Ijaw seeks self- determination, resource control and true federalism
By Amos Okioma
More than 1,500 Ijaw men, women, youth drawn from 78 Ijaw clans, traditional institutions, professional and socio- political bodies among others, gathered under the aegis of the apex socio- cultural organizations, Ijaw National Congress in Yenagoa, met from Wednesday May 27 -28 Thursday 2015 to examine the state of Ijaw ethnic nationality and lay down a viable path to the realization of her decades- long self – actualization aspirations.
The event co- hosted by INC and the Bayelsa state government was chaired by HRM King Alfred Papapreye Dite -Spiff, the Amanyanabo of Twon-Brass, Elder statesman Chief E.K Clark who was represented by His Excellency Chief DSP Alamieyeseigha was the father of the day.
The summit with the theme” The Ijaw Beyond May 29, 2015″ witnessed robust deliberations which flowed from papers presented by eminent Ijaw scholars and other notable resource persons had as its Key notes address titled, “Ijaw Nation: The Journey So Far and the Way Forward” was delivered by Emeritus professor of History, Ebiegberi Joe Alagoa.
The papers presented included, “Self-Determination and The Ijaw Question: Challenges and Prospects” by Ms Annkio Briggs, a renowned advocate of Niger Delta Community, Human and Environmental Right, “The Ijaw Environment : Appraising Socio-Economic and Security Threats ” by Iniruo Wills , Honorable Commissioner for Environment , Bayelsa state, “Building The Ijaw Economy : Assessing Options and Windows for Growth and Transformation” by Atei Beredugo, ” Ethnic Minority Rights Protection in the Nigerian Federation and The Ijaw Question: Setting the Legal and Policy Agenda for Ijaw Beyond May 29 , 2015, by Dr Bello Orubebe and ” Niger Delta Energy Corridor: Conceptual plan for Niger Delta Regional Integrated Industrialization &Economic Development ” by HRH Alabo Prof. Dagogo Fubara, Pedro Egbe and Prof. Nimi Briggs.
At the end of the events participants delved deep into internal and national issues, making the following resolutions and observations:
The summit commended Nigerians, who stood by their son Dr Goodluck Jonathan in the heated ambience of the 2015 general elections and for him to preside over the affairs of the country as the president.
Also the summit equally expressed appreciation to the state governor, Seriake Dickson and co- convener of the summit and creating the enabling environment for hosting the summit. It equally noted his commitment to the promotion and strategic interest of Ijaw Nation in particular, the creation of the state Ministry of Culture and Ijaw National Affairs and the appointment of a Deltan Ijaw as its pioneer Commissioner and signing into law of the Bayelsa State Flag, Coat of Arms and the Ijaw Anthem Bill, 2012.
The Summit noted that the Ijaw nation today, is at a critical moment in its history and called on all Ijaw leaders, elders, sons and daughters to be united at this auspicious moment for the challenges ahead, noted also that the Ijaw Question predates Nigeria and that the current structure of the Nigerian state is lopsided in favour of the majority ethnic nationalities without adequate socio- political and economic space for the minority ethnic nationalities, particularly the Ijaws.
The summit in a communiqué that was signed by thirty – one personalities expressed regrets that past administrations in Nigeria have proved unwillingly to accede to the demands by the Ijaws to be united in harmonious political entities of their own, reaffirming that Nigeria is made up of diverse ethnic nationalities with varying histories, motivations and aspirations and that these ethnic groups should form the basis of true federalism.
Conscious of the fact that the environment remains the most valuable physical resource for development and survival of the Ijaw Ethnic Nationality, the summit noted that the Ijaw oil and gas bearing communities suffer the deleterious effects of oil and gas exploration and exploitation, but regrets the inability of the Nigerian state to address the concomitant negative impacts on the health, economy, culture and the environment of the Ijaw people. The reality is leading to the gradual extinction of the Ijaw people.
The summit also expressed dissatisfaction with the present constitutional and legislative arrangements for the resource control and allocation in Nigeria and observed that in a federation and other civilized nations, the communities that bear the natural resources control them and only pay taxes to the central government. Nigeria remains the only exception.
Aware of the fact that violence or restiveness is a new phenomenon foisted on Ijaw people by circumstances of oppression and frustrations, the summit observed that continued militarization of Ijaw territory has resulted in severe erosion of their cherished values as a people ,desirous of maintaining and promoting Ijaw cultural values, the summit agreed on the imperative to take steps to promote and sustain Izon language and believing that the Ijaw Ethnic Nationality had expressed its desire for self-determination and reaffirmed its total rejection of unjust legal order that robs resource owners of their rights to their resources.
In conclusion, the Summit acknowledged the fact that the cession treaties between the Ijaw and British colonial authorities have elapsed and that the instrument of amalgamation of 1914 that produced the country Nigeria expired in 2014 and consequently, the summit empowered the Ijaw National Congress to initiate the process of renegotiating the basis of co- existence with other ethnic nationalities.