Retired Supreme Court jurist, Tabai, heads panel
Bayelsa State Governor, Senator Douye Diri alongside Ijaw leaders of thought have commenced the process of reviving and repositioning the ethnic group’s apex socio-cultural body, the Ijaw National Congress (INC).
The INC had been embroiled in crisis that rendered it comatose in the last few years.
Concerned over the state of affairs, Governor Diri on Tuesday held a consultative meeting with select leaders of the ethnic nationality, which had in attendance prominent traditional rulers, elder statesmen, senators, former leaders of the body and other Ijaw senior citizens.
His Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Daniel Alabrah, in a press release, said at the end of the meeting held in Government House, Yenagoa, the leaders unanimously agreed to quickly resuscitate the INC.
A committee headed by a retired Supreme Court jurist, King Francis Tabai, was also set up to resolve all issues bordering on litigations involving the Ijaw umbrella body.
Governor Diri, who briefed the media, said: “We unanimously resolved to resuscitate the INC as soon as possible.
“We also agreed to convoke a meeting of traditional rulers on the way forward for the INC as well as set up a committee to settle all litigations encumbering the congress.
“The committee, which is headed by Justice Francis Tabai (rtd), has Chief Felix Tuodolo as Secretary while King Bubaraye Dakolo, Victor Burubo, Prof. Francis Sikoki and Sir Uchente Ejente are to serve as members.
“The committee has three weeks to submit its report.”
Before going into a close-door session, Senator Diri urged the leaders of thought to seek ways of reinvigorating the INC in the interest of the Ijaw people.
He said the meeting was convened to resolve all outstanding issues and reposition the INC for effective representation of the people.
Diri, who was a one-time National Organising Secretary of the INC, noted that the meeting was long overdue and attributed the delay to the incidence of COVID-19 and other exigencies of government since he assumed office in February last year.
Describing the INC as the voice of the Ijaw nation, the governor expressed regrets that lately the socio-cultural organisation had not lived up to expectation.
“This meeting is in no way representative of all our leaders and elders across the three zones of the Ijaw nation. But we have carefully chosen a few for the meeting so that at the end of the day we would resolve the issues and move the Ijaw nation forward.
“The INC is the umbrella body of all the Ijaws; the only voice of the Ijaw people that was instituted and had come to stay over the years. Unfortunately, that recognised voice has now become a very loud silence.
“In the light of all the challenges facing our dear nation and all the upheavals in the country, we are hearing other voices from other ethnic groups but the INC has not been vocal in recent times. That is why I have invited you to deliberate on how to reposition the INC and seek ways of moving the Ijaw nation forward.”
In his remarks, the Bayelsa State Commissioner for Ijaw National Affairs, Chief Patrick Erasmus, thanked the governor for convening the meeting and expressed optimism that their deliberations would make meaningful impact in charting a new course for the INC.
Leaders at the meeting included Senators Inatimi Spiff, James Manager and Moses Cleopas, former INC presidents, Chief Joshua Fumudoh, Alatubo Charles Harry and Barr. Boma Obuoforibo.
Others are Rear Admiral Geoffrey Yanga (rtd), Engr. Charles Ambaiowei, pioneer chairman of the state Traditional Rulers Council, King Joshua Igbugburu, Prof. Christopher Dimie, Prof. Ben Okaba, Mrs. Marie Ebikake, Mrs. Primrose Kpokposei and one-time president of the Movement for the Survival of the Ijaw Ethnic Nationality in the Niger Delta (MOSIEND), Chief Timi Ogoriba.
A minute silence was observed in honour of the late Dr. Boloere Ketebu, former Secretary to the State Government, former INC President, Prof. Kimse Okoko, Chief Francis Doukpola and all those who departed within the period.