URHOBO NATIONAL FORUM
THE FOURTH ANNUAL
MUKORO MOWOE MEMORIAL LECTURE
Held At Courtyard Marriott Hotel, 90-10 Grand Central Parkway, Queens, New York
Saturday, August 25, 2001
These lectures are organized annually by the Urhobo National Forum, to celebrate the life and times of Chief Mukoro Mowoe. The Forum is an organization founded in New York City, New York, by a number of dedicated Urhobo sons and daughters resident in the United States on the 50th anniversary of Chief Mowoe's death in August 1998. The main mission of the organization is to advance the cause of Urhobo Nation by monitoring, evaluating, and responding appropriately to issues of interest to the Urhobo.
Major Saliba Mukoro, Ph.D., Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Criminal Justice, Mississippi Valley State University, gave the keynote address entitled, "Nigeria: The Dawn of A New Era". Major Mukoro, now retired, is well known for his leading role in the Major Gideon Orkar coup attempt of April 22, 1990 to overthrow the military dictatorship of General Ibrahim Badamosi Babaginda.
Chief James Onanefe Ibori, the Governor of Delta State of Nigeria, also sent a message of goodwill, which was read by Dr. Aruegodore Oyiborhoro, Secretary of the Urhobo National Forum.
Major Mukoro's address gave an in-depth analysis of major developments in the Nigerian polity, signalling the emergence of stable leadership at the center, a working solidarity between the Northern and Southern parts of Nigeria, and the accountability of people occupying high offices in the country.
Governor Ibori's message exhorted the Forum to continue to serve as a veritable organ for promoting the unity and the progress of Urhobo people, ideals which Chief Mukoro Mowoe epitomized. The message also appealed to Urhobo people in the United States to avoid the pursuit of parochial interests and to live in harmony with other Nigerians resident in this part of the world.
Both Major Mukoro's address and Governor's Ibori message thus provided a context for the attendees of the lecture to discuss issues of economic and political interests to Urhobo people, and the environmental degradation of Urhoboland, wrought by oil exploration.
Urhoboland, the discussions reveal, appears to have one of the highest concentrations of university professors, physicians, engineers and other professionals in Africa, including a listing in the Guinness Book of World Records for a family with highest number of certified public accountants.
Urhoboland with its 385 oil wells, represents a significant part of the Niger Delta area of Nigeria, which accounts for more than 95 percent of Nigeria's foreign exchange earnings and over 80 percent of the country's total public expenditure.
In spite of its abundance of resources, both human and
material, Urhoboland remains one of the most depressed and neglected parts
of Nigeria. The rich oil resources are being exploited for the benefit
of the powerful major ethnic groups in Nigeria and others from outside
the oil-producing communities.
URHOBO NATIONAL FORUM, in view of the foregoing, hereby resolves and affirms as follows:
1. Resource Control
The Forum objects to the principle of 13 percent derivation
which is being applied to deny Urhobo Nation, the free use of its oil resources
for the benefit of her people. The Forum calls on all legislators from
Urhoboland and all other patriots of the Urhobo Nation to press for full
ownership and control of all oil and gas resources located in its domain,
in return for payment of fair taxes to the Federal Government from the
proceeds of these resources. To this end, the Forum calls on the Urhobo
legislators in the Nigerian National Assembly to sponsor bills to repeal
the Land Use Decree of 1978, the Interpretation Act of 1964, the Petroleum
Act of 1969 and all other objectionable pieces of legislation that stand
in the way of the oil-producing communities in claiming full ownership
and control of resources in their territories.
2. Oil Companies
The Forum expresses grave concern about the extent of
environmental pollution and the resulting degradation of the ecological
system, wrought by oil exploration in Urhoboland. The Forum therefore demands
that the Nigerian Government and the oil companies, operating in the area,
accept full responsibility for the environmental problems they have caused
and initiate a program for the remediation of polluted lands and waterways
and the restoration of the eco-system. The oil companies should also provide
more business and employment opportunities for Urhobo indigenes, particularly
the youth, and allow room for advancement into management positions where
they can take part in making decisions affecting the production and marketing
of oil and gas resources.
3. Corruption of Legislators and Other Public Officials
The Forum is gravely disturbed by the series of allegations
of the misuse of public office by certain individuals to amass power and
wealth for themselves, and by the ostentatious display of such ill-gotten
wealth. Legislators and public officials from Urhoboland are advised to
avoid accepting bribes to cast votes in any of the various legislatures
for bills that could hurt the interests of our people. They should also
desist from setting up phoney business interests to attract government
contracts and the unlawful use of public resources to grant unsavoury political
favours. It must be understood that those who give bribes are only doing
so for their selfish interests. Besides, what is offered by way of bribes
is nothing but crumbs taken from vast wealth stolen from the people. The
Forum therefore appeals to Urhobo public officials to stay away from any
self-destructive scheme that could end up hurting our future and the future
of our children. Public officials, who live above their means, should note
that they are being watched by members of the public; such officials should
expect some form of retribution for their actions, as they are most likely
to be called upon someday, to account for their stewardship.
4. Intimidation of Political Opponents and the Rigging of Elections
The Forum notes, with dismay, the efforts by certain politicians
to harass and intimidate political opponents in ways that inhibit free
speech and debate of issues that affect the welfare of our people. Our
politicians must be careful and by all means refrain from activities that
could lead to a breakdown of social and political order in Urhoboland.
The Forum therefore calls on all Urhobo to be vigilant and to beware of
party chieftains who are readying themselves to rig the 2003 elections
in favour of selected candidates. If these party operatives are not turned
away, we will be contributing to the lack of trust in the electoral system,
encourage youth dissatisfaction and violence and above all to further marginalization
and instability of our homeland. When the electorate accepts bribes in
order to vote for candidates, it loses the right and moral courage to demand
accountability from the representatives whom they so elect. To this end,
the Forum calls on all eligible Urhobo voters to vote only for candidates
and political parties that offer platforms that are favourable to their
interests. For example, our people should not endorse or vote for any political
party that does not preach or share Urhobo's view of full ownership and
control of mineral resources in Urhoboland. Neither should they vote for
any candidate who will not pledge himself or herself to work for resource
control or any issue of major interest to our people.
5. Dredging of River Niger
The Forum strongly objects to the dredging of River Niger
without the benefit of a credible environmental impact analysis (EIA),
as required by the Rio Declaration of 1992 to which Nigeria is a signatory.
The Forum believes that the dredging will cause further damage to the area
already wrecked by oil exploration. The Nigerian Government has not provided
any plan for the relief and compensation for all those who will be displaced
in the process of dredging. Besides, the Nigerian ports of Burutu, Forcados,
Koko, Lagos, Port Harcourt, Sapele and Warri, for example, are grossly
underused and have been allowed to fall into disrepair. The Nigerian Government
may well be advised to spend the N8.3 billion, earmarked for the dredging,
on developing the Niger Delta not only to reactivate the ports in the area,
but also to build a better network of roads to connect them to other parts
of the country.
6. Security and Safety of our People
The Forum is appalled by the level of criminal activities
in Urhoboland, resulting in unnecessary loss of lives and damage to property.
While the Forum appreciates Governor Ibori's ban on youth gathering in
the Delta State, it urges the state government to do more by encouraging
each community to organize its own security outfit in cooperation with
the Nigeria Police, to curb crimes in its area. The state government should
also join hands with other state governments to press for constitutional
amendments to allow each state to have its police force to maintain law
and order in its area of jurisdiction. The Nigeria Police as constituted
is ill-equipped to deal with the rising tide of crime, and should be supplemented
with state police in the fight against criminals.
The Forum recognizes the various grievances and the common aspirations of our people, and concedes that the state of Urhobo Nation is not sound. The situation is grave and could get worse with the lack of basic infrastructure, poor health services, high youth unemployment, frequent incidents of armed robbery and continued threat to life and property in general. As Governor Ibori admonished, this is not the time for the pursuit of selfish interests but a time for our people to focus on real issues such as the safety and security of our people, full ownership and control of our God-given resources for the benefit of our people, and much needed development to improve the quality of life for our people. Urhobo people have been suffering for a long time and it is time we work to stop the trend in order to guarantee a better quality of life for our children and their children.
MEMBERS OF THE EXECUTIVE BOARD
Mr. Onoawarie Edevbie
Mr. Akpobome Egi
Mr. John Ofurhie
Dr. Aruegodore Oyiborhoro
September 3, 2001