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DESOPADEC Board: Ijaw Community Threatens Shut-Down of Oil Facility

Gives Okowa Five-Day Ultimatum

Angry youths from Diebiri Kingdom in Warri South West local government area of Delta State on Tuesday stormed the Delta State House of Assembly complex, Asaba to protest their alleged denial of membership of the board of the Delta State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission, DESOPADEC. At the time of the protest, members of the newly constituted board of the Commission were being screened by the lawmakers. Spokesman of the protesters, Frank Pukon complained to the magazine that an indigene of Diebiri Kingdom should have been the representative of the Ijaw ethnic nationality on the board instead of Paul Bebenimibo of Gbaramatu Kingdom who had presented himself for screening against the rotational arrangement that had been on since the creation of DESOPADEC.   Pukon, the councilor representing the people of Diebiri in the local government council, urged the speaker of the House to step down Bebenimibo’s screening so as to be replaced with an indigene of Diebiri. The aggrieved youths were however not granted access into the premises of the legislative complex as the gate was shut against them by security operatives manning the gate. No official also went to address them.

Before they took their grievances to the House, the protesters under the aegis of Diebiri Youth Council, had in a letter dated July 19, 2019, and signed by the trio of Godwin Yokiri, Sunny Ofowinor, and Esegha Morris, the president, secretary and student union president respectively, and three others,  served the state governor, Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa a five-day ultimatum “to reverse this injustice done to us, else the kingdom youths will have no option than to shut down all operations of the Baton Flow station in the kingdom”.  In a similar letter to the speaker, Sheriff Oborevwori, dated the same July 19, and signed by Michael Douglas, and Kingsley Oluba, president and secretary, Diebiri Governing Council respectively, as well as Frank Pukon,  councilor  representing Diebiri constituency, and five others, the people said “we are making it known to the speaker and all members of the Delta State House of Assembly that the Diebiri people should not be short-changed or denied their legal right into the board of DESOPADEC”, stressing that the House should know that the nomination of a Gbaramatu person at this time into the board “negates the production quantum theory of the Commission and the rotational formula maintained by the Ijaw ethnic nationality since the inception of the Commission”.

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In an interview with Tell, Pukon explained that the instrument establishing DESOPADEC recognizes rotational formula based on quantum of oil production with the people of Diebiri being the fifth largest oil-producing kingdom amongst the Ijaw ethnic nationality. According to him, at inception, Wellington Okrika from Gbaramatu Kingdom became the pioneer chairman while somebody from Ogulagha, which is the highest oil-producing community in Ijaw land produced the commissioner. With Gbaramatu in the second position in terms of oil production, the current deputy governor, Kingsley Burutu Otuaro represented the Ijaw ethnic nationality on the board of DESOPADEC. Thereafter, in 2015, according to Pukon, the instrument establishing DESOPADEC was amended that gave room for the office of executive director. Consequently, Egbema, being in the third position, took its slot as the executive director, while the office of the commissioner was given to the people of Ogbe-Ijaw.

The visibly agitated and furious spokesman of the protesting youths posited that “in every normal circumstance, in every civilized situation, it is Diebiri that ought to produce the next commissioner to represent the Ijaw ethnic nationality for the fact that it is the fifth largest oil-producing kingdom. But to our utter surprise, we saw a list that was submitted to the House of Assembly on the 18th of this month that somebody from Gbaramatu in the person of Mr. Paul Bebenimibo was sent to the state House of Assembly; so, that is why we are here”.  The people of Diebiri Kingdom described their denial of the membership of the DESOPADEC board as, “to say the least, the highest of all marginalization/injustice ever witnessed since the creation of DESOPADEC”. The interventionist agency was established in 2007. The new board has as its chairman, Michael Diden, popularly called Ejele, while Askia Ogieh is managing director/chief executive officer. Bebenimibo, whose nomination into the board has sparked outrage, is a nephew to the influential former militant commander and leader of the defunct Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta, MEND, Government Ekpemupolo, alias Tompolo.  

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