The Forum for Ethnic Nationalities of Niger Delta (FENND) at the end of our Summit held on Saturday, August 14, 2021 in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, reviewed the situation in the country and discussed issues impacting the Niger Delta people, our present environment and our future prosperity. The summit focused on Unity and Cooperation among member nations; Water and Natural resources; Internal Security; Political options and Pushback.
At the meeting, we emphasized that unity, cooperation and collaboration among all ethnic nations of the Niger Delta on ALL issues of individual ethnic nation as well as collective Niger Delta interests cannot be better fostered at any other time than now.
We discussed the Water Resources Bill and we emphatically upheld that Water is life to all living things including humans. Water Resources of any country is the source of life of her citizens. It is the source of livelihood for the people of the Niger Delta. Water, one of the most valuable resources, has its UPSTREAM (source), MIDSTREAM (storage) and DOWNSTREAM (demand) sectors. In Nigeria, Water resources management is in the Legislative Concurrent List.
The Land Use Act vests powers for the administration of ALL three sectors in the STATES and their AGENCIES with the Federal Government coordinating the administration which shall be to ensure uniformity, cooperation and sharing of data and solutions. This is in sync with global best practice as can be seen in all countries of the world that run FEDERAL SYSYEMS OF GOVERNMENT such as USA, Canada, Australia, Germany, India, Pakistan to mention but a few. In other words, the Federal Government of Nigeria can assist States with SPECIFIC interventions, manpower development, funding and advice based on scientific research or knowledge.
In a related development, we observed that the Water Resources Bill was premised on Decree 101 of 1993 promulgated by the Military regime of General Ibrahim Babangida which abrogated the Federal System of Water Governance -wherein individual States of the Federal Republic of Nigeria had jurisdiction over regulation, management and development of their water resources. This decree transformed into the Water Resources Act of 2004. The Water Resources Bill is thus, a form of retrograde transmogrification into Military dictatorship.
Furthermore, the discussants examined the current situation in States of the Federation where the various States of the Federation have established and (are establishing) their own Water Regulatory Agencies. It therefore shows that the premise of the current Bill viz, Federal Government taking over the duties of the States via the National Water Resources Regulatory Commission is ultra vires. Thus, the Water Resources Bill with major emphasis on a “National Water Resources Regulatory Commission” contravenes the basic tenets of FEDERALISM and the ‘Land Use Act’ already in use. The statutes of the National Commission can easily be misapplied for forcible water and land acquisition. In effect, the Water Resources Bill, in the informed consideration of the discussants, is quasi- RUGA.
Further discussions on the Water Resources Bill have it that 60% (sixty) percent or thereabouts of the demand side of domestic water use in Nigeria is from groundwater. This can best be administered by agencies of the States, Local Government or Communities. The processes for embarking on water projects via another level of Federal bureaucracy which is the “COMMISSION” will be inefficient and will not be viable.
Discussants advised that Niger Delta Nationalities should show greater convergence and resilience to sustain stronger Pushback against inhibitors of true Federalism in Nigeria. Focus should be on the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended, Statutes, Policies and Legislations.
Ethnic Nations of the Niger Delta were charged to compare relevant notes across the globe in the context of Oil and Gas- related pollution and remediation of the environment; drawing lessons from Ogoni Clean -up and to develop strategies on Standardization and Coherence aimed at effecting Niger Delta- wide environmental justice.
Discussions on political options identified the need for Political Interests Networking (PIN) to be invigorated within the Niger Delta. Ethnic Nations must harmoniously leverage on Restructuring, Resource Management, New Constitution, etc as conceived first, by the Niger Delta people and now spreading to other regions, to wit, South East, South West and Middle Belt.
That Attitude traceable to greed, is a cardinal challenge in the politics of the Niger Delta and Nigeria and has perpetually hindered otherwise fructuous political solutions to the challenges of the Niger Delta.
We had robust discussions which hinged on security in the country and the Niger Delta region and that internal security threats are occasioned by both internal and external factors. That invasion of armed herdsmen has significantly added to pre- existing security threats from cult activities, kidnapping for ransom, Piracy in our waterways, environmental insecurity mainly from petroleum pollution and a novel order of noisome incursion of officers of the Nigerian Military into Niger Delta communities. These threats on background prevalent and dramatically dwindling nationwide food security calls for mitigation.
There is also an increased risk of security threat in the Niger Delta stemming from overstretched security forces consequent upon State security agents’ responses to Boko Haram insurgency and banditry. Also identified as a threat, is occasional connivance or collusion by law enforcement agents.
Finally, we keenly noted the criminal balkanization of some Niger Delta nationalities into States in Western and Eastern regional blocks of Nigeria, thus, created a political Niger Delta expression as NDDC which beclouds the true geographic delta of the Country. Whereas maps drawn for pursuits of Self-Determination by Oodua and Biafra unapologetically overlap the true delta.
Rising from the Summit, FENND agreed on the following:
1) That there is no gainsaying that Unity is of essence. Hence, unity and cooperation across all member nations be sustained.
2) That all issues that border on public good affecting all ethnic nations of the Niger Delta jointly and severally, shall be pursued by FENND in a robust and committed manner and at all times; as such, Niger Delta regional interests shall supersede personal interests.
3) That FENND should make committed efforts at establishing physical presence and visibility in all nations of the Niger Delta. Wide publicity shall be pursued and dedicated lobby teams set up across ethnic nations of the Niger Delta, with liaison offices in the Middle Belt, Southwest and Southeast regions for facilitation of relations with Niger Deltans resident in those regions.
4) That injury to one nation should be perceived, conceived, tended, approached, addressed and resolved as injury to all nations of the Niger Delta region. In essence, no ethnic nation of the Niger Delta should be left behind as regards regional and broader national affairs.
5) FENND should conclude processes in liaison with the Conference of Presidents of Ethnic Nations of the Niger Delta (COPEND) for membership of the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) and to effectuate other processes that follow.
6) The Water Resources Bill before the House of Representatives in which many contentious issues abound, is draconian, anti -people, enslaving and should, a fortiori, be rejected forthwith. Rather, it should be replaced with a Bill that respects the Federal System of Governance as was obtainable pre-1993.
7) That FENND should continue to undertake a comprehensive analysis of the bill for sensitization purpose. Armed with analysed data on the Water Resources Bill, FENND should engage representatives of the region including respective State Commissioners of Water Resources (as members of the National Water Council) as well as other regions’ Representatives of Nigeria and demand collective action by way of amendments that will not only reflect that Nigeria is a Federation of 36 States and the FCT but will also reflect the spirit and letters of the Land Use Act as enshrined in the constitution of the FRN.
8) Mass sensitization and education across the Niger Delta region using mass media that shall include but shall not be limited to Social Media campaigns, Press conferences, Local government-based grassroots mobilization and sensitization with focus on the obnoxious Water Resources Bill, social engineering and political re- engineering. Imbibition and adoption of non- violent approach in eliciting consciousness and enlivening adaptive responses to the Niger Delta cause [struggle] among youths and the Niger Delta people, be the way to go.
9) At the core of Pushback in the 1999 Constitution, should be the following sections and Schedules:
S.3 (1) (2) (3) (6); S.4 (6) (7); S.5 (2) (3) (5) (e); S.6 (5) (e) (g) (i); S.7; S.8 (2); S.44 (3); S.162 (2);. S.313 (5) (d) and Parts I and II of the Second Schedule.
10)That, there shall be creation of Niger Delta Council of Consultants and Researchers
(ND- COCR) to coordinate and galvanize a new system order.
11) That environmental justice shall be at the root of FENND pursuits.
12) Constructive engagements with Governors and National Assembly Members of Niger Delta extraction be increasingly explored, going forward.
13) There shall be establishment of an indigenous security outfit across all communities of the Niger Delta with effective networking, communication and coordination for synchrony of actions and share of intelligence with coalescence under an efficient hierarchy of command of a regional security architecture.
14. Rejection of the Petroleum Industry Bill as constituted which did not capture any of the demands put forward by the region.
Long Live the People of Niger Delta.