An All Ijaw Summit ended at the weekend in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State with a resolution that the Ijaw ethnic nationality will continue to seek self-determination.
The summit was convoked by the Ijaw National Congress (INC) to undertake self-appraisal and evaluation of the conditions of the Ijaw in present-day Nigeria.
It event which was chaired by Justice F.F. Tabai (rtd.), the Ebenanaowei of Tuomo Kingdom, was attended by prominent Ijaw sons and daughters, including Governor Duoye Diri, who advocated devolution of power.
Reading a communique after the close of the summit, INC President, Prof. Benjamin Okaba, said the Ijaw would not relent in engaging the Federal Government on the need for a constitution that is without prejudice to their resolve for self-determination.
Okaba , however, indicated that the people would employ all peaceful, diplomatic, non-violent, and other tools of civil disobedience to pursue and actualise their right to self-determination.
He said the Ijaw would no longer depend on the Nigerian state for the protection of their environment, disclosing that an autochthonous Ijaw environmental protection strategy would evolve.
Part of the communique reads: “That the Ijaw occupy the most difficult coastal areas of the country that is blessed with resources to feed the Nigerian nation but remains ‘backward and poor’ 62 years after the Henry Wilkins report so describe it. We are not only poorer but beggars of what rightly and naturally belongs to us.
“That the government of the federation has poorly and unsatisfactorily managed the inherent ethnic diversities resulting in not only hues and cries over marginalisation but ignited several separatist tendencies among some major ethnic nationalities.
“That the duplicitous balkanisation of the Ijaw has led to our cultural identity problems as our language is lost to the predatory effects of acculturation and assimilation.
“That the Nigerian federation has been an aberration as it does not conform to all known precepts of federalism which emphasises the division of powers between the central government and the constituent units on a coordinate and independent basis.
“That the only visible reward to the Ijaw nation for feeding and sustaining an ungrateful Nigerian hegemonic class have been consistent degradation, despoliation, and destruction of our environment, fauna, and flora, with no remediation strategy.
“We live with the hazardous effects of gas flaring and the now pervasive challenge of soot, suffering unmitigated health hazards which have continued to send our people to early death.
“That the Ijaw ethnic nationality can no longer bear the grave injustices, impunity, fragrant nepotism, marginalisation, neglect, oppression, and enslavement by the Nigerian state.
“That the right to self-determination, access, and control of our resources is not only inalienable but backed by several international laws.”
Governor Diri charged Ijaw leaders to relentlessly speak out on issues of injustice and under-development confronting them until they were addressed.
Speaking on the theme, ‘The Nigerian State and the Ijaw Question,’ Diri commended the INC leadership for convening the summit.
He said that the Ijaw would continue to oppose the three percent allotted to the host communities in the Petroleum Industry Act until justice was done.
His words: “The Niger Delta people view the 13 percent derivation from the prism of 87 percent deprivation.
“The three percent allotted to oil-producing communities in the PIA is very paltry and we will continue to oppose it until it is addressed.”
He also said that the country for too long had operated a unitary system of government instead of true federalism and called for devolution of powers from the centre to the states.
The governor urged the summit to interrogate issues of constitution amendment, particularly state police, additional local government areas for Bayelsa, and more states for the Ijaw nation.
He advised the summit to also deliberate on matters of oil and gas exploitation in the Niger Delta and the inherent dangers to the people and their environment.
On Arewa youths that opposed his comments on the Nembe oil spill, Diri stressed that he had never played politics with the health and development of his people.
He said: “If the Arewa youths think that what I said is to over-politicise the situation in Nembe, then I want to believe that they are the most ignorant people on what is happening in the Niger Delta.”
Tabai, a former Justice of the Supreme Court and Pere of Tuomo Kingdom in Delta State, said it was paradoxical that while the Niger Delta people have for over 60 years produced the wealth of the nation, they remain the poorest.
Also, Chairman, Board of Trustees of the INC, Chief Edwin Clark, called on the National Assembly members of Ijaw extraction and other Ijaw leaders, to always speak out on the injustices meted out to the Ijaw nation.
Clark was represented by Amb. Godknows Igali at the summit that also had Bayelsa State Deputy Governor Lawrence Ewhudjakpo; a former Minister of Police Affairs, Broderick Bozimo, and many traditional rulers in attendance.