In four plenary sessions, participants at the Annual Conference dealt with some of the issues and problems facing the Urhobo people. The four sessions were as follows: (i) “The Place of Urhobo in a New Nigeria;” (ii) “Urhobo and Her Neighbours;” (iii) “Environment and Sustainable Development in the Niger Delta;” and (iv) “Continuity and Change in Urhobo Culture and Traditional Leadership.” The round table discussion on “The Place of Urhobo in a New Nigeria” painted Urhobo as a nation suffering from neglect in the Nigerian polity, despite its huge contributions to the financial incomes and sustenance of the Nigerian federation. The ensuing discussions emphasized that the place of Urhobo and other ethnic nationalities of Nigeria can only be secure and protected in a federal structure in which the federating units are allowed sufficient freedom to manage their own affairs in their own states, including the control of their natural resources for their own benefit, while recognizing the requisite needs of of the larger Nigerian federation.
Discussions on “Urhobo and Her Neighbours” focused on the need to engage our neighbours in conversations and negotiations that will help to restore peace and tranquility to our region. The current wave of unrest and instability has not only robbed us of opportunities to work together for the progress of the Niger Delta region, but have indeed allowed our detractors from outside the region to exploit our common resources and to further victimize our people.
The plenary session on “Environment and Sustainable Development in the Niger Delta” offered a grim picture of the health problems caused by the environmental deterioration and degradation of the Niger Delta region. Participants expressed fears for the catastrophic consequences in the health of the people of the Niger Delta that are liable to result from the cumulative effects of poisoning the environment. Lead poisoning in children and poisoning by other heavy metals -- including mercury and cadmium from hydrocarbons spilled into our environment -- have resulted in widespread incidents of high blood pressure; various neurological abnormalities and psychiatric maladies (such as extreme irritability, severe affective disorders, psychopathic intolerance, etc.); sexual dysfunction; visual abnormalities; the preponderance of end-stage renal diseases; and various other malignancies arising from the toxic effect of a polluted environment. This session examined the fate of our waterways which are drying up and have become polluted and rendered unfit for human use. The session explored the causes of these environmental problems, most of which were traced to bad policies of the Federal Government of Nigeria and the role of multinational oil companies engaged in petroleum oil exploration in the Niger Delta.
Discussions of these issues point to a World Bank Report, Defining an Environmental Development Strategy for the Niger Delta (Volume I and Volume II), which established that the health indicators for Urhoboland and other parts of the Niger Delta are significantly worse off than the averages for southern Nigeria. Water-related diseases, many of which are due to poor sanitation and inadequate water supply, pose serious health problems, and account for over 80 percent of all reported illnesses. Many of the rivers, the main sources of water supply in the area, have been polluted by frequent oil spills and acid rain caused by open and uninterrupted flaring of gas released from oil-producing activities.
The various plenary sessions thus provided the forum for those who attended the Conference and General Meeting, to air their views and opinions on the issues that were of economic and political interest to the Urhobo. Conference participants had the opportunity to discuss and offer suggestions on what ought to be done in order to arrest, or at least to minimize, the effects of environmental degradation on our communities and on the lives of our people in Urhoboland and the Niger Delta.
Discussants noted the grave problem of our waterways, which are being reduced to rivulets as a result of drought caused by excessive erosion, flooding and silting. Conference participants were particularly worried about the severe falls in the standards of water supply from what they were in yesteryears when these waterways were navigable and when they fully supported not only a thriving fishing industry but also fostered trade between Urhobo communities and their neighbours in the Niger Delta.
Participants were aggrieved by the determination of President Olusegun Obasanjo's government to forge ahead with the dredging of the River Niger without the benefit of an environmental impact analysis (EIA). The discussions recalled how the impact of Kainji Dams, which were built without an EIA, had cut off water flow to the waterways in Niger Delta. If the River Niger is dredged, there is the possibility that during periods of heavy flooding, the flow of water will not find enough channels, many of which have been blocked by excessive build-up of silt, to dissipate their excess water. The spread of water is likely to result in great destruction to life and property in the area. The excess water could, the discussions stressed, expose low-lying communities in the Niger Delta to the danger of being submerged and wiped out as evidenced by similar cases in other parts of the world, especially in the Indian subcontinent.
Discussions revealed a growing frustration with the problem of leadership in the Niger Delta region. Participants were troubled by the spectre of a leadership that seems to have abandoned the interests of the people for the pursuit of government contracts and other selfish interests for personal wealth at the expense of our common good. For fear of losing contract awards, the discussions noted, many leaders no longer voice any opposition, let alone work against government actions or policies that are harmful to our people. The lack of opposition from the leaders, many argue, seems to have emboldened oil companies in their reckless conduct in Urhoboland. Participants noted with dismay the recent attempt by Shell Oil Company to intimidate the people of Olomoro in Isoko, Urhobo's neighbours, and in Evwreni in Ughelli North Local Government Area of Urhoboland, with frivolous law suits.
THEREFORE, the General Meeting of
Urhobo Historical Society, in recognition of the difficulties and
facing the Urhobo and the Niger Delta, as expressed in discussions
the plenary sessions, and in support of the needs and the aspirations
Urhobo people for good governance and a better quality of life, hereby
resolves and affirms the following:
deplores the dangerously high level and extent of pollution that is
visited upon Urhoboland and the Niger Delta as a result of activities
with oil production. The Society therefore urges all oil-producing
and their neighbours and friends to come together in joint ventures to
take appropriate actions, including the filing of law suits in and
Nigeria, against corporate and governmental bodies that are responsible
for the environmental problems of the region. The need for collective
is all the more necessary when one recognizes that all efforts to
the oil companies to improve their methods of oil exploration have
2. Public Health
is gravely disturbed by the seeming lack of concern by the various
of government for issues of public health. We therefore call on the
State Government to request from the central government in Abuja
of its own environmental laws. The Federal Government and the
of the Niger Delta should act to prevent the oil companies from
our environment. The Delta State Government should, on its own, also
to provide safe and potable water supply for the people, and begin the
long over-due campaign to educate the people on the merit of good
The local government councils are also urged to organize clean-up
to keep our communities free of debris and other forms of dirt which
a threat to public health in the new world of oil exploitation.
3. Abuse and Neglect of Waterways
expresses grave concern about the condition of rivers, creeks, and
waterways in Urhoboland and the Niger Delta. Our waterways, which
water for our domestic and industrial uses, should not be abandoned and
allowed to be misused and to wither away. We therefore urge the Delta
Government to set up, as a matter of great urgency, a cabinet-level
of Environmental Quality to deal with environmental issues including
management and restoration of our dying waterways.
4. Effect of the Proposed Dredging of River Niger
has strong concerns about the dredging the River Niger and calls for a
rescheduling of the project to allow time for a proper and credible
impact analysis (EIA) of the areas involved. We are particularly
about the potential for excessive flooding that could wipe out many of
our communities in the low-lying areas of Urhoboland and other parts of
the Niger Delta. The central government in Abuja is therefore urged to
include input from the affected communities during any planned
Impact Assessment to ascertain the need for such a risky project and to
determine the wishes of the people whose lives will be affected by the
project. Unless this is done, the people should be prepared to resist
every lawful means, this cruel attempt by the Federal Government of
at Abuja to bargain away their very existence in order to benefit
multinational oil companies' needs for navigation through new canals
will bring salt water from the Atlantic Ocean to the environment of the
Niger Delta and that will reward corrupt contracting commitments that
made during military dictatorship.
5. Rigging of
is deeply concerned about the dangers that a repetition of recent
of election rigging in the Niger Delta region, as documented by many
election monitors and observers, will pose to the political welfare of
Urhoboland and the Niger Delta. We therefore urge the state governments
in the Niger Delta and concerned civil society organizations to launch
campaigns to educate our people that election rigging is robbery, a
crime that takes away the rights of the people to self-determination.
people should also be advised not to sell their votes but to vote only
for parties and candidates who promise to work for resource control,
reduction of environment problems, and other issues that affect their
6. Restructuring of the Federal Government
views with dismay, the current political arrangement that has the
of marginalizing the Urhobo people as characterized by the prevailing
of unfair and uneven distribution of resources at the centre in Abuja.
We are therefore prepared to assist the Union of Niger Delta, Urhobo
Assembly and other similar groups to draft constitutional proposals for
a system of government that will guarantee equality and fairness for
our peoples within the Nigerian federation.
7. The Role of Leadership
expresses frustration at the preponderance of political and community
who will not, or cannot, put their personal interests aside for the
good of the people. Because these times are so critical, our people can
no longer afford to accept leaders who indulge in pettiness and
in the performance of their duties. Urhobo Historical Society therefore
calls on all leaders in the Niger Delta, particularly those from
to emulate the life and works of Mukoro Mowoe whose watch words of
and sacrifice should be the standards that Urhobo people apply in
the stewardship of our current leaders.
Satisfied as we are
the foregoing represent recommendations which, added to those made in
previous meeting and conference, will, if implemented, serve the
interest of the Urhobo people, their neighbours, and their compatriots
in the larger Nigerian federation, we, members of Urhobo
Society, meeting in Denville, New Jersey, the United States of
on this fourth day of November 2001, hereby resolve to bring these
to the attention of our compatriots, and of governments -- federal,
and local -- and the people of Nigeria, in the hope that working
we all may well be able to successfully address the manifold problems
which they must deal if the Nigerian Federation is to be saved.
Members of the
and Management Committee of URHOBO HISTORICAL SOCIETY:
Onoawarie Edevbie, M.A., M.Sc.
Peter P. Ekeh, Ph.D
Edirin Erhiaganoma, MSc.
Joseph Inikori, Ph.D
Isaac James Mowoe, Ph.D, J.D.
Igho Natufe, Ph.D.
Ukonurhoro Diesode Omenih
Grace Ophori, M.A.
Aruegodore Oyiborhoro, Ed.D
Ajovi Scott-Emuakpor, MD., Ph.D