Nigeria’s economy may suffer a serious setback if the Ijaw Youths Council (IYC) Worldwide carries out its threat to shutdown oil production in the Niger Delta region from today to protest the refusal of the Federal Government to constitute the board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
Information from CEIC Data puts Nigeria’s crude oil production in April 2021 at 1,548,000 barrels per day.
The Nigerian government’s 2021 Budget of Economic Recovery and Resilience was based on an assumption that oil production will be 1.86 million and a benchmark oil price of $40/barrel. However, the global COVID-19 pandemic dealt a terrible blow on the economies of many of countries including Nigeria and forced the government to revise its calculations .
Against the backdrop of its major foreign revenue derived from the sale of crude oil, the IYC may further strangulate Nigeria’s already distressed economy.
As the deadline of the ultimatum narrowed to a few hours yesterday, there were fears that the President of the IYC, Mr. Peter Igbifa had been kidnapped. His was uncertain at press time.
The Spokesperson of IYC, Mr. Ebilade Ekerefe stated that his group would not recant on their original plan Replying to a message from THISDAY, he wrote, “The only reason that will stop the IYC from carrying out its threat is the immediate constitution of the substantive board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) that has become long overdue.”
He said, “The decision was a difficult one, but it’s inevitable as all efforts to draw the attention of the Federal Government to getting the board constituted has proved abortive. The shutdown will be in phases and we are determined to inconvenience ourselves for the greater good of the region.”
Last month, the IYC issued a one-month ultimatum to the Federal Government to constitute the Board of the NDDC, failing which it threatened to shut down oil production activities in the Niger Delta region and advised the International Oil Companies to vacate their staff from the region within seven days.
That ultimatum expired yesterday.
Ekerefe denied an accusation that the IYC was acting the script of aggrieved political opponents of President Muhammadu Buhari. He said the President should be grateful to stakeholders from the region, “especially the governors for sustaining the peace in the Niger Delta which has stabilized the oil production capacity of the country. It’s on record that the Niger Delta is the most peaceful region, especially, when all parts of the country is suffering from security challenges.”
Driving home the importance of the protest, Ekerefe stated, “The NDDC was established to intervene on developmental issues of the Niger Delta and we agree that the finances of the board has been mismanaged by successive boards, hence, the forensic audit, but for how long? It has become an endless exercise and we’ve lost confidence in it. But if they insist that the forensic auditors would conclude their job, no problem. We don’t have any issue with that. But we insist that the board can still be constituted while the audit is going on. Just as it was done in the NNPC and the NPA when their financial records was audited forensically. So for you to say that it is purely an administrative affair then you’re missing the fact. NDDC is a creation of the blood of Ijaw people and like others, we are a critical stakeholder and we’ve a duty to correct any anomaly that will impede on the existing peace. Our demand for a board is legitimate as it is purely in the NDDC Act. All we want from Mr President is to constitute the board just as the North-East Development Commission is run by a substantive board and not a Sole Administrator. Except, it’s deliberately done to undermine our people and the region.”
Various stakeholders in the Niger Delta have been at loggerheads with the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio who is believed to be responsible for the delay in constituting the board of the NDDC. At different times, Mr. Akpabio had reneged on his promise to constitute the board, rather promoting interim administrations and currently a Sole Administrator.
Originally, the forensic audit, which has been the excuse advanced by the Minister for not constituting the NDDC Board was to last for six months. From six months, it was extended to one year. The IMC under Prof. Keme Pondei was sacked on grounds of a court judgment in December last year. While waiting for a substantive board to be announced, Mr Effiong Akwa took over as the Sole Administrator.
The new timetable that may lead to inauguration of the NDDC Board as announced by Minister terminates in July. But Ekerefe said Mr. Akpabio cannot be trusted because he had defaulted on previous deadlines set by him.
Contacted for the Minister’s position, his media aide, Mr. Anietie Ekong sent a terse, “I will get back to you,” but never did.