Association of Nigerian Scholars for Dialogue
|OPINIONS AND ANALYSES|
NIGER DELTA ETHNIC NATIONALITIES
February 4-6, 1999
At the Royal Garden Hotel, Port Harcourt
1. That Nigeria is made up of peoples who, first and foremost, are Ijaws, Ogonis, Ikwerres, Ibibios, Ekpeyes, Annangs, Itsekiris, Binis, Urhobos, Isokos, Yorubas, Hausa/Fulani, Igbos, Tivs, Jukuns, Efiks, etc., who have varying experiences and aspirations. For Nigeria to endure, adequate recognition and expression must be given to this fact of our life; that unity in diversity is a positive factor that can be used for galvanizing and harnessing the boundless opportunities God has bestowed on us in this country.
2. The critical question in Nigeria is basically how the various ethnic nationalities in this country can continue to exist in a manner devoid of acrimony and based on the time tested tenets of equity, fairness and justice. The search for an answer to this question is the basic responsibility of all ethnic nationalities in the country and lies in laying a solid foundation for an enduring democratic culture. In the circumstance, the Conference recommends that the various ethnic nationalities must constitute the basic building blocks upon which a stable, virile and prosperous future Nigeria must be built.
3. The Conference condemns the current unitary system practiced in the country today and calls for a truly federal structure of government in the country where the federating units must be the ethnic nationalities or a group of voluntarily associating nationalities in which such nationalities or group of nationalities shall have control over their natural resources with unfettered opportunities for putting up plans of their own for developing themselves in accordance with their desires and aspirations.
4. The Conference is seriously concerned with the spate of intra and inter communal crises within the Niger Delta and notes that the conflicts are more often than not sponsored by the state and the multinational oil companies with the sole aim of dividing and ruling the people. The Conference therefore sets up the Niger Delta Peace Initiative, which shall work with other bodies to create a credible mediation process. The Conference calls on the government and the multinationals to desist from doing anything to aggravate the problem. Meanwhile the conference calls on all communities in the Niger Delta to exercise restraint and stop all hostilities towards each other and refrain from any activity that can escalate the conflict situation.
5. The conference agreed that the existing development bodies have failed to meet the needs and aspirations of the Niger Delta and therefore advocates that an Ethnic Development Board be established to manage and develop their respective communities according to their priorities.
6. The reported setting aside or commitment of about seven billion Naira for the completion of some abandoned projects in the Niger Delta is viewed by the Conference as government propaganda and tends to trivialize the challenge of development of the Niger Delta. This cannot be a substitute for the needed reparation of 40 years of neglect and plunder of the Niger Delta people.
7. The conference decried the continuous spate of human rights abuses in the Niger Delta and notes that these violations are basically due to certain retrogressive legislation/decrees targeted at the Niger Delta people. Consequently, the conference is opposed to the idea of handing over these obnoxious structures, laws and decrees to civil politicians. As these were created by the military they should also be dismantled by them before handing over, otherwise they will pose the greatest threat to true federalism and stability. In particular the Conference recommends the repeal of all laws/decrees that deprive the people of their right to land and control of their natural resources , such as the Land Use Decree and the various Petroleum Laws.
8. The Conference calls for an end to the military occupation of Ijaw land and other parts of the Niger Delta and further calls for the establishment of a Commission of Enquiry into the Jesse fire disaster and other disasters in the Niger Delta.
9. The Conference notes that history and current events have shown that Constitutional provisions for so-called equal enjoyment of all rights and non-discrimination are insufficient guarantees for the protection of the special rights of the Niger Delta minorities. The Conference therefore calls for special constitutional provisions that will guarantee the rights of the people of the Niger Delta to the resources of their land, the use of their native languages and culture and to run their own local affairs.
10. The Conference condemns the gross injustice and abuse of the human and environmental rights of the Niger Delta people. The Conference is of the view that these can only be remedied through the setting up of a Truth and Justice Commission. To this end the Conference urges all the ethnic groups to commence the compilation of evidences of human right abuses in their respective areas.
11. The conference notes the consistent complaint by delegates of marginalisation and deprivation by the authorities and observes that this forms the basis of the demands and agitation by several Niger Delta communities as contained in their respective Bill of Rights and Declarations, notably the Ogoni Bill of Rights and the Kaiama Declaration. Consequently, the conference called for devolution of powers which can only be achieved through a Sovereign National Conference based on equal representation of ethnic nationalities.
12. The Conference commends the initiative of the Conference
and further directs that the Organizing Committee should co-ordinate
work of the Conference to ensure continuity.