By Ovie Okpare
Former leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), Chief Government Ekpemupolo alias Tompolo, has written to Niger Delta agitators and stakeholders, prevailing on them to keep the existing peace in the region.
Tompolo, the Ibe-Ebidouwei of Ijaw Nation, stated this on Friday in a statement following the building tension in the region over failure by Federal Government to honour her promise to inaugurate a substantive board for the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
The Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, had promised stakeholders and agitators in the region that President Muhammadu Buhari would inaugurate a new board for the interventionist agency with last month (June).
The promise by Senator Akpabio on behalf of the Federal Government was not kept thereby fueling tension in the now relatively peaceful Niger Delta region.
However, Tompolo said in spite of the government’s failure, he appealed to the people of the region to exercise patience, adding that the people of the region must avoid attempt to throw the region into renewed crisis.
He lamented that the people of the region as a result of the government’s failure to cater for their welfare has led to mass poverty and suffering in the area, saying that the situation in the region was not different from other parts of the country.
The Gbaramatu-born chief in the statement titled, “Niger Delta Agitators’ Ultimatum to the Federal Government of Nigeria: A Call for Restrain” reiterated his call for the urgent constitution of the board of the commission to arrest looming crisis in the region.
He added that since the expiration of his ultimatum, he had been in constant touch with agitators and relevant stakeholders in the region on the need to keep the existing peace in the oil-rich region.
“It has become expedient that I speak on the above subject matter. It could be recalled that I issued ultimatum to the Minister of the Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, the National Assembly and President Muhammadu Buhari to do the needful on the issue of the NDDC board by constituting the substantive board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) as an urgent matter of public importance and interest to avoid a breakdown of law and order in the region, sometime ago.
“My ultimatum led to a consultative meeting between major stakeholders from the region and Senator Godswill Akpabio in Oporoza town, where a truce was reached, as the Minister profusely pleaded that he should be allowed to start and fast-track the process of constituting the board within the month of June, 2021.
“June 2021 has come to an end. The people of the region are yet to see any tangible move towards the constitution of the NDDC board by the Federal Government. The people are seriously agitated. There is palpable fear and tension in the region.
“I wish to reiterate my earlier position that, the government should as a matter of urgency, constitute the substantive board of the NDDC to avoid unnecessary bickering and crisis in the region.
“Since I reluctantly accepted the outcome of the consultative meeting, I have done so much to keep peace in the region which some major stakeholders in the security circle are aware of.
“I have been in constant touch with my fellow agitators in the region to give peace a chance, knowing fully well that there cannot be any meaningful development in an atmosphere of rancor and acrimony.
“As it stands now, the one thing the government must do in this issue is to be courageous enough to constitute the NDDC board. Government must be sincere in handling developmental issues in the Niger Delta region as the people have suffered enough, being neglected for several decades.
“The truth of the matter is that there is so much bitterness in the land owing to the lackadaisical attitude of this government in handling matters of great importance to its citizens”, the Tompolo said.
While prevailing on his colleagues to maintain current peace, he stressed, “As for my follow agitators, please permit me to borrow the biblical words of Jesus Christ, that we should be wise as serpent and gentle as dove to continue our agitation for a better living for our people.
“We must avoid anything that may throw the only relatively peaceful region in the country now, into chaos because of government’s nonchalant attitude towards the security and welfare of its citizenry as constitutionally provided.
“The average Nigerian citizen is a government of his or her own as the citizens provides everything for themselves today. The government is unfair to a greater number of its citizens. The Nigerian Government must create an enabling environment for the citizens to live a prosperous and peaceful life.”
The former MEND leader further accused multinational oil companies operating in the region of alleged conspiracy to further impoverished the people of oil-bearing communities by not performing their obligations to their hosts.
“Multinational oil companies operating in the Niger delta region are not left out in the troubles of the region. They are clearly part of the conspiracy in the marginalization of the region. They must perform their statutory obligations to the people of the region by promptly delivering cooperate social responsivities to the people.
“Most of the companies are operating under the cover of the Nigerian Military, which has further exacerbated the relationship between Multinationals and their host communities. They must do their business in a most friendly atmosphere, and not to set neighbouring host communities against one another”, Tompolo wrote in the statement.