By Ovie Okpare
A former Niger Delta militant leader and now Amayanabo (king) Okochiri Kingdom in Rivers State, HRM King Micheal Ateke Tom, has thrown his weight behind the seven-day ultimatum to Federal Government to constitute a substantive board for the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) by Chief Government Ekpemupolo alias Tompolo.
Ateke Tom, former Leader of the Niger Delta Vigilante Force, said the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio was taking the people of the region for a ride over his refusal to ensure a board was constituted for the commission.
Tompolo, a former leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) had given the government of President Muhammadu Buhari a seven-day ultimatum for the inauguration of a new NDDC board.
The Ijaw chief said failure by government to heed the call could result in fresh hostilities in the now relatively peaceful Niger Delta region especially on critical oil facilities.
Several militant groups in the region have openly lend their support to Tompolo’s ultimatum to the Federal Government while also expressing readiness to attack major oil installations in the region.
But Ateke Tom, who is now a traditional ruler in the oil-rich Rivers State, in a statement on Friday through his Chief of Staff, Chief Tamunokonba Akaluogbo, stressed that there was no going back on the ultimatum issued by the former militant leader.
He charged President Buhari to immediate set up a new board for the interventionist agency to put to an end the current charade taking place in NDDC.
Ateke Tom said stakeholders in the region desire to sustain the existing peace in the region despite the rising insecurity in the South East and other regions, saying “the setting up of a substantive board is not too small to ask by a region disposed to keeping the peace and rejecting secessionist pressure.”
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“It is clear that Akpabio is deceitful and he means no good to the Niger Delta region particularly the Ijaws given his attitude towards reconstituting the Board of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC. Time and time, the Minister has failed in his promises and he is using the forensic audit as a decoy for his selfish aims.
“I urged him to do the needful before the region tint towards upheaval of breakdown of law and order again because his ineptitude and lack of genuine concern for the demands of people are capable of degenerating into violence which I don’t pray for”, the statement said.