Akwa Ibom State Ex-Militants Phase 2 Forum of the Niger Delta Presidential Amnesty Programme has urged President Muhammadu Buhari to ignore threats and calls for the removal of Senator Godswill Akpabio as the Minister of Niger Delta.
The Forum rather commended the President for assigning the portfolio to Akpabio, saying he made the best choice in the Minister.
It will be recalled that calls had been making the rounds from many quarters within the coastal region to the presidency to relieve Akpabio of his job.
The development, however, followed the recent leadership controversy in the board of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC.
But the ex-militants forum in a statement signed by its Chairman, Comrade Imoh Okoko in Abuja on Sunday stated that the alleged transfer of supervisory role of NDDC from the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (OSGF) to the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs and the constitution of the 3 member interim committee for the board were not masterminded by Akpabio as being speculated.
The forum said that the sack calls were a byproduct of ethnic sentiments against the minister and Akwa Ibom people.
The militants vowed to resist any attempt to sideline the State in the affairs of the region and the maligning of the minister, saying such display of sentiments and parochial interests were among the reasons the oil rich region has largely remained backwards.
The statement read thus: “The Akwa Ibom Phase 2 Ex-Militants Forum of the Niger Delta Presidential Amnesty Programme condemns in all ramifications recent threats and calls by some Niger Delta groups and individuals for the sack of the Honourable Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Obot Akpabio on the allegation that the Minister is the person who masterminded the transfer of supervisory role over the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) from the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) to the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, and is also the one who appointed and constituted the 3-member Interim Committee to run the Commission until the new board is formally inaugurated.
“After a careful analysis of the various reasons advanced by the protesting individuals and groups, we wish to state that these calls are all laden with ethnic sentiments and therefore leave much to be desired.
“The display of parochial interests above the general well-being of the region by those who are supposed to work together towards the positive development of the region is one major reason why the Niger Delta has remained very backward and largely underdeveloped despite the large chunk of funds sunk into it.
“We wish to say that the calls for Senator Akpabio’s removal is simply because he is an Akwa Ibom State indigene and not necessarily that he has committed any offence. On our part, we totally reject the call for the Minister’s removal, but rather commend the President for making the best choice for the Ministry of the Niger Delta.
“As far as we concerned, the movement of the NDDC from the Presidency to the Ministry of the Niger Delta is not Akpabio’s brainchild or was it done for the first time on his assumption as Minister, rather this had long started with the inauguration of the Nsima Ekere-led board. The Board was inaugurated by the then Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Pastor Usani Usani and not the SGF, signaling the transfer of supervisory role to the Ministry, though not expressly declared by the government.
“Secondly, if it was not directed and approved by the Presidency, how would the Minister unilaterally appoint an Interim Management Committee for the Commission?
“It is, therefore very uncivilized for these groups to threaten the Presidency with an ultimatum for the sack of the Minister for no just cause. For the avoidance of any doubt, it was the Governors of the NDDC States that first called on the President to order a probe of the Commission after observing the rot in the Commission in recent years, and it is likely that the Interim Committee will manage the affairs of the Commission throughout the duration of the probe, before it is handed over to the new board.