- Created on Tuesday, 30 December 2008 15:24
- Written by Prof. Kimise Okoko
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The meeting of the Steering Committee of the Conference of Ethnic Nationalities of Niger Delta (CENND) held today Wednesday, December 17, 2008 in Uzere, Delta State. The Apex body of the Conference deliberated extensively on the Report of the Technical Committee on the Niger Delta and some other issues of national importance and issued this Communiqué.
1. The Conference deeply regrets the loss of two outstanding and committed members in the persons of:
- Ukai (Sir) Fred Essien – Ibiobio Leader
- Chief Chris Ghomorai – Vice President, Ijaw National Congress (INC)
The two leaders died in the struggle to actualize the desires of the Ethnic Nationalities of the Niger Delta. Conference prays that their souls and those of all the departed rest in peace.
2. The Report submitted to Government by the Technical Committee on the Niger Delta failed to meet the aspiration of the Ethnic Nationalities of the Niger Delta.
3. It is manifestly clear that the final outcome has been programmed to become another ploy to ensure that business continues as usual and to encourage the perpetuation of social upheavals in the region such as bunkering, vandalisation of pipelines, etc. In such a situation, the region continues to remain poor, backward and insecure as has been the case since 1958.
4. It is to achieve the design that government was careful to nominate persons that would do its bidding with the usual expectation that the new set of Niger Deltans so negatively selected and manipulated and thereafter exposed to the criticism of our people would be further driven into the unfortunate situation of lackeys of government and enemies of their people. The forty-seven (47) members of the Technical Committee of which over thirty (30) are Niger Deltans selected have therefore been manipulated to produce a report that was intended to provoke the Ethnic Nationalities of the Niger Delta.
5. Our people however, have learnt from the Ogoni experience when the Ogoni four were set up against the Ogoni nine and in one fell swoop the leadership of Ogoni was decapitated. We will not fall for the trick. All we want to say to our fellow Niger Deltans who were invited in the past and are likely to be invited in future is that the yoke of colonialism cannot be lifted by begging those who always adopt the strategy of inviting selected persons amongst those they colonize to ‘come and eat,’ the cake baked in the Niger Delta.
6. As we are opposed to violence, we propose that the case of the Niger Delta must be understood by Niger Deltans and Nigeria and this can be done by courageously presenting our case so that no Niger Deltan should in future succumb to buy offs or the offer of “come and eat” by the internal colonizers.
7. It is however unfortunate that the forty-seven men and women of the Technical Committee over thirty of whom are from the Niger Delta, pretend not to know that the Ethnic Nationalities of the Niger Delta are not only struggling for development but also for basic rights such as the right to choose their own leaders as all civilized people around the world do and control of their resources, when they made themselves available for the unpatroitic assignment.
8. The Conference of Ethnic Nationalities of the Niger Delta [CENND] wishes to intimate our people that there is no distinction between neocolonialism and internal colonialism except that the former is controlled from the outside, such as Nigeria was until 1960 by the British, while the latter comes from within, which is the case at the moment.
9. Since 1958, notwithstanding various Commissions, Committees and Panels, the internal colonizers of the Niger Delta have maintained a policy whereby the Niger Delta would produce the wealth for the benefit of Nigeria except the Niger Delta. This is exploitation.
10. The various federal governments, military or civilian, have pursued the same colonizers’ principles of divide and rule and CENND is aware that a lot of manpower and resources are spent to ensure that the Ethnic Nationalities of the Niger Delta do not unite. In the same vein, any effort that is seen as seeking to foster the unity of Niger Deltans is discouraged, targeted and destroyed.
11. Government, we are convinced, is in no doubt fully aware that the Conference of the Ethnic Nationalities of the Niger Delta [CENND] was at the fore front of the rejection of Gambari and the so-called Niger Delta Conference. It is therefore not surprising that in selecting members of the Technical Committee, Government ensured that no member identified with CENND was appointed for obvious reasons so that its original designs of shortchanging the Ethnic Nationalities of the Niger Delta would still be realized.
12. The Technical Report in many regards is in effect therefore, a setback for our people who after the Obasanjo ill-fated Conference resolved that nothing short of allowing them to control their resources and in turn pay appropriate taxes to the Federal Government will assuage their desire.
13. This is the situation which Niger Delta past heroes including Isaac Boro, Ken Saro Wiwa Alfred Rewane and many others tried to promote but ended up by paying the supreme price. It is this position that our youths retired into trenches to demand and after a lot of blood was spilled and other harrowing and dehumanizing methods were employed the internal colonizers could not break their will. It is regrettable that a Committee of persons who are all from the south could therefore allow themselves to be manipulated into a situation whereby they could, as individuals, work against the interest of their people and Nigeria.
14. The Conference of Ethnic Nationalities of the Niger Delta is convinced that the Federal Government is not sincere with our people as is clearly demonstrated by the provision for the Niger Delta in the 2009 Budget before the National Assembly. The sum of Eighty Billion (80 billion) Naira is voted for both the proposed Ministry of the Niger Delta and NDDC.
15. We recall that the Federal Government voted the same amount in this year’s (2008) budget for NDDC alone. In effect, nothing has changed except the concomitant waste that would arise in running the two separate agencies and consequential reduction in the actual funds that would accrue to the region.
16. It is also instructive to recall and note that the sum of N400 billion was voted for security alone for the Niger Delta in this year’s budget while no provision for this purpose is made for the 2009 budget. It is our belief that the security vote or a substantial part of it should at least have been added to the allocation for the Niger Delta.
17. We discover with a lot of regret that the Technical Committee on the Niger Delta only concerned itself with economic concerns of the Niger Delta albeit dishonestly and displayed an abysmal lack of courage to deal with political issues that leave the region in the sorry state it unfortunately finds itself. We consider this as deliberate and consequently a betrayal of trust by our people in the Technical Committee.
18. CENND further strongly rejects any attempt to redefine the content and nature of our region (Niger Delta Region) and affirm that the Niger Delta for us are the six states of Edo, Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Cross River. The nine states now being craftily designated the Niger Delta therefore do not belong to the terrain of Ethnic Nationalities of the Niger Delta. In this regard, Government intervention agencies like the defunct OMPADEC and the NDDC cannot in any way be taken to represent the Niger Delta region which the Conference of Ethnic Nationalities of the Niger Delta represents.
19. All the Ethnic Nationalities of the Niger Delta demanded the minimum of 50% derivation in the first instance and full control of their resources thereafter by the people who own the wealth. It amounts to a disservice to our people therefore for the Technical Committee on its own to recommend 25% and offer such excuses as would annoy any true patriot of the Niger Delta.
20. We note amongst other factors that the Technical Committee deliberately avoided specific dates for the Federal Government to implement the increase in allocation to the Niger Delta in their so-called COMPACT and instead preferred the non-committal use of “progressive” increase. The Technical Committee also failed to correctly identify the status of existing agencies as demonstrated on page 79 of the report.
21. In the circumstance, the Conference of Ethnic Nationalities of the Niger Delta [CENND] states therefore that:
a. persons, men and women including religious and traditional leaders of the Ethnic Nationalities of the Niger Delta must realize that the destiny of the Niger Delta is in their hands, and this cannot be realized when they create favourable atmosphere for internal colonialism in the region;
b. its demand for a National Conference or the establishment of a Constituent Assembly for the purpose of writing a new Constitution is inevitable because the National Assembly Committee established to review the 1999 Constitution, and the Electoral Reform Committee are mere designs to reduce pressure on government because government knows fully well that the National Assembly cannot review the Constitution which effort started in 1999. The pressure however subsists and would progressively get worse as these ploys only succeed in postponing the evil day.
The Ethnic Nationalities of the Niger Delta under the aegis of the Conference of the Ethnic Nationalities of the Niger Delta [CENND] in agreement with a vast majority of other Nigerians agree that the 1999 Constitution cannot be amended because it was not derived from the people as it was foisted on them by the military. They also agreed that the National Assembly does not have the constitutional power to review the Constitution as it is presently, as only a Constituent Assembly of all Ethnic Nationalities where the Ethnic Nationalities themselves nominate their representatives can prepare a new Constitution. 22. We find it most pertinent with the prevailing situation to restate our position as contained in our Position Paper that was submitted to the Presidency, National Assembly, state Governors of the Niger Delta and the Technical Committee on the Niger Delta which include the following:
The Ethnic Nationalities of the Niger Delta therefore in realisation of the need to aggregate their common desires held a series of meetings and after diverse consultations among them, agreed on a common position as follows:
(2) Nigeria to be a Federal Union.
(3) The Ethnic Nationalities to be the Federating Units where any member of contiguous Ethnic Nationalities can merge to form such federating units if they so desire.
(4) Each of the federating units to devise and operate its constitution in addition to the Union Constitution.
(5) The Union Government to be broad-based to reflect the diversity of the federating units
(6) The Union shall have a Legislature i.e. a House of States with each federating unit sending an equal number of representatives to the House.
(7) The country shall operate a parliamentary system of government to avoid among others the excessive cost implications of the Presidential System.
(8) There shall be a Union Supreme Court side by side with the Supreme Courts of the Federating units with the latter organised to reflect the peculiarities of the respective Federating units.
(9) The political system shall make provisions for multi-party system and Independent Candidacy.
(10) The Federating Electoral bodies are to conduct all elections within their Units. The Union Electoral body therefore should collate results for Union elections from the results obtained from the Federating Electoral Bodies.
(11) All election petition matters to be concluded before the swearing-in of elected officers from a particular election.
(12) Federating Units shall contribute troops to the Union Army organised in line with the new federal structure.
(13) There shall be Union police and Federating unit police with the Union police having powers over trans-border crimes only. The Federating Units police shall handle internal security within their units.
(14) Ethnic Nationalities to own and control their resources and pay appropriate taxes to the Union Government.
(15) Nigeria being a secular state should not promote any religion as, for example, the sponsoring of pilgrims to holy lands.
(16) Decisions at the House of States i.e. the Union Legislature to be by majority of Ethnic Nationalities.
(17) There should be compulsory military training/service for all Nigerians between the ages of 21 and 30 years.
(18) Laws to check and control environmental pollution such as oil spillage, gas flaring sand and rock excavation etc to be enforced in the states.
(19) In the interim a Marshal Plan to facilitate the rapid transformation of the Niger Delta be initiated and implemented without any further delay by the Federal Government as a public show of good faith.
Our position also outlines the responsibilities of tiers of governments and with respect to Union Government and their functions include:
b. Foreign affairs
d. Currency, coinage and legal tender
g. Banking, bills of exchange and promissory notes
h. Aviation policy and regulations
i. Formulation and regulation of standards in tertiary Educational Institutions
j. Nuclear energy
We listed the following 19 Obnoxious Laws that should be repealed.
(2) Oil Terminal Act
(3) Associated Gas Re-injection Act 1978
(4) Exclusive Economic Zone Act 1978
(5) Territorial Waters Act (Cap 116) 1990
(6) National Inland Waterways Authority Act 13, 1993
(7) Offshore Oil Revenue 1971
(8) Petroleum Act 1999
(9) Land Use Act 1978
(10) Oil Pipeline and Lands (Title Vesting etc) Act 2, 1993
(11) Land (Title Vesting etc) Act CAP 17 LFN 2004
(12) Minerals and Mining Act CAP M13 LFN 2004
(13) Exclusive Economic Zone Act CAP E17 2004
(14) Territorial Waters Act CAP TS LFN 2004
(15) Oil Pipelines Act CAP 07 LFN 2004
(16) Associated Gas Re-injection Act CAP A2 LFN 2004
(17) National Inland Water Ways Authority Act CAP N4 LFN 2004
(18) Section 44 (3) of the Constitution Act CAP 123 LFN 2004
(19) Oil Terminal Dues Act CAP 08 LFN 2004
We need to add however that before a National Conference can be convened and a new Constitution brought into being, the Federal Government should complete all ongoing projects including the East-West Road. The increase of Revenue Allocation from 13% to 50% if government is sincere can also be accomplished by the Revenue Mobilization and Fiscal Commission. The repeal of the 19 obnoxious laws do not also require constitutional amendment. The Electoral Laws should immediately be amended by National Assembly so that this would provide for free, fair and credible elections.