Urhobo Historical Society

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


COMMUNIQUÉ


The Fourth Annual Lecture was held to honour Chief Mukoro Mowoe (1890-1948) who is regarded as Urhobo's foremost nationalist because of his dedicated leadership and selfless service to the Urhobo Nation.

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.
 

Conclusion

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.

Signed By

MEMBERS OF THE EXECUTIVE BOARD

Mr. Onoawarie Edevbie
Mr. Akpobome Egi
Mr. John Ofurhie
Dr. Aruegodore Oyiborhoro

September 3, 2001


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