ODAHIEKWU OGUNDE, Yenagoa
The Ijaw National Congress (INC) has called on the Federal Government to respect equity, justice and federal character principle as spelt out in the country’s 1999 Constitution as amended.
The President, INC, Prof. Benjamin Okaba stated this when he led officials of the body to formally present a copy of the communique of the just-concluded All Ijaw Summit to the traditional rulers of Ekpetiama and Bomo Kingdoms in Bayelsa State, King Bubaraye Dakolo and King Joshua Igbugburu, respectively.
Speaking during the separate visits to the palaces of the two first-class monarchs, Okaba lamented that 62 years after the 1958 Henry Willinks Minority Commission Report, the Niger Delta had remained more devastated and socio-economically and politically backward despite producing the bulk of the nation’s revenue from oil and gas resources.
He noted that the problems of neglect and environmental injustice meted out to the region, which the hero of Ijaw struggle, late Isaac Boro fought against, had remained largely unaddressed by the Nigerian state.
Okaba noted: “The Nigerian constitution makes provision for equity and federal character. At the summit, we observed that the Nigerian government does not respect these provisions.
“Is it because we are minorities? Sixty-two years after the Willinks Commission report, our people are poorer, more impoverished and our environment more devastated. All the issues that Isaac Boro fought for, are even more germane than they were.”
He explained that the key mandate of the resolutions of the summit convoked in Yenagoa by the INC with the theme, ‘The Nigerian State and the Ijaw Question”, was self-determination for the Ijaw people through diplomatic and non-violent methods.
He added: “The right to self-determination is a right that is guaranteed by international protocols, conventions and laws.
“The Ijaw nation gathered on December 4 and weighed several strategies and options and settled for non-violent and diplomatic approaches to self-determination. The Ijaw nation said it was time for self-determination, but we shall not lose any blood.”
Okaba urged the Ijaw traditional rulers to mobilise their subjects for the emancipation movement that would commence soon.
He stressed that “we shall go through peaceful means, not engage in warfare and will stop at nothing to achieve self-determination.”
In their separate remarks, Dakolo and Igbugburu endorsed the new tactics adopted by the INC for the next phase of Ijaw struggle.
They commended the INC for hosting a successful summit to galvanize the people into action.
They also called for unity and love among Ijaw people in order to rescue the Ijaw nation from ‘prison’, saying that “the time to fight for our right has come.”