The zonal leadership of the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) is at daggers drawn with the national leadership of the council over the plan to shut down the headquarters of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
The zonal leadership-backed youths have vowed to proceed with their planned protest and shutdown of the NDDC head office over the alleged failure of the Federal Government to address issues of wrongful appointment of a sole administrator for the commission.
But the decision to shut down the NDDC runs contrary to the directive of the IYC President, Mr Peter Igbifa.
Igbifa was said to have in collaboration with the council, directed all aggrieved persons to halt all protest planned in the name of the IYC against the appointment of Effiong Akwa as the sole administrator of the NDDC and allow the proposed meeting of stakeholders to articulate a common position and marshal out action plans.
However, the dissenting zonal leaders faulted the report allegedly credited to Igbifa on the reversal of the planned protest and shutdown, describing his position as “frivolous”.
The Ijaw youth leaders represented by Tobin James (Chairman, Eastern Zone), Chief Frank Akiefa (Chairman Western zone), Clever Inodu (Chairman Central zone) and Chief Diplomat Marbo (Chairman Abuja Chapter), declared that the planned protest and shutdown is an action against President Muhammadu Buhari for refusing to set up a board for the commission as provided for in the Act establishing the NDDC board.
The youth leaders in a joint statement on Tuesday said despite the statement credited to Igbifa, the plan to shut down NDDC headquarters was in top gear by all structures of the IYC.
They claimed that Igbifa never supported the agitations for a substantive board for NDDC and so did not have any right to halt or call for the stoppage of the protest.
The statement said: “The only reason that will stop the protest is for President Muahammadu Buhari to do the right thing by appointing the substantive board in the NDDC that will carry out its functions properly. We are calling on every well-meaning Ijaw youths not to be distracted by the statement of Peter Igbifa which does not reflect the decision of council.”
The National spokesman for the IYC, Mr Ebilade Ekerefe, confirmed the development, insisting that the decision of the zonal leaders to embark on a protest and shut down the NDDC headquarters was legitimate and those calling for the cancellation of the protest are enemies of the region.
Ebilade reiterated that the protest was borne out of genuine desires of the Ijaw youth to demand a substantive board that would facilitate development in the region.
He said: ”It is the people-driven and people-oriented protest that cannot be cancelled by anybody who has never been a part of the ongoing protests in the region. The protest will go on according to plans as all structures of the council have been fully notified for the showdown and they are all ready and waiting for the signal.
“Our intelligence unit has gathered that there is a grand plot to use security to intimidate Ijaw youths during the protest. We warn that any attempt to do that will be catastrophic as rights to protest is protected by law. Finally, for those who have been contracted to infiltrate us in order to cause havoc and chaos, rest assured that we shall fish you out and deal with you decisively.”
But a group of Ijaw professionals, under the aegis of Watchdog for Progressive Ijaw, said that any person that violates the directive of the IYC president, Peter Igbifa, is on a suicide mission.
Coordinator, WPI, Mr Lambart Olambo, said they had observed with dismay the naked dance and divisive tendencies of the IYC spokesman, Ebilade Ekerefe, over critical and sensitive issues that could jeopardise the future aspirations of the Ijaw nation and throw the Niger Delta region into avoidable security crisis if not well-managed.
He said: “As professionals, we are constrained to warn Ekerefe to stop arrogating his personal ambitions and selfish interest over the general aspirations and safety of the Ijaw nation and the entire Niger Delta region.
“We commend the President of IYC, Peter Timothy Igbifa, and his council for opting for an all-inclusive stakeholders meeting to deliberate on issues affecting the Ijaw nation and the Niger Delta including the current management structure of the NDDC.
“Igbifa and his council also directed all aggrieved persons to halt all protest planned in the name of the council against the appointment of Effiong Akwa as the sole administrator of the NDDC and allow the proposed meeting articulate a common position and marshal out action plans.
“We are, however, miffed that after such sound decision was taken by Igbifa and his council, Ekerefe, whose only duty is to propagate and spread the disposition of the President and the council, issued a counter directive faulting such collective decision and calling for a protest.
“We want to make it categorically clear that the responsibility to lead IYC dwells with the President of the council and not the spokesman. Igbifa as the President will render an account of activities, actions, programmes and projects that occur within his tenure as the leader of the council. He takes responsibility for everything that transpires; receives the praises and bears the blames.
“Ekerefe was not elected to make decisions for the council and is debarred from arrogating such responsibility to himself. It is, therefore, an abominable, contemptuous and irresponsible act laced with high dose of arrogance for a spokesman to counter the decision of Igbifa and his council.
“As a matter of fact, Ijaw youths should not allow the likes of Ekerefe to endanger their lives. As IYC President and his council have said no protest in the name of IYC will be allowed against NDDC before the stakeholders’ meeting. Those, who may be deceived to disobey this directive will be doing so at their peril. We will be on the ground waiting for them.”