Ogoni formula for NDDC palliative breeds conflict

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Youths threaten to storm Port Harcourt

* DSS intervenes, investigates

The dreaded Ogoni Youth Federation (OYF) has threatened to march down to Port Harcourt and storm sensitive federal government facilities if their president-general that has allegedly been in detention is not released.

The crisis is said to arise from allocation of palliatives shared out to the nine oil producing states under the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC). The planning stage of the project raised storms in the Commission over method of award and amount involved, until N6Bn was announced as the package.

BusinessDay gathered that the palliative was administered in the form of cash of not les than N30,000 per nominee, but who nominates awardees is now a stormy issue in Ogoni, leading to arrest of the OYF president. The OYF claimed that the Ogoni youths did not know how the Ogoni slots were distributed. The group heaped the special assistant to a board member from the area, Caroline Nagbo.

The OYF said in a statement on Friday morning May 15, 2020, that its president-general, Legborsi Yamaabana, who took up the matter, had landed in detention by the Directorate of State Security (DSS) in Rivers State. The intervention of the DSS is however said to have saved the situation from deteriorating to crisis as the Service was understood to have launched swift investigation of where the money went to.

The OYF statement signed by the publicity secretary, Lene Kingsley Lekue, said; “The substratum of the issue is that the NDDC distributed palliatives to youths in the nine states of Niger Delta to cushion the effect of the stay-at-home ordered by the government and it was revealed that Ogoni youths were not captured in the distribution.”

The statement said the body exhausted its patience and the president-general eventually went on air, only to be arrested on the order of the Ogoni daughter who is member of the interim management committee (IMC) or board of the NDDC. The petitioner said the OYF had raised a Freedom of Information Act (FOA) inquiry that was not responded to.

The OYF and other Ogonis however fumed at the incarceration of their leader. The group said it went into the NDDC and found that the state female representative alone cornered 30 of the Ogoni slots through a list submitted by her SA.

BusinessDay inquiries at the NDDC confirmed that the woman’s SA only submitted 25 names while a total of 46 slots had so far gone to Ogoni persons. The OYF had suspected that since Nagbo’s SA is not Ogoni, that the Ogoni slots may have been diverted to other ethnic groups but the Special Adviser of the NDDC on Youth Affairs, Alfred Etuk, told BusinessDay that all the slots were real Ogoni persons. The DSS which is said to have launched an investigation may have also found out this situation.

The OYF statement said: “To clear all doubt, we respectfully inquired from Mrs. Caroline Barine Nagbo who denied knowledge of the palliative and said she was not consulted by the interim management committee of the Commission despite being in charge of youth, women, sports and culture in NDDC. Since then, we have made concerted efforts to meet with her and possibly reconcile the list but she unjustly avoided us.”

Etuk however told BusinessDay that it was Nagbo who called him to ask for the Ogoni quota and that when her SA brought the list, it was assumed that it was her list. The OYF however stated: “This singular act leaves us with the conclusion that Mrs. Caroline Nagbo betrayed Ogoni youths.”

The Ogoni youths thus gave 48 hours ultimatum to the female board member to resolve the matter or face a storm. “That failure to comply and ensure accountability, probity and transparency, we shall be constrained to petition the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and other anti-graft agencies and also mobilize our rank and file and embark on a massive and never-seen-before protest to the Commission, Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, and other sensitive facilities”.

“We call on the civil society organization and other youth and right groups in the Niger Delta to brace up and rise to the occasion to agitate for their interest, bearing in heart that the commission was established for the sole purpose of the even and rapid development of the Niger Delta region.”

When contacted, the Public Affairs Director of the NDDC, Charles Odili, referred the matter to the SA Youths, Alfred Etuk, who said he disbursed what was allocated to the nine states fairly and through the bank. He said he treated the list given to him by the SA to Nagbo believing it to be for Ogoni, saying whatever is left will be given when the remaining list from Ogoni comes.

BusinessDay gathered that the president-general of the OYF was released later on Friday and sources close to him confirmed his release.

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