Minister of Niger-Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, has initiated frantic moves to stop the leader of Niger–Delta agitators, Government Ekpemupolo, alias Tompolo, from fulfilling his threat of a catastrophe in the oil region if the government did not inaugurate the substantive board of the interventionist agency by June 6.
Meanwhile, the ranks of Niger–Delta militant groups prepared to cause havoc at the expiration of the ultimatum was enlarging by the day, as another militant group, Niger Delta Revolutionary Crusaders, NDRC, vowed: “We will respond with maximum force at the expiration of the one-week ultimatum if the substantive board was not inaugurated.”
Also, past leaders of Ijaw Youth Council, IYC, held an emergency meeting in Warri, Delta state, following renewed tension in the region, while Special Assistant to NDDC Interim Administrator on Youth, Udengs Eradiri, flew to Warri on his way to meet Tompolo for a meeting.
Coordinator of Presidential Amnesty Programme, PAP, Col Milland Dikio (retd.) and Interim Administrator, Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, Effiong Akwa, were reportedly involved in the combined efforts.
Newsmen learnt that Akpabio, who is leading the team, has been speaking on phone to several persons perceived to be close to Tompolo, popularly known as General Officer Commanding, GOC, of Niger-Delta struggle since Monday.
A source close to him said he pleaded with one emissary on phone that Tompolo should withdraw his last Sunday ultimatum, calling on Mr President, members of the National Assembly, and security agencies to work towards the constitution of the substantive board of the NDDC, within a few days, to avert a total breakdown of law and order that will equally affect crude oil exploration and exploitation activities in the region.
Having whittled down the protest by Ijaw Youth Council, IYC, which earlier issued a 30-day ultimatum over non-inauguration of the substantive board, the minister was rattled, weekend, when Tompolo came up with a declaration: “I hereby proclaim a seven-day ultimatum starting the date of this publication to inaugurate the substantive board of the Commission.”
Chief Press Secretary to the Minister, Aniete Ekong promised to reach his boss, Senator Akpabio, and get back to newsmen when contacted on the moves by the minister, but was unable to live up to his promise at press time.
But an official told newsmen: “The minister cannot discuss his moves with you (journalist). You know that there is certainly no way he will sit down in his office and watch with such an ultimatum from Tompolo, he must reach out,”
A dependable source hinted: “Akpabio and members of his team spoke to a Tompolo representative, contending that the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs had already forwarded a new list of NDDC board members for inauguration to the Senate and Tompolo should withdraw his ultimatum, as raising the matter at the Senate while the ultimatum is pending would look as if government capitulated due to Tompolo’s threat.”
“Tompolo informed them through his representative that it was too late to ask him to retract an ultimatum he had already issued, urging them to do the right thing,” he added.
Newsmen could not confirm if Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, indeed, forwarded a new list of board members for the interventionist agency to the Senate.
However, Special Assistant to NDDC Interim Administrator on Youth, Eradiri, told newsmen: “I am surprised that Tompolo is involved with this ultimatum and I do not want to believe that he has anything to do with it until I see him.”
“The forensic audit has unearthed a lot of things and it is ongoing, there is a road going to Ogulagha Kingdom in Delta state which was abandoned and there are several other projects abandoned in the region after collecting money, which we would not know except with such audit.
“I still maintain that I do not think that Tompolo issued such political ultimatum without getting the correct facts on the forensic audit. Well until I see him, I am lost,” Eradiri added.
On the protest by IYC, he said the council had wisely called off the protests when it found out the truth.
NDRC in a statement Tuesday afternoon vowed: “We will bring the economy of the country to its knees if (federal government) fails to constitute the substantive board of NDDC.
“The silence of the federal government over the demand of the region to constitute a substantive board of NDDC is a clear grand conspiracy against the people of the region.”
“Therefore, at the end of the seven-day ultimatum given by Tompolo, we will launch a deadly attack on the nation’s oil facilities in the region. Our actions will cost the federal government unimaginable damage to the already fledgling economy.
“The refusal of the federal government to appoint a substantive board of the NDDC despite the call by leaders of the region is a deliberate step to undermine the people of the region.
“Many fronts, including IYC took a swipe on the federal government and issued a one-month ultimatum to constitute the board. Despite the agitation and the expiration of the one-month ultimatum, the government has continued to pay a deaf ear to the demand.
“The region is currently witnessing a spate of protest in many states across the Niger Delta after the expiration of the ultimatum given by IYC.
“Government Ekpemukpolo, aka Tompolo, a leader in the region has also condemned the federal government’s refusal to constitute the board and issued a one-week ultimatum to the government to appoint a substantive board of the agency.
“NDDC in recent times has become the bastion of corruption and mismanagement, wherein the Presidency ordered a forensic audit of the agency over corrupt allegations. The audit report has been swept under the carpet by the powers that be.
“Senator Godswill Obot Akpabio is sidelining the region and running NDDC as his own personal empire while neglecting the development of the people and region.
“This is a brazen display of arrogance, an aberration and it is provocative. We will respond with maximum force at the expiration of the one-week ultimatum,” they said.