Niger Delta Delegates to the National Conference hold Consultative Forum with Citizens

60 days after the inauguration of the Nigeria National Conference by President Goodluck Jonathan, the Pan-Niger Delta Conference (PNDC) today, Thursday May 8, 2014, held an interactive forum to deliberate on some matters currently being tackled at the National Conference, which affect the Niger Delta region.

The event which held at the Grand Montecito Hotel, along Sani Abacha Road in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, witnessed the presence of some delegates representing various constituencies in the region, amongst whom were Chief Sergeant Awuse, human rights crusader, Dr. Isaac Osuoka, and foremost environmental rights activist, Ann Kio Briggs.

Also present at the event were stakeholders and representatives from the civil society organisations, as well as invited guests from all walks of life.

The forum was an avenue for the delegates to report back to their constituencies, on the happenings and contentious issues at the National Conference, while taking citizens’ views on the way forward.

The interactive meeting, which commenced about 10am, was chaired by Professor Andrew Efemini from the University of Port Harcourt. In his opening remarks, Professor Efemini expressed his excitement over the convocation of the ongoing National Conference by President Goodluck Jonathan. He stated that, “no amount of projects executed by Jonathan would have far-reaching effects for the Niger Delta as much as organizing a national conference, because the national conference can free the people of the Niger Delta from the shackles of pain, unemployment and illiteracy.”

He further emphasized that, “we do not want to discuss resource control but resource ownership, and the National Conference provides all of us with an opportunity to speak. This is the beginning of a mass support for our delegates at the National Conference.”

Chief Sergeant Awuse, while giving his address, stated that the Niger Delta region must be prepared to compromise in order to benefit from the National Conference. He said, “We have not yet come to a complete stock-taking with the geo-political zones. Consensus is built on give and take. We must give something to get something.”

Sergeant Awuse, a member of the Committee on Public Finance and Revenue generation, posited that the issues which have to be considered are, “How united are we in chasing what we are looking for?” and “How dependable can we assume the other parts of the southern Nigeria would be?

“For example, in the South-South meeting, we agreed that the federating units should remain the states, as going back to regional system would take us backward. But some parts of Nigeria, particularly the South-West group, have an agenda for a regional arrangement, which we had before. So, there are a lot of divisions. How much we can give in, would depend on how much compromise we get from other regions including the middle belt and other areas.”
On his part, Dr. Isaac Osuoka lamented that the current political order in Nigeria has nothing more to offer.

Describing it as the fourth republic, he said, “Examining all of the institutions associated with the 4th republic, including the tiers of government, there is nothing we can expect to come out of the system, except something is done to fundamentally recreate and restructure the foundation of the states.

“There are people in the National Conference who want to preserve the existing order, saying that only governance should be developed on. We differ from that view. Today, those who have been military dictators and military administrators, who have also participated in the looting of the treasury, are now talking of good governance.
“Boko Haram is attempting to tear Nigeria apart. They believe they can impose their own religion using terror against the people of the country. There is so much poverty caused by them.”

The human rights activist, who is a member of the Committee on Land Tenure and National Boundary Matters, maintained that we have to revert to the pre-coup status of 1963 constitution which, he said, was imposed by the military, but was a product of debates which included the people of Nigeria.

On the need for a compromise, he stated that the compromise is a negotiation which must be democratized, adding that, the Nigerian people should be allowed to participate in it if delegates act accountably by giving their people feedback on every process at the conference.

Osuoka finally called for the removal of the Land Use Act from the 1999 Constitution as it has not been for the good of the Nigerian people. “Right now, the Land Use Act is locked into the constitution. So the only way to amend it is by constitutional amendment, which is almost impossible owing to the long process”, he decried.

He also referred to the United Nations Environmental Project (UNEP) 2011 report, which revealed that the level of pollution of Ogoniland is unprecedented, being the worst in the world. The report he said, recommends one billion naira to clean up Ogoniland alone, let alone the other areas of the Niger Delta which have suffered environmental degradation from oil spillage as well.

Ann Kio Briggs, while speaking, emphasized three key issues which were 100% resource ownership (instead of resource control), onshore/offshore dichotomy, and the derivation rate at 50% for the Niger Delta region.

She said, “I am demanding for 100% resource ownership for the Niger Delta, and we would pay tax on it. Until we change the current position, nothing will change. But the Nigerian (1999) Constitution as it is today does not permit us to get it 100%. So we have to demand for a change in the law. The constitution is against the aspiration and survival of all the groups in the Niger Delta. From this conference, we must begin to think about our survival, our future.”

She went ahead to reel out figures in relation to the federal allocation to local governments in Nigeria for the month of April, 2013. She revealed that about N79 billion was given to the three geo-political zones of the Northern region of Nigeria, and about N65 billion was given to the Southern region.

Ann Kio Briggs, who is a member of the Committee on Devolution of Power at the national conference, also advocated for the oil to be left in the soil when she said, “The call for a moratorium from the exploitation of oil in the Niger Delta must be considered. Let us stop the exploration of oil and gas, until other viable options are explored and developed. So those who can fish should go and fish, and those who can farm should resume farming.”

During the Question and Answer session, the delegates were generally commended by some participants who praised their courage and requested them to fine-tune their strategies in upholding the various positions taken by the Niger Deltans on the respective issues.

The delegates in agreement, announced that a subsequent Interactive Forum would be organized before the end of the National Conference to further deliberate upon the collective interests of the region, in order to clearly articulate the way forward for the region in the final outcome of the National Conference.

The highlight of the event was the resolution passed by all the participants at the event, to uphold the strategic interests of the Niger Delta region as a united people championing a common cause for the development of the region.

It would be recalled that a Pan-Niger Delta Conference (PNDC) with the theme ‘Niger Delta and the National Conference’, was held in January 28, 2014 with a view to ascertaining and harmonising the interests of the people in the region, in order to present a clearly-defined and unified front at the National Conference.

The PNDC which involves leaders of thought, social justice activists and other stakeholders, has its Secretariat at the Social Development Integrated Centre (Social Action), a non-governmental organization whose headquarters is situated in Port Harcourt.

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  • Ogoni KingdomNation

    Let me first thank the conveners of this interactive forum for their foresightedness. This is the reason open and honest communication and feedback are integral parts of relationships. It’s a job well done, and further job well done by the …Niger delta delegates. That’s, assuming all of the delegates are on the same page and not thinking like Sergeant Awuse whose idea of compromise above is worst than despicable. Compromise what, resource ownership and for what?
    Why must Niger delta compromise resource ownership and control having done so, fed the entire country and got nothing but deaths, hangings and environmental degradation in return? True that some Niger deltans like those in and at the corridors of power are benefiting. The common man who has nobody in government sharing money in bags or person to speak for him or her and can’t carry guns is confined to roast! So if the north can’t respect us to appreciate our contributions and sacrifice, why continue to allow them mistreat us and still get our oil and gas to the extent of claiming they own it? Their solid and otherwise resources/land aren’t confiscated by the current constitution and Land Used Act as does Niger delta land; so why not say, enough is enough and be prepared for whatever comes? No magic or miracle, no unseen hand or celestial bodies will work and fight for us. Other than unfounded abstractions, as historical facts shows, only humans think, work and fight to liberate themselves for the greater good, so the time is now!

    If Northern delegates can insist that the status quo remains, and even demand the scrapping of Niger delta Ministry, NDDC, even though Ogoni has been cheated and denied by certain Niger deltans in-charge from benefiting despite its contributions of oil, ideas and blood, which alongside Isaac Adaka Boro brought the region this far. I wonder why Niger deltans at the conference can’t unite and quadruple their insistence for resource ownership and demand (or stop it by themselves immediately so others will think and create) a complete stop of oil exploitation from the region as Ogonis resourcefully did. This was after getting death and poisoned land in return for more than three decades of compromise and docility. Niger deltans can’t think of unity and become more Nigerian when others don’t, rather think only of our oil and prefer us remain as beggars and eaters of crumbs from the masters’ table.
    As I’ve written in my articles: “Nigeria Conference: Open letter to Niger delta delegates,” and “Nigeria Conference: Jonathan and Niger deltans to blame should the status quo remains,” published on many Online newsreels and blogs. It’s expedient that Niger delta delegates maintain their positions on resource ownership and ‘control’ and shouldn’t return back with another sharing formula based upon oil and gas under our forebears graves. The cheating, disrespect and killing is too much, and only the people of Niger delta can redeem themselves-that redemption is now or never!

    It’s an eye-saw that some Northerners can claim oil in my land belong to them, thus insisting and also threatening after killing my people. Of course, we know Nigeria is an illegal country forced upon the so-called minorities for the most, and it’s caused my people so much pains, except those dining and wining with the cabal, including confused Goodluck Jonathan, who knew these issues close to our hearts, such as resource ownership will demand constitutional amendment, yet continued. He knew the National Assembly isn’t and will not be in our favor when considering these issues, due to party divide and mostly the fact that it’s dominated by those reaping from where they don’t sow.
    Except by magic, the conference can’t amend the constitution nor can it impose referendum as added outcome, though can only recommend. Jonathan swallowed every idea granted him without first considering the illegal military constitution he’s defending. The north misruled Nigeria for decades. These rulers caused the poverty, underdevelopment or the lack of it and hardship, lack of order and thirst for blood seen conspicuously across the nation and particularly the Northern region currently. Ironically, this same people are complaining about marginalization and underdevelopment. As such, you can see what they’ve used Boko Haram to cause, because a Niger deltan they’ve stolen so much from emerged as president, though they still control the establishment.
    The drama at hand with Boko Haram, which Jonathan earlier refused U.S. classification as a terrorist group due to bad advise (and I also wrote sounding a warning of what’s ahead), is to further demonstrate what will come if Jonathan returns as president for a second term and not a Northerner of Hausa-Fulani stock. Therefore, Niger delta delegates should and MUST canvass and insist on resource ownership even though it leads to the country’s breakup, and not 50% derivation. The country missed many opportunities to negotiate 50% for our region as was the case in the 50s and ignored them due to greed and shortsightedness about the reality of the future.
    Delegates should also demand regionalism, because it will dissolve this cheating state arrangement the north and others use to steal wealth from us when considering the many states they created for themselves. The north has already taken a position against resource ownership/control and regionalism. Both ideas worked well in same country during the regional regime; the north, west and east controlled groundnut, cocoa and palm produce, etc. Regionalism will permit regions to create only the number of states or units they can sponsor and maintain with the resources or revenue they generate and not to become parasitic and kill in anticipation of oil and gas or resources from other regions, though occasional helps may come only when necessary.
    The conference should be a defining moment, which the negative tissue it originally was (since those of us who knew were clear nothing would come of it but mere talks and personal political benefits) can be turned to positive when Niger deltans will insist on resource ownership, fiscal federalism/confederacy-regionalism and also insist on implementation else oil will be stopped. This suggested model allows for higher degree of autonomy to the units, thus breed competition, checks and balances, responsibility and accountability against the national laziness, gross corruption or criminality and insecurity, bloodletting that pervades the land because everyone believes nobody owns the oil the country runs on despite the facts.

    Lastly, the choice is Niger delta people to prove that they own the oil and gas overtly mismanaged and at best stolen from the communities. The Niger delta is overdue for independence, if it gets to that, and if the north insist. The region have suffered so much, and may have done so than many people who fought and gained independence today across the globe. It’s certain that freedom isn’t free, but an imagination, dream and hard work for it makes same real! Nothing should make these noble Niger delta delegates chicken out! Twenty-Fourteen is different from Nineteen-Sixty Seven. The world today is abreast with the Nigerian issues, particularly the Niger delta struggle that became internationalized by Ken Saro-Wiwa and the Ogoni people. Delegates needs massive support from the citizens of the region. There must be no deal to sellout by betraying this righteous trust.

    There is time for everything, so enough cry and shame for the Niger delta child that isn’t pitied by others, rather they’re demanding more of our heads for them to survive. Any deal to the contrary shall cause the blame on these delegates, Jonathan and the entire region, and posterity will not forgive those bestowed with this opportunity if they fail to deliver by defending and upholding the region’s interest. Niger delta delegates have so much power they can flex if they recognize it and I believe they do.
    The rest of the country would reason with them and understand if they’re serious and wish the country continue, despite the arrogance of the north. It’s now the north and others’ turn to compromise, not Niger delta, which has fed the country for more than fifty years and has also been stolen from, made impoverish, object of mockery, death and pollution. So, seriousness and consistency on the part of our delegates is the key. If Niger delta can’t succeed now, then no other time exist and the suffering will continue and get deeper.

    Thank you and keep the liberation flag flying!
    Sincerely,
    Ben Ikari
    Bamckary@hotmail.com.

  • Ogoni KingdomNation

    Let me first thank the conveners of this interactive forum for their foresightedness. This is the reason open and honest communication and feedback are integral parts of relationships. It’s a job well done, and further job well done by the Niger delta delegates. That’s, assuming all of the delegates are on the same page and not thinking like Sergeant Awuse whose idea of compromise above is worst than despicable. Compromise what, resource ownership and for what? Why must Niger delta compromise resource ownership and control having done so, fed the entire country and got nothing but deaths, hangings and environmental degradation in return? True that some Niger deltans like those in and at the corridors of power are benefiting. The common man who has nobody in government sharing money in bags or person to speak for him or her and can’t carry guns is confined to roast!
    Meanwhile, if Northern delegates can insist that the status quo remains, and even demand the scrapping of Niger delta Ministry, NDDC, even though Ogoni has been cheated and denied by certain Niger deltans in-charge from benefiting despite its contributions of oil, ideas and blood, which alongside Isaac Adaka Boro brought the region this far. I wonder why Niger deltans at the conference can’t unite and quadruple their insistence for resource ownership and demand (or stop it by themselves immediately so others will think and create) a complete stop of oil exploitation from the region as Ogonis resourcefully did. This was after getting death and poisoned land in return for more than three decades of compromise and docility. As I’ve written in my articles: “Nigeria Conference: Open letter to Niger delta delegates,” and “Nigeria Conference: Jonathan and Niger deltans to blame should the status quo remains,” published on many Online newsreels and blogs. It’s expedient that Niger delta delegates maintain their positions on resource ownership and ‘control’ and shouldn’t return back with another sharing formula based upon oil and gas under our forebears graves.
    It’s an eye-saw that some Northerners can claim oil in my land belong to them, thus insisting and also threatening after killing my people. Of course, we know Nigeria is an illegal country forced upon the so-called minorities for the most, and it’s caused my people so much pains, except those dining and wining with the cabal, including confused Goodluck Jonathan, who knew these issues close to our hearts, such as resource ownership will demand constitutional amendment, yet continued. He knew the National Assembly isn’t and will not be in our favor when considering these issues, due to party divide and mostly the fact that it’s dominated by those reaping from where they don’t sow. Except by magic, the conference can’t amend the constitution nor can it impose referendum as added outcome, though can only recommend. Jonathan swallowed every idea granted him without first considering the illegal military constitution he’s defending.
    The north misruled Nigeria for decades.
    These rulers caused the poverty, underdevelopment or the lack of it and hardship, lack of order and thirst for blood seen conspicuously across the nation and particularly the Northern region currently. Ironically, this same people are complaining about marginalization and underdevelopment. As such, you can see what they’ve used Boko Haram to cause, because a Niger deltan they’ve stolen so much from emerged as president, though they still control the establishment. The drama at hand with Boko Haram, which Jonathan earlier refused U.S. classification as a terrorist group due to bad advise (and I also wrote sounding a warning of what’s ahead), is to further demonstrate what will come if Jonathan returns as president for a second term and not a Northerner of Hausa-Fulani stock. Therefore, Niger delta delegates should and MUST canvass and insist on resource ownership even though it leads to the country’s breakup, and not 50% derivation. The country missed many opportunities to negotiate 50% for our region as was the case in the 50s and ignored them due to greed and shortsightedness about the reality of the future.
    Delegates should also demand regionalism, because it will dissolve this cheating state arrangement the north and others use to steal wealth from us when considering the many states they created for themselves. The north has already taken a position against resource ownership/control and regionalism. Both ideas worked well in same country during the regional regime; the north, west and east controlled groundnut, cocoa and palm produce, etc. Regionalism will permit regions to create only the number of states or units they can sponsor and maintain with the resources or revenue they generate and not to become parasitic and kill in anticipation of oil and gas or resources from other regions, though occasional helps may come only when necessary. The conference should be a defining moment, which the negative tissue it originally was (since those of us who knew were clear nothing would come of it but mere talks and personal political benefits) can be turned to positive when Niger deltans will insist on resource ownership, fiscal federalism/confederacy-regionalism and also insist on implementation else oil will be stopped.
    This model allows for higher degree of autonomy to the units, thus breed competition, checks and balances, responsibility and accountability against the national laziness, gross corruption or criminality and insecurity, bloodletting that pervades the land because everyone believes nobody owns the oil the country runs on despite the facts.
    Lastly, the choice is Niger delta people to prove that they own the oil and gas overtly mismanaged and at best stolen from the communities. The Niger delta is overdue for independence, if it gets to that, and if the north insist. The region have suffered so much, and may have done so than many people who fought and gained independence today across the globe. It’s certain that freedom isn’t free, but an imagination, dream and hard work for it makes same real! Nothing should make these noble Niger delta delegates chicken out! Twenty-Fourteen is different from Nineteen-Sixty Six. The world today is abreast with the Nigerian issues, particularly the Niger delta struggle that became internationalized by Ken Saro-Wiwa and the Ogoni people. Delegates needs massive support from the citizens of the region. There must be no deal to sellout by betraying this righteous trust.
    There is time for everything, so enough cry and shame for the Niger delta child that isn’t pitied by others, rather they’re demanding more of our heads for them to survive. Any deal to the contrary shall cause the blame on these delegates, Jonathan and the entire region, and posterity will not forgive bestowed with this opportunity and failed! Niger delta delegates have so much power they can flex if they recognize it and I believe they do. The rest of the country would reason with them and understand if they’re serious and wish the country continue, despite the arrogance of the north. Seriousness and consistency is the key.

    Thank you and keep the liberation flag flying!
    Sincerely,
    Ben Ikari
    Bamckary@hotmail.com.

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