ITSEKIRI LEADERS OF THOUGHT
ASSESSMENT OF THE STATE OF THE NATION
At the expanded meeting of the Itsekiri Leaders of Thought held recently in Warri, Delta State, the State of the Nigerian Nation, was deliberated upon and critically examined. At the end of our meeting, we resolved to make comments or observations on some key issues as follows:
2. REMOVAL OF FUEL SUBSIDY BY THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT
The removal of fuel subsidy on January 1, 2012, by the Federal Government was ill-timed and lacked proper planning and consultations. The average Nigerian lives on less than one dollar per day – a far cry from the two-dollar-per-day poverty index made by the United Nations. The ordinary man in the rural area or on the streets depends on power for his small businesses of vulcanizing, barbing/hair-dressing saloons, sachet water, minerals, etc. Fuel, in the face of NEPA’s (PHCN as it’s now called) ineptitude, is what powers small generators for these small businesses. What the ordinary Nigerian artisan uses fuel for is mainly to generate power that Government has failed to provide despite the billions of dollars government claims to have invested in it. Fuel is not used only for private cars, but also for public transportation.
3. Regrettably, because of the frequent failures of past Governments to keep their promises, and the high level of corruption in the system, the average Nigerian has no reason to believe or trust that the savings or gains made from the fuel subsidy removal (if real) would be managed and channeled to other areas of the economy for his benefit. A typical example of government failure to keep its promise is the one made by a previous administration to achieve 6,000 megawatt of electricity generation. Today, five years after, that level of power generation is a mirage.
4. As if the complaints we have so far made about fuel subsidy removal are not enough, the revelations already coming out at the on-going House of Representatives’ Panel on Fuel Subsidy confirms the mess and lack of transparency in the whole system. The proceedings at the Panel have disclosed conflicting records of the quantity of subsidized fuel consumed by Nigerians, the actual amount spent on fuel subsidy and elements of over-invoicing. It is these uncertainties and incredible discrepancies that prompted the recent action of the Nigerian populace into street protests and strikes against the fuel subsidy removal.
5. We are not unmindful of the fact that some palliatives have been put in place to allegedly cushion the side-effects of the fuel subsidy removal. While the idea is welcome, we are compelled to say that they are most inadequate in quantum, dimensions and spread to cover the rural areas; especially the riverine communities.
6. BOKO HARAM
We condemn the criminal activities of the group such as bombing of churches, public/government buildings/offices and police stations, especially in the Northern part of Nigeria and we urge them to embrace peace. It is disturbing to hear that members of the sect have infiltrated Government. Based on the philosophy and ideals of this group, its methods and activities, it is obvious they are part of a terrorist network. The protection of lives and property is the basic responsibility of Government. Nigerians are free to live in any part of the country irrespective of religious and ethnic inclinations. No one should see the Boko Haram issue as either ethnic or religious. No true religion preaches violence. Government should intensify efforts to neutralize their campaigns and improve the socio-economic conditions in Nigeria. Government should be circumspect about the call for and the danger in dialoguing with the Boko Haram. The consequence of the dialogue with the Niger Delta militants and the subsequent blanket amnesty granted – where both criminals and genuine agitators were lumped together, is still staring us in the face. Today, the so-called surrender of arms and the subsequent amnesty and payment of allowances (including oversea scholarships) has not stopped the militants from attacking oil installations and kidnapping.
The bane of Nigeria’s underdevelopment is corruption at every level of government in Nigeria. We urge the federal, state and local governments to stop paying lip service to the fight against corruption, using the management of fuel, kerosene, diesel, importation and NDDC as examples. We urge the federal government to strengthen the EFCC, ICPC and the code of conduct bureau to proactively combat corruption which has become endemic in Nigeria. All institutions in Nigeria are infested with corruption – the civil service, police, custom, immigration and the three arms of government – the executive, legislature and the judiciary are not immune. To fight this war, the executive must take the lead and live by example. We believe strongly that an efficient and corruption-free police and judiciary will go a long way in arresting this deplorable cancer.
8. CONCESSION OF WATERWAYS SECURITY TO PRIVATE FIRM
We are vehemently opposed to the concession of the policing of the nation’s waterways to an indigenous firm, Global West Vessels Specialists Agency. The Itsekiri ethnic nationality is one of the nationalities that occupy the Nigerian coastline, which generally, like all national coastlines elsewhere, is a security area. The Nigerian Ports Authority – NPA – takes charge of the security in all the port areas of the coast, while NIMASA and the Navy cover the rest. We do not see any reason for a private security firm to displace the NPA, Navy and NIMASA. The proposal is ill-conceived and unnecessary.
9. It spells danger for Nigeria, at this time to even consider the concession of the security of the nation’s gateway to a private firm, which may provide avenue for illegal importation of arms and other war-materiel.
10. Even today, security intelligence shows that most of the arms illegally brought into Nigeria come through the waterways. The Federal Government by this planned idea is creating a monster.
11. THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT AMNESTY PROGRAMME
We have observed with dismay the one-sided manner the amnesty programme is being run and managed. There are many ethnic nationalities in the Niger Delta. The Ijaws are not only the ethnic nationality in the Niger Delta. We have the Benin, Ibibio, Urhobo, Itsekiri, Isoko, Anang, Efik and others. Unemployment is high among the indigenes. The amnesty programme is designed to train youths in various occupations where they could be gainfully employed.
12. The programme, as it is today, has become an idea designed for the Ijaw ethnic nationality alone to underpin their triumphalism. About 90% of beneficiaries, if not more, of overseas scholarships for higher institutions are Ijaw. Why are other law-abiding Niger-Deltans being “punished” by denying them vocational training overseas?
13. Besides, most of the courses for which thousand Ijaws have been sent to Europe, Asia and America for training are available in Nigerian universities, polytechnics and other tertiary and vocational institutions. Why do we have to spend our scarce foreign exchange to send them abroad? We call on President Goodluck Jonathan to probe the Amnesty Committee.
14. It was this largesse that was extended to only a section in the Niger Delta that may have provoked the objectionable idea of dialogue with Boko Haram and the prospect of amnesty. Who knows, perhaps, the Federal Government may initiate dialogue with Boko Haram, and thereafter, grant them amnesty and send them to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and Iran for “training”.
The rate of armed robbery, kidnapping and politically motivated assassinations, is on the increase in Nigeria and this is a worrisome development. We call on the Federal Government to strengthen the security agencies to enhance their performance, and ensure that the ordinary citizens are protected.
16. THE NIGER DELTA MINISTRY AND THE ITSEKIRI ETHNIC NATIONALITY
When the MINISTRY of Niger Delta was created, a couple of years ago, with Chief Ekaete as its first minister, the Itsekiri, against the objection by some other groups, welcomed the idea.
17. When Elder Godspower Orubebe succeeded Ekaete as the minister, the Itsekiri Leaders of Thought congratulated him on his appointment. We later paid him a courtesy and solidarity visit at his office in Abuja. During the visit, we took the pains to let the minister know our expectations and the need for a cordial relationship between him and his ministry on one hand and the Itsekiri people on the other hand, and how best that relationship could be fostered and sustained.
18. Since then, we have not seen, or heard any word from, Elder Godspower Orubebe, as the minister, nor from his ministry, in terms of any project, or proposal as to how the Itsekiri people can benefit from his ministry. While the Itsekiri, the biggest oil producers in Delta State are benefiting little or nothing from the Niger Delta Ministry, under Godspower Orubebe, the Ijaw areas of Delta State, especially Burutu L.G.A., from where Orubebe hails, is doing a lot better.
19. We challenge, the Minister, Godspower Orubebe, to publish a list of on-going and proposed projects by his ministry in Delta State, so as to prove the assertion we are making here false, if he can.
20. We call on President Goodluck Jonathan to ensure that the Itsekiri people get their due share from the Ministry of Niger Delta, having regard to the fact that they are the biggest oil producing ethnic group in Delta State.
21. SOVEREIGN NATIONAL CONFERENCE
Before the advent of British Colonialism in the expanse of land or Area now called Nigeria, the said land space was occupied and inhabited by different and separate ethnic Nationalities, each with its own home landgeographically demarcated and defined.
22. The Itsekiri Ethnic Nationality, to which we belong, for instance, has it homeland defined by historians, foreign and Nigerian, as an area of about 1500 square miles with its boundaries.
23. These separate and distinct ethnic homelands were all artificially amalgamated by Lord Lugard in 1914 and became known as Nigeria.
24. In 1960, Nigeria formally became an independent country after constitutional conferences in London. The Federal Constitution, which emerged in 1960, was followed by three separate Regional Constitutions, (for the Western Region, the Eastern Region and the Northern Region) all based on British-style parliamentary system. Later of course, the Mid-Western Region was created through a referendum in 1963 with its own constitution as the fourth Region.
25. Unfortunately, all these constitutions were abrogated by the military in 1966. Since then, Nigerian Constitutions have been doctored and manipulated by all military heads of state.
26. On the face of these anomalies, dissatisfaction and uncertainties, Nigeria needs a new way forward. We need to sit down somewhere, duly represented by the various peoples of the original homelands, to consider the best option for restructuring Nigeria to the benefit of all its people – majority and minority, alike. The minorities of this country are, certainly, not slaves to the majority. They need a constitution which protects them in the midst of oppressive majorities. The inevitable forum to discuss these and other key issues, with a view to having a peoples’ constitution for Nigeria is a SOVEREIGN NATIONAL CONFERENCE, not the present National Assembly which is foisted on Nigerians by a military document called the 1999 Constitution.
Dated at Warri this _______ day of February, 2012.
Signed for and on behalf of the Committee of
Itsekiri Leaders of Thought
J. O. S. AYOMIKE CHIEF I.O. JEMIDE
CHIEF O. P. EDODO CHIEF (MDM) F. E. REWANE
EDWARD O. EKPOKO, ESQ. CHIEF HOPE HARRIMAN
ASSISTANT SECRETARY MEMBER
J. E. AGBEJULE D. O. ANOMUOGHANRAN, ESQ.
A. S. MENE HON. O. O. V. JEMIDE
A. O. AGBOGHOROMA PROFESSOR J. NESIN OMATSEYE
TONY EDE JULIUS OTIRI
Published in the Tuesday February 28, 2012 edition of the Vanguard Newspaper on pages 48 and 49.