until the needful is done, the protest will last much longer, it will be sustained beyond the east west road protest.
The one of east west road, there were speculations that the local government chairmen in Ogoni land sponsored that protest, so, who is sponsoring your own?
The east west road was not sponsored, though it was appreciated. So, if the Eleme local government actually supported it, yes, I know they supported it very well, they were not supporting it because they want to sponsor it against Akpabio. I am not sure they also supported it because they want to create an enemy between Akpabio and them, I am not also sure they supported that protest because of PDP against APC, it is not PDP against APC, I am not a politician, I am not a member of any political party, it was not a sponsored programme, you can have your own personal interest but a lot of persons that were on that protest were not mobilized with one naira. Example, I was not mobilized, the people seated here were not mobilized, we were all there present for that protest, all of us here, and those of us that were supposed to come here and I asked them to leave, we were all part of the protest, no person, nobody was paid.
Call any person that was at that protest ground to come and say he was paid a dime to be part of that protest. I only know that there was appreciation; that, I can actually say, there were appreciation from well-meaning people, there were appreciation from people that mean well for the people of the Niger Delta and for the people of the south-south.
East west road is not something we should protest about, just like we are not supposed to protest about the dividends of democracy, or the benefit of NDDC, we shouldn’t make such protest, it’s not a protest we should embark on, it’s something that should be a core responsibility of any good establishment, a core responsibility of any good agency, a core responsibility of any good system of governance, the dividends of democracy must be given out to the people the way it ought to be given. So, do we need to be sponsored before we embark on such thing? Sometimes it becomes so annoying when people say that you are doing the right thing and the next thing they want to look at instead of looking at the message you are sending, they first of all look at who is bankrolling or who is sponsoring you.
We must speak out now that we are alive, so that if anything happens we know that we actually spoke when we were alive, but nothing was done, and that’s justice we are looking for. So, if the minister for Niger Delta, Sen. Godswill Akpabio does not see the need of constituting a board in NDDC because we are sure that if that board is constituted, we are much sure that that board was meant to reduce youth restiveness, also meant to create employment opportunities. When was the last time employment was done in NDDC?
When can you recall when employment was done in NDDC, can you also recall when NDDC embarked on scholarship programmes? Can you also recall when NDDC embarked on skill programmes, can you recall when NDDC embarked on vocational programme, or training centres, can you also recall when NDDC embarked on its mandate or the purpose of which it was established?
You’ve talked about the east west road problem, and then now, NDDC, the two are being controlled by one person, Sen. Godswill Akpabio. So are you saying Akpabio is the problem of the Niger Delta?
You’ve said it yourself. Like I said, you know what the northerners do, it’s unfortunate that the people of the south south, the Niger Deltans and the entire region, they don’t care about their people because if we have a system that care about its people. I was in Abuja and I almost cried out of tears because most of the roads, the link roads that I saw are the resources that is coming from this place, resources that came from the south south, resources that came from the Niger Delta, the oil exploration, the gains we get from oil exploration in the Niger Delta are what is used to set up Abuja the way it is today.
You see, Akpabio has become a serious disappointment to many of us, because what we are expecting from Akpabio was that we will have a system of government that works, that’s what we expected from him, but unfortunately that’s not what we are seeing, because if he cares about the people where he comes from, I’m sure he will copy what is happening in the north.
Look at the road construction that was done in Kano, you can imagine that kind of design, do we have such designs in Rivers State? Do we have that kind of design in the south south region, do we have that kind of design in the Niger Delta, which state in the Niger Delta can you bring the design in Kano, that particular road that was just commissioned in Kano? Now, can you bring such design here, do we have any design? No we don’t have any design; meanwhile we have the resources that can give us something more than that, something more befitting than that. So, why can’t we have such designs? Go to the roads that lead to the refineries in Kaduna, other refineries in the North, go to that road, now, check what is there on that road, do we have such road in the Niger Delta? No, we don’t. Do we have such roads in the south south region, no we don’t, do we have such quality roads, no we don’t.
Even when we are shouting on top of our voice, Akpabio has received to hear our voice. I am sure what happened before is going to happen to him. We are going to go to his office in Abuja, if we try the protest here it doesn’t work, we will make sure that same insult that was given to him in Abuja, that same insult will repeat itself, that we go back to Abuja, in his office and chase him out from the office. He has received that insult before, he was chased out of his office because of this kind of attitude and if he continues like this, we will be forced to go back to his office in Abuja and chase him out of his office. He has become a very big disappointment to the people of the south south region, he has become a big disappointment to the people of the Niger Delta, South South youth initiative will do nothing than to make sure he pays for the crime, we will stop at nothing than to ensure that we call him to order, and that is what we have stand out to do and that is what we must do.