A large number of Niger Delta youth leaders in conjunction with youths from Ibikalama Community, host to new head office of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) in Rivers State, shutdown the operations of the Commission on Monday over what they described as double speaking by the Interim Administrator of the Commission, Mr. Effiong Akwa in a purported appointment of former President of Ijaw Youth Council (IYC), Engr. Udengs Eradiri as his Special Assistant on Youth in NDDC.
The youths who came out in their hundreds particularly from communities under the jurisdiction the Amanyanabo of Okochiri community in Okirika Local Government Area of Rivers State, HRM. King Ateke Tom, revealed that Mr Effiong Akwa, against the earlier name he presented to the host community in December last year, may have gone behind to pick a different person for the same position.
The placard carrying youths who blocked the main entrance of the Commission, also called on the federal government to inaugurate a substantive NDDC board without further delay, adding that the host communities will not accept divide and rule leadership style from the Interim Administrator.
Speaking to newsmen at the main entrance of the commission headquarters along the East West Bye Pass, close to Marine Base, in Port Harcourt, spokesman for the protesters who also doubles as NDDC host community youth leader, Mr. Godgift Lucky, blamed the Interim Administrator for fomenting trouble where there was none through doublespeaking from both sides of his mouth on the purported appointment of a Special Assistant on Youth in the commission.
According to Mr Lucky, the Interim Administrator had earlier announced one Mr. Jude Akpodubakaye as his new Special Assistant on Youth and Security Matters in a meeting with the host community leaders in December last year but went behind later to purportedly present the name of Engr. Udengs Eradiri for the same position without the notice of the host communities, which action according him, had triggered the protest.
He reiterated that, unless the Interim Administrator rescinds his decision on the purported appointment of the former IYC President, they will continue with the protest, adding that the youths from the Niger Delta region were beginning to lose confidence in the Interim Administrator.
The protesters, who were adamant to earlier appeals by well meaning individuals to disperse, were later addressed by one Mr. Ben Ogoriba, referred to as CSO, when he surfaced on the scene to calm them down. He advised the youth leaders to rather thread with caution not to create any wrong impression to the federal government being the host community to the NDDC headquarters.
Mr. Ogoriba assured them of the intervention of the Amayanabo of Okochiri, HRM, King Ateke Tom in the brewing crisis. He told them to go home and put their demands in writing and present same to the Interim Administrator, saying that HRM King Ateke Tom has already been briefed on the issues.
Also speaking, Mr Jude Akpodubakaye, Secretary General to foremost Commander of the Movement for Emancipation of Niger Delta (MEND), General Ebikabo-Owei, popularly known as ‘Boyloaf’ whose name was first presented to the host communities by the Interim Administrator as his Special Assistant on Youth and Security, promised to take up the issues with the relevant authority and get back to them within days.
Mr. Akpodubakaye, who was an aspirant for Delta State House of Assembly in Warri South West constituency on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Secretary of Delta State APC Security Committee during the 2015 Presidential Election, pointed out that President Muhammadu Buhari has good intentions for the Niger Delta region, just as he appealed to the protesters to remain calm while their grievances were being addressed.