The leadership of the Ijaw Youth Council Worldwide has frowned on the position taken by the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, plans by some ethnic groups to protest against the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) for allegedly not doing enough in the region.
Wike had threatened to mobilise security agents against any ethnic group that stages a protest at the headquarters of the NDDC in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, saying the NDDC does not belong to any ethnic group but to all the people of the Niger Delta region.
But the IYC, in a press statement issued and signed by its National Spokesman, Ebilade Ekerefe, stated that though the Ijaw youths agreed with Governor Wike that the NDDC belongs to every Niger Deltan, "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 IYC 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.
"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, threaten to mobilise against anybody who protests at the NDDC headquarters. Is Governor Wike insinuating that Rivers State indigenes, especially Ikwerre, where the NDDC's temporary headquarters has been situated for many years, own NDDC more than others?"
Ekerefe urged Governor Wike to treat everyone in the state as equal stakeholders since he believes in the school of thought that NDDC belongs to everyone in the region.
He said 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, was underdeveloped.
On Wike's threat to use brute force to deal with youths of the region who engage in any form of picketing of the NDDC headquarters in Port Harcourt, Ebilade stated that the governor did not make proper findings and did not get his facts correct before making the threats.
He described the alleged threat by Wike as unguarded, saying, "Such a 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. We advise him to apply caution in his public comments."
He however stated that the renewed agitation for a substantive board in the NDDC became inevitable having noticed that it had become a deliberate ploy by the Nigerian government to undermine the region.
He said, "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 protests' at the NDDC headquarters is still on course if a substantive board is not on-stream by April as the Minister of Niger Delta, Senator Godswill Akpabio, alluded. We are irrevocably committed to this course and nobody can stop us from legitimately expressing our grievances when that time comes.”