For Immediate Release
Tuesday, December 14, 1999
THE IJAW STRUGGLE:
PAST AND PRESENT
THE past few months have indeed been very trying times for the people of the Niger Delta, especially the Ijaws, who have had to deal with one tragic incident after the other. Most recently, these crises have escalated to assume even more frightening prospects for our people, following the kidnap and gruesome murder of seven law enforcement agents by some youths at Odi town in the Kolokuma/Opokuma Local Government Area of Bayelsa State.
THE COUNCIL OF IJAW ASSOCIATIONS ABROAD has viewed these unfolding alarming events in our country in general and Bayelsa State in particular with very great concern. Taken together, THE COUNCIL joins other organizations and well-meaning Nigerians, in condemning these developments in very strong terms, and especially the recent unconstitutional invasion of Odi community in Bayelsa State by soldiers (ironically paid for and maintained by the wealth derived from Odi and other oil-producing communities in the Niger Delta) on the orders of the Federal Government of Nigeria. Odi, once a thriving community with a population of about 50,000 has been destroyed completely. Significantly, the inevitable consequences of this military action, as confirmed by both the local and international news media, is the senseless killing of very many innocent children, women and the elderly, who could not escape and had no direct bearing on the death of the law enforcement officers there in the first place. THE COUNCIL believes very strongly, and rightly so, that mass punishment of a whole community or group of communities for the wrong acts of a few of their youth is incompatible with civilized conduct. We cannot believe that the entire Odi community was culpable enough to warrant the mass killing of her inhabitants and the wanton destruction of every single house in the town. We hold the President, Olusegun Obasanjo, solely responsible for this unnecessary destruction of both innocent lives and property at Odi and join other Ijaw leaders of thought and many well-meaning Nigerians in calling for a judicial commission of enquiry to ascertain the truth over the invasion of Odi by the rampaging soldiers. Furthermore, we also request that the government should as a matter of utmost urgency provide the badly needed relief materials and begin the process of paying adequate compensation to the victims of this unconstitutional military attack on Odi. In this regard, THE COUNCIL especially commends the Senate of the Nigerian National Assembly, for having the foresight to adopt the recommendations of its ad-hoc committee that visited Odi for an on-the-spot assessment under the leadership of the Senate President himself, Dr. Chuba Okadigbo. Moreover, we would also like to express our profound gratitude to the various human right groups and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), both local and international, and the countless number of individuals who empathized with the Ijaws and wrote to President Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria, requesting him to rescind his threat to impose a state of emergency in Bayelsa State. Your pleas on behalf of our people, who suffer denigrating poverty and deepening misery while seating on stupendous oil wealth due to the instruments of a very oppressive system, mean so much to us. And as always, we shall consider you as our friends indeed.
IT is instructive to point out at this juncture that quite often we have been asked "What does the Ijaws and, especially her youths really want? Or why are the Ijaw youths so militant?" These are questions largely borne either out of ignorance of the Ijaw struggle or mischievous individuals just feigning one since this serves their interests adequately. In either case, THE COUNCIL believes that an appropriate response would be in order. As an Ijaw organization with a responsibility to enhancing peaceful coexistence and unity with fellow Nigerians, we are always delighted and eager to educate other Nigerians and foreigners alike, who are unfamiliar with the peculiar problems of our people. What the Ijaws want is not shrouded in secrecy! It has been articulated from the 1940s up until the present day in the print media and at various constitutional conferences both at home and abroad by Ijaw leaders.
OUR struggle for fairness and a rightful place in the scheme of things in Nigeria span a period of over fifty years; is unique and possibly unlike those of any other ethnic nationality in Nigeria. We have taken the extraordinary step to present obscured historical facts that will prove to be most enlightening to the questions at hand. The crux of the current problem between the Ijaws and the Federal Government of Nigeria is one of several years of exploitation and criminal negligence of our homeland, the Niger Delta, whose wealth the nation, especially her thieving military and civilian rulers, has so callously appropriated and misapplied.
IN view of the vastness of the history of our problems,
we shall restrict our treatment of this subject to a mere synopsis of the
pertinent information. However, for the avoidance of any doubts we hope
that readers will find them adequate enough to use as frame of reference
to enable them follow future discussions about issues related to the Ijaws
in Nigeria. Whatever that is happening today in the Ijaw communities of
the Niger Delta must be seen within the context of about 40 years of economic,
social and cultural oppression brought about by successive civilian and
military dictatorships in Nigeria. So please bear with us as we take you
down the memory lane of our travails.
The Ijaws are the fourth largest ethnic nationality in
Nigeria and are indigenous to about 80% of the 70,000 sq. kilometer of
the Niger Delta and adjoining rivers, creeks and rivulets. The defined
territory of the Ijaws is contiguous, except for the mixed Ijaw/Itsekiri
communities along the Benin and Escravos Rivers, and culturally homogenous.
This territory, very rich in natural resources, spans about 70% of the
roughly 800km-long Nigerian coastline and was reported in 1952 by the World
Bank to have an agricultural potential capable of feeding the entire West
African sub-region, and with enough excess also for export. With the discovery
of oil and associated natural gas resources in the Niger Delta, the economic
potential of the region has become even more overwhelming. And here lies
our problems! It is now common knowledge that oil resource production alone
accounts for about 80% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), 95% of the
National Budget (NB) and 90% of the Foreign Exchange Earnings (FEE) of
Nigeria. Of these figures, the Ijaw territory alone is estimated to account
for about 65%, 75%, and 70% of the GDP, NB and FEE, respectively. This
is the backdrop that has fueled the struggle of the three major ethnic
nationalities in Nigeria (the Hausa/Fulani in the north, Yoruba in the
west and Igbo in the east) for control of the center and consequently all
of the bountiful resources of the Niger Delta.
THE QUEST FOR SELF-DETERMINATION
The Ijaw people's legitimate struggle for the right to self-determination pre-dates the discovery of crude oil in commercial quantity at Oloibiri (an Ijaw community in Bayelsa State currently lying desolate and wasted). The history of the struggle for the creation of a separate administrative unit for all Ijaws, with the view of greater control of their own welfare, started in the 1940s. This demand was borne out of the conviction that the central government, situated in locations far afield, did not understand the peculiar needs of the Ijaw people living in the thickly forested and often marshy terrain of the Niger Delta.
In 1942, the Ijaw People's League in Lagos started the agitation for a separate Rivers Province, which was created in 1947 out of the then Owerri and Calabar Provinces. Subsequently, a formal resolution for the creation of a separate Rivers State was adopted at a Conference of Rivers Chiefs on August 15, 1953, with the territorial structure of the proposed state stretching from the Western Ijaw Division of the then Western Region to the Opobo community in then Eastern Region.
On January 8, 1954 a formal delegation of the Conference of the Rivers Chiefs met the then Colonial Governor, Sir John Macpherson, to request for the creation of the proposed Rivers State. That year also witnessed the demand for an homogeneous Ijaw State, which was to comprise Degema, Brass and Western Ijaw Divisions and the Ijaws in Opobo and Warri Divisions, Benin Province and Apoi and Arogbo in Ondo Province. This demand for a homogeneous Ijaw state which featured a completely new outline was widely published in the Sunday Times of January 17, 1954.
The Constitutional Conference offered another opportunity for various Ijaw interest groups to reopen their demand for the creation of Rivers State. Notable among the demands was the request addressed to the Right Honorable Allen Lennox-Boyd, Secretary of the Colonies, for the inclusion on the agenda of the May 1957 Constitutional talks in London, the need for creation of a separate state for the Ijaws. That memorandum which requested for the unification of all Ijaws - both east and west of the Niger - to be constituted into a separate Rivers State was duly signed by all elected Ijaw representatives of the Western Region in the Western House of Assembly and the Federal House of Representatives. The demands by numerous Ijaw patriots, including that by Isaac Adaka Boro who led the 12-day revolution, for the creation of a separate state for all Ijaws continued unabated throughout the early 1960s until 1967 when Rivers State was created eventually. Strangely however, the territorial configuration of the new state did not in any way fulfill the general aspirations of the Ijaw people. Among the post 1967 demands, mention must be made of the Niger Delta State Movement that sought the creation of a Niger Delta State to comprise all Ijaws from Eastern Andoni in Akwa-Ibom to Arogbo/Apoi in Ondo State. In recent times, the Ijaws under the aegis of the Ijaw National Congress (INC), demanded for three homogenous Ijaw states, but only Bayelsa State, with her capital at Yenagoa was created in 1996.
The popularity of the demand by the Ijaws for their own state even before Nigeria gained her political independence from Britain and the eventual ascendance of the three major ethnic nationalities in the country to political dominance, led to a renewed spate of agitation by other ethnic minorities for their own states resulting from their rightfully perceived fears of political and economic domination. These developments persuaded the 1957 Nigeria Constitutional Conference, held in London, to set up the famous Sir Henry Willink's Commission (often referred to as the Minorities Commission) with the following terms of reference:
1. To ascertain the fact about the fears of minorities in any part of Nigeria and to propose means of allaying those fears whether well or ill founded.
2. To advise what safeguards should be included for this purpose in the Constitution of Nigeria.
3. If, but only if, no other solution seems to the commission to meet the case, then as a last resort to make detailed recommendations for the creation of one or more new states, and in that case;
(a) To specify the precise area to be included in such state or states.The Minorities Commission spent months in Nigeria receiving memoranda from various interest groups in the country. The final report of the Commission was submitted to Parliament by the Rt. Hon. Alan Lennox-Boyd, M.P., Secretary of State for the Colonies, in July 1958, for discussion in the resumed Constitutional Conference held in London between September and October, 1958. Some paragraphs of the Commission's report are instructive and we seek your indulgence to quote them. Chapter 7 paragraph 15, and Chapter 14 paragraphs 26, 27 and 30 of the report states:
(b) To recommend the government and administrative structures appropriate for it.
(c) To assess whether any new state recommended would be viable from an economic and administrative point of view and what the effect of its creation would be on the region or regions from which it would be created and on the federation.
(d) To report its findings and recommendations to the Secretary of State for the Colonies
"We are impressed by the arguments indicating that the needs of those who live in the creeks and swamps of the Niger Delta are very different from those of the interior.
"We agree that it is not easy for a government or legislature operating far inland to concern itself, or even fully understand the problems of a territory where communications are so difficult, building so expensive and education so scanty.
"We are impressed in both the Western and Eastern Regions with the special position of the people mainly the Ijaws, in the SWAMPY country along the coast from Opobo to the mouth of the Benin River.
"We were confronted first with their own almost universal view that their problems were not understood at headquarters in the interior where those responsible thought of the problems in quite different physical forms from those they assumed in those riverine areas, secondly with the widespread desire of the Ijaws on either side of the mainstream of the Niger to be united"
"This is a matter that requires special effort and the cooperation of the Western, Eastern Regional and Federal Governments. It does not concern one region only. Not only because it involves two regions but because it is poor, backward and neglected. The whole of Nigeria is concerned. 'We suggest that there would be a Federal Board appointed to consider the problems of the area of the Niger Delta'…….."
"The declaration of the Ijaw country as a special area would direct public attention to a neglected tract and give Ijaws an opportunity for putting forward plans of their own for improvement…………"
The above views of the Minorities Commission were seriously examined by the 1958 Constitutional Conference. The recommendation of Special Area for the Ijaw country was accepted. The Nigerian Constitution (Order in Council) 1960 provided for the establishment of a Niger Delta Development Board under section 14. The 1963 Republican Constitution also guaranteed the existence of the board under section 159. This board was to be in existence for an initial period of ten years after which there would be a review of its continued existence after consulting with the Ijaws. The establishment of the Board by the two successive constitutions underscored the recognition of the peculiar problems of the Ijaws. But its total activities were shrouded in series of feasibility studies that never saw the light of day. Its six-year existence as against ten was a clear manifestation of the conspiracy of the major ethnic nationalities in the country. The board made no significant impact on the lives of the people for whom it was established. And expectedly, in 1966, following military intervention in Nigerian politics, it was scrapped.
At this point, THE COUNCIL wishes to give credit to the foresight of one of our illustrious fathers and founding members of the IJAW NATIONAL CONGRESS (INC), Chief (Dr.) H.J.R. Dappa-Biriye, who during the conference had argued that:
"The provision of the Niger Delta Development Board is no means of allaying the political fears of the inhabitants of the Special Area. The Minorities Commission were convinced of the Justice and need for political unification of the Niger Delta and expected the present Conference to make constitutional provision to effect this before independence. If the results of the next federal elections show that a majority of the people in the Special Area desire unification the Federal Government should make representation to Her Majesty's Government to effect this change in such a way that the area shall be a Federal Territory during the life of the Niger Delta Development Board and, thereafter, to determine on further consultations with the people concerned how it should be governed."
It is imperative from the above to note that, first, there was the Niger Delta Development Board (NDDB), and then came the Oil Mineral Producing Areas Development Commission (OMPADEC). Regrettably, both of these agencies made no desirable impact on the lives of the people living in the Niger Delta; not because the people were unruly like the federal government tries to portray them all the time, but as a result of the fact that the managers of these organizations were taking directives from political office holders too far afield and who were not in touch with the reality of the situation in the Niger Delta.
Interestingly, the Federal Government of Nigeria is presently bogged down once again by a Niger Delta Development Commission (or is it Niger Delta and Oil Mineral Producing Areas Commission?) bill - a bill that we are told is required to be passed by the national assembly to build infrastructure in the Niger Delta. But if we may ask, does the federal government sincerely need a commission to develop any part of the country, and especially a place like the Niger Delta that has financially sustained the entire country for more than thirty years? Does the administration of President Obasanjo really need a commission to construct roads, build federal government tertiary educational institutions, build hospitals, provide water, provide electricity, provide telephone in the Niger Delta; basic infrastructure and social facilities that will attract industries to the area? Do they sincerely want us to believe that they need a commission to address the monumental ecological and environmental damage in the Niger Delta arising from the many years of oil exploration? Does the President actually want us to believe that he needs a commission, for example, to direct the National Electricity Power Authority (NEPA) to connect Bayelsa State to the national grid? If that is what it is, like the federal government tries very hard to make us believe, then Nigeria is really in big trouble and perhaps requires divine intervention. And if we may stretch the argument a little bit further, were commissions set up and/or bills passed to build the highways, schools, hospitals, airports and other social infrastructure in other parts of the country ironically with the oil wealth derived from the Niger Delta? The development of the Niger Delta, in our view, does not require any commission(s) or the passage of a bogus and amorphous bill lacking definition and focus. What is required is the political will. This is common sense; so obvious even to a kid.
THE PLOT TO RAPE THE IJAWS
AND OTHERS IN THE NIGER DELTA
The Federal Government of Nigeria (a euphemism for the Hausa/Fulani, Yoruba and Igbo triad) realizing the economic potentials of oil and gas, began a systematic establishment of instruments to deprive the people of the Niger Delta of the benefits of their God-given natural resources. These oppressive devices came in the form of many obnoxious decrees and the revision of the revenue allocation formula based on the principle of derivation.
To ensure the unabated looting of the wealth derived from the Ijaw territory and other parts of the Niger Delta, successive governments, both civilian and military, headed by members of the major ethnic groups, enacted laws that facilitated their dubious scheme. These laws include the Petroleum Act of 1969, the Land Use Decree of 1978, The Lands (Title Vesting, etc.) Decree No 52 of 1993, and the National Inland Waterways Authority Decree of 1997. The Petroleum Act of 1969 which was decreed by the military government of General Yakubu Gowon (retired), for example, vested the entire ownership and control of all petroleum in, under or on any lands to the Military Governor of the States. The Land Use Decree, ironically, promulgated by the military administration of General Olusegun Obasanjo (retired), and along with the subsequent modifications confers on the federal government an extraordinary and often arbitrary degree of control of land and oil mineral resources in the Niger Delta. The National Inland Waterways Authority decree forcefully acquired all land measuring 50 meters adjoining the banks of the Niger and all other surrounding rivers as property of the federal government. With these laws in place, the government was able to expropriate royalties and rents on petroleum exploration, which ordinarily would have gone to the oil-producing communities for infrastructure development.
It is worthwhile to note here that Section 315(5) of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution stipulates that "Nothing in the constitution shall invalidate" a set of laws, including the Land Use Decree, which in addition can only be repealed or amended by a special majority (of course, meaning members of the triad) of the National Assembly. In other words, these laws cannot be challenged as being unconstitutional in any court of law in the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Fine! Where then are the avenues left for the aggrieved parties to seek redress?
It might interest the readers to know that, while oil and gas resources are on the exclusive federal list, solid minerals such as gold, bitumen, tin, tantalite, coal, precious metals, etc., prevalent in other parts of the country (outside the Niger Delta) are made state matters, with a royalty disposition that benefits the states, the local governments and host communities.
It would also be recalled that when cocoa from the West and groundnut from the North were the mainstay of the nation's economy, revenue allocation to the regions or states was based TOTALLY on the principle of derivation. But since oil and gas, from the Ijaw and other territories in the Niger Delta, became the main source of revenue in the country, successive governments controlled by a major ethnic nationality from the North with their collaborators from the South West, have reduced the derivation formula from 100% in 1953 to 50% in 1960 to 45% in 1970 to 20% in 1975 to 2% in 1982 to 1.5% in 1984 and then to 3% in1992. It is noteworthy that several past administrations did not even honour this miserly percentage to the oil-producing states, and even the present administration of President Olusegun Obasanjo is yet to implement the 13% derivation formula called for in the current Nigerian constitution. The resultant effect of this criminal injustice, has been the lack of fund for meaningful developments in the Niger Delta, the home of the Ijaws, whose ancestral land accounts for more than 60% of Nigeria's oil wells and gas fields.
It is no exaggeration to say that Nigeria is able to keep herself together in one piece today only because the oil wealth that sustains the organs of the entire system comes exclusively from the bowels of the Niger Delta. If this source of wealth was located in lands owned and controlled by the major ethnic nationalities in other parts of the country, Nigeria would have torn to shreds a long time ago. Consequently, it is an irony of basic expectation that the living standards of the communities in the Niger Delta do not in any way reflect the stupendous wealth found in our midst. This state of affairs is unjust, predatory and runs counter to all tenets of civilised and democratic governance. We cannot be fooled anymore; and are no longer prepared to have a Matthew continue to rob us to pay Paul.
Balkanization has been another tool of choice used by the endo-colonialist to subjugate the Ijaws into poverty. The division, in 1939, of the Southern Protectorate into east and west using the River Niger as the line of demarcation gave rise to Western and Eastern Ijaws. The subsequent introduction of administrative configurations such as, the province, region and the various state creation exercises, further divided the Ijaws into different administrative units. A case in point is that of the Western Ijaws, who in spite of occupying a contiguous mass of land criss-crossed by rivers, rivulets, and creeks along the Benin and mouth of the Escravos Rivers, are split as appendages in Delta, Edo and Ondo States. Thus:
In Delta State, the Ijaws of the defunct Warri Local Government (Egbema, Gbaramatu, Ogbe-Ijo, and Isaba clans) are split into Warri Southwest and Warri North Local Government Areas. In addition, the Ijaws of the Egbema clan are split between Delta and Edo States with the result that the Kingdom of the Agadagba of Egbema is today divided arbitrarily into two distinct political and administrative units.
In Edo State, the Ijaws of the defunct Ovia Local Government are split into Ovia South West and Ovia North East Local Government Areas. Using the Siluko River along which they dwell, the Furupagha clan in Ovia South West Local Government area is further split into Odigbo Local Government Area in Ondo State.
In Ondo State, the Kingdom of Agadagba of Arogbo-Ibe, again through the arbitrary use of the Siluko River is split into two, with a part located in Edo State.
The same situation is true of the Andoni clan on the eastern fringe of the Ijaw territory who are split between the present day Rivers and Akwa-Ibom States. Painfully in all these cases, the divisions were done in spite of the contiguity and cultural homogeneity of the affected communities. As a result of all these arbitrary, often questionable political divisions, today, the Ijaws find ourselves split into Ondo, Edo, Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers, and Akwa-Ibom States mostly as minorities, except in Bayelsa, the only homogenous Ijaw state created only in 1996, and with the least number of Local Government Areas (LGA) in the country.
The present painful reality of this development is the negligible representation of the Ijaws in national politics even though we are the fourth largest ethnic nationality, with a population of over 12 million, in the country. For example, only 5 members (3 from Bayelsa and 2 from Rivers States) of the 109-member senate and only one (Bayelsa State) out of the 36 state governors are Ijaws. Meanwhile, the powers that be at the center are as always bent on keeping the Ijaws administratively divided in order to prevent us from maintaining a preponderance of economic clout; a grand design the Federal Government of Nigeria terms "…in the interest of past experiences and exigencies of national security."
STATE OF THE IJAW TERRITORY
The Ijaw territory is devoid of roads, pipe-borne water,
electricity, industries, tertiary educational institutions and health care
facilities. Worst of all, there are no channels for the distribution of
finished petroleum products (for example, petrol, diesel, kerosene, etc.)
in the heart of Ijaw nation. It is ironic that there were no gasoline stations
in the whole of Bayelsa at inception 1996, a state that paradoxically accounts
for the highest volume (more than 40%) of all crude oil produced in Nigeria.
Currently, the state is served by ONLY two gasoline stations such
that, the people there pay about a thousand per cent more than the stipulated
pump price in other parts of the country. Equally appalling is the fact
that in spite of the enormous economic clout bestowed on the nation because
of the resources derived from the Ijaw ancestral land, there is hardly
any federal presence through out the entire length and breadth of the Ijaw
nation, stretching from Arogbo/Apoi in Ondo State to Andoni in Akwa Ibom
Contrary to those uninformed opinion makers on issues relating to the Ijaws, the preceding historical antecedents clearly demonstrate that the Ijaws believe in dialogue, have been engaged in dialogue for over forty years, and will continue to do the same with the federal government to bring about a resolution to the 'Ijaw question' in the Nigerian polity. In the interim, however, all that Ijaw leaders have to show for their years of negotiation and unfettered devotion to democratic doctrines is a string of broken promises by the federal government to the Ijaw nation. When you have a federal government with a history of not living up its promises, developing a distrust for the system becomes inevitable. Given the lack luster track record of the federal government in the Niger Delta, new government initiatives for the people, even if genuine, only raises cautious optimism at best. A situation like this becomes an enabling environment for both genuine agitators for justice and some misguided individuals to thrive.
Surely, it does not require a genius to realize that the many years of economic exploitation and political domination outlined above have aided in breeding generations of Ijaw youths that suffer from social and psychological deprivations and disabilities to the extent that, the only language they now understand is violence as a means to an end. Confronted by a federal government that is at best deceptive and predisposed to turning deaf ears to our legitimate demands, the bleak future staring at our youths, Ijaws leaders that have been hoodwinked, rebuffed and berated privately and publicly by the government, militancy unfortunately, has offered an avenue for the younger generations of the Ijaws to vent their years of bottled-up anger and frustration on agents of the suffocating evil system including law enforcement officers, and sometimes even among themselves. Notwithstanding, THE COUNCIL, like our illustrious Ijaw leaders, believe in dialogue as a means to resolving our problems. Indeed, THE COUNCIL'S unequivocal condemnation of the violent acts of some of our misguided compatriots in the past is a clear testimony to our conviction in the virtue of dialogue.
Let's give credit where credit is due. The Ijaws have shown enormous patience and tolerance in the face of daunting adversity. The Ijaws are peace loving, kind, generous and accommodating almost to a fault, as could be noticed from our many centuries of peaceful coexistence with our neighbors - the Ilaje-Yorubas, Edos, Urhobos, Itsekiris, Ogonis, Ikwerres, Annangs and the Ibibios. There is, however, a limit to the human endurance to suffering and oppression. We have been pushed beyond that threshold of human endurance permissible in any credible system. And that is why we are now protesting and will continue to protest, perhaps even more loudly, for other Nigerians and the entire world to understand the miserable plight of the people of the Niger Delta. Of course, in legitimate struggles such as ours, it is not uncommon to find miscreants who are eager to take advantage of a volatile situation to commit criminal acts. Therefore, all such incidents must simply be seen for what they are; isolated deplorable acts of kidnapping and extortion by a few over-zealous individuals whose actions unfortunately, tend to confound our legitimate demands for socio-economic justice in a truly federal system in Nigeria. As always, THE COUNCIL condemns such acts and will welcome and support any civilized measures employed within the norms of law enforcement to apprehend and prosecute the perpetrators of these criminal acts in the Niger Delta without fear or favour. However, government on its part should not visit the sins of the few criminals on other law-abiding and innocent citizens of the Niger Delta as were clearly the cases at Odi in 1999, Ogoniland between 1994 and 1998, and Umuechem in1990. This senseless killing of innocent people, who are not directly connected with the offences committed, certainly represents a searchlight for God's wrath!
To revert to the often rhetorical question "What does the Ijaws really want?" the answer is very simple as contained in the Kaiama Declaration, which in itself is right and remarkable: It expresses legitimate aspirations and concerns for the very survival of the ethnic nationalities in the Niger Delta. All that we are asking for is justice and equity, just like the same for all other Nigerians and not the current polyphonic chorus of 'no meaningful development can take place without law and order' being sang by the Federal Government of Nigeria and the usual diabolic crowd of court jesters. Indeed, law and order, it goes without saying, is needed in any society for sanity to prevail. But, if these tenets were the only prerequisites needed for development, the Niger Delta with her many decades of peace and tranquillity would have long been developed.
The recently announced emergency remedial measures for Bayelsa State by the federal government is the classic reactive response pattern which, by all accounts, is averse to achieving law and order in the present circumstances. Peace and tranquillity becomes elusive when government unwittingly creates a chicken-and-egg situation, where her goodwill is only a function of how close the country is to the edge of the precipice.
In agreement with the views of a public commentator, THE COUNCIL believes that a nation becomes great only after its leadership carefully analyses its past errors, boldly confronts its present woes, and relentlessly seeks prudent, humane and godly directions for its future. Likewise, the problems of a nation are not solved merely by ignoring them like the Federal Government of Nigeria is doing at the moment. The tragedy of the seemingly endless recurrence of clashes between ethnic nationalities all over the country as well as the rising tide of protests from the hitherto peace loving people of the Niger Delta is, by itself, proof that such woes do not cure themselves until the underlying factors acting as the ugly bulls are grabbed by their horns. We believe that the violence and the orgy of killings will stop once the right political solution and democratic instruments are adopted to address the root causes of the most fundamental issues leading to these crises - the return to true federalism in the country such that every state and/or ethnic nationality controls her own resources. This demand for a fundamental restructuring of the Nigerian state is not only legitimate and long-overdue, it is eminently sensible and inevitable and may itself be one of the most effective weapons for discouraging the disintegration of the country.
We will persist in our demand for an arrangement that would bring all Ijaws under a common administrative unit, where we can put up our own plans for the development of our own areas using our own God-given natural resources at our own pace.
We must own and control our oil wells and gas fields and pay the appropriate taxes to the Federal Government of Nigeria for our survival as a people.
NO MORE, NO LESS.
Godfrey Ambakiderimoh Okoro, MBA
President, CIAA Executive Council
Secretary, CIAA Executive Council
PROTOCOL, PUBLIC RELATIONS, RESEARCH & PUBLICATIONS COMMITTEE
Ebiamadon Andi Brisibe, Ph.D. - Chairman, Matthew Oruowei Sikpi, Ph.D; Dawari Longjohn; Rowland Ekperi; Ebi Burutolu, Ph.D; Tiefa Niweigha; Kabowei Akamande; Patrick K. Audley and Sokari Ekine, Ms.
On behalf of : Ijaw People's Association Of Great Britain & Ireland, Ijaw National Alliance Of The Americas - INAA, Ijaw Forum Germany, Izonebe Group - Japan, Izon Ebi Association - Washington DC, Izon Association Of Greater Kansas - Kansas City, USA - Niger Delta Sister Cities (KC - PH) Foundation, Kansas City, Ijaws Of Northern California - INCAL, Izon Association Of Southern California, Izon Ibe Association - Michigan, Ijaws in Canada, Ijaw United Fund - Houston, Texas, Ijaw American Caucus - Minneapolis/St Paul, Bayelsa State Union - Georgia, Independent Members.