ODAHIEKWU OGUNDE, Yenagoa
The people of Ijaw ethnic nationality in Nigeria have said that they shall stop at nothing until self-determination is achieved.
They spoke at the All Ijaw Summit held at Ijaw House, Sani Abacha Road, Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, under the auspices of the Ijaw National Congress (INC).
The summit, which was convoked to undertake self appraisal and evaluation of the existential conditions of the Ijaw ethnic nationality, was chaired by His Royal Majesty, Justice F.F. Tabai (rtd.), former Justice of the Supreme Court and currently the Ebenanaowei of Tuomo Kingdom.
Notable leaders present were the Governor of Bayelsa State, Douye Diri, the Deputy Governor of Bayelsa State, Lawrence Ewhudjakpo,
Chairman, Board of Trustees, INC, Chief Edwin Clark, former Minister of Police Affairs, Broderick Bozimo, many traditional rulers and others.
Reading the communique after the end of the summit, President, INC, Prof. Benjamin Okaba, said the Ijaw nation would continue to engage the Federal Government on its critical challenge as well as the enthronement of a new federal constitution that is without prejudice to their resolve to seek self-determination.
He, however, indicated that the Ijaws would employ all peaceful, diplomatic, non-violent and other tools of civil disobedience to pursue and actualise their right to self-determination as a distinct people of common historical and cultural affinity and geographical contiguity.
He said the Ijaws would no longer depend on the Nigerian state for the protection of their environment, stressing that an autochthonous Ijaw environmental protection strategy would evolve.
Part of the communique read: “That the Ijaws 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 betters 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 nor only hues and cries over marginalisation but ignited several separatists tendencies among some major ethnic nationalities.
“That the duplicitous balkanisation of the Ijaws 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 emphasizes 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 harardous 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.”