The Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) Worldwide Yesterday condemned the alleged threat by Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike to stop any ethnic groups planning to protest against the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) over perceived shortcomings on the issue of development in the region.
It would be recalled that Wike had threatened to mobilise against any ethnic group that stage protest at the headquarters of the NDDC in Port Harcourt, Rivers State and further said that the NDDC does not belong to any ethnic group but to all the people of the Niger Delta.
The IYC in a statement by its National Spokesman Ebilade Ekerefe said the Ijaw youths agreed completely with Wike that the NDDC belongs to every Niger Deltan.
However, the group insisted 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 NDDC by the government of ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2000.
Ekerefe noted that the fallout of the agitations in the region could still be witnessed through the incessant and targeted military invasions, human rights violations and extra-judicial killings while other ethnic nationalities are calm.
The spokesman 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.
He said: “It is even a logical contradiction for Governor Wike to in one breath assert that NDDC belongs to all ethnic groups, and in another breath, threatens to mobilize against anybody who protests at the NDDC Headquarters.
“Is Wike insinuating that Rivers indigenes, especially Ikwerre, where the NDDC temporary headquarters has been situated for the past years owns NDDC more than others?”
He advised Wike to treat the entire Rivers people as equal stakeholders since he believes in the school of thought that NDDC belongs to everyone in the region.
He alleged that available evidence suggested that the governor was 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 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, Ekerefe said that the governor did not make proper findings and did not get his facts correctly before threatening “fire and brimstone”.
He described the alleged threat as unguarded from a respected governor of the region.
“Recall that the decision to locate the NDDC headquarters in Rivers State does not preclude the people of the region from any member states the right to protest peacefully in expressing their grievances anytime.
“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 under develop it when other intervention agencies outside the region do not suffer similar fate.”
He, however, explained that the IYC is not against any ethnicity from occupying any position in the NDDC board if the Act which established it is implemented.
He said the continuous non-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.