By Chiemeka Green
Barr. Dortimi Kester Tawari Speaks at the Summit
The 2021 Forum for Ethnic Nationalities of Niger Delta (FENND) was indeed a convergence of intellectuals, activists, traditional rulers, political leaders, captains of industries and stakeholders in the struggle for the emancipation of the Niger Delta region coming together to deliberate on the injustice melted on the oil producing communities by the federal government and the multinational oil companies operating in the region.
The summit which featured panel discussions and syndicate sessions also availed the leaders of the various ethnic nationalities in the region the opportunity to holistically look at the Petroleum Industrial Bill (PIB) and the proposed 3 percent compensation for host communities recently signed into law by the President, Muhammadu Buhari as well as the Water Resources Bill and its adverse consequences on the people of the Niger Delta.
During the one-day event, many issues were raised by the various speakers and
Prof. Chris Akpotu makes a point during presentation
resource persons which bordered on the identity of the people as a distinct entity described as Niger Delta, security, social justice, resource injustice, marginalization and exploitation, self-determination and self-actualization.
However, the Forum for Ethnic Nationalities of Niger Delta (FENND) is not a substitution for other bodies that have been championing the struggle for emancipation but compliments other existing PAN Niger Delta organizations, the organisers noted.
In his address as the special guest of honour, the President of Ijaw National Congress, Prof. Benjamin Okaba, said the region should be looking forward to having more of such bodies because “our problems are multifarious and must be treated in such manner”.
Prof Benjamin Okaba, President, Ijaw National Congress INC stresses a point at the summit
He said, “The problem of the Niger Delta has always been the Niger Deltans. We are our major problems. We offer ourselves to be used. That is one of the things we must watch against as a people. We must remain firm, we must remain strong. As a people, our greatest resource is our unity. We are stronger when we are together. We have formed a conference of ethnic nationalities of the Niger Delta so that we can deal with such internal issues. So, rising from this occasion, I want to believe that FENND has provided us with the platform to interrogate further the issues of the Niger Delta.
“It is no longer Ijaws are looking for trouble, it is no longer Isokos are looking for trouble, it is because the people of the Niger Delta who have sustained this economy and the survival of this country called Nigeria have said enough is enough.”
Eng. Charles Ambaiowei Speaks at the summit
Re-examining the alliance of the ethnic nationalities of Niger Delta region with the Nigeria state, the President, Isoko Development Union, Prof. Chris Akpotu said that Nigeria is a compelled alliance which was not agreed to by all members that constituted the alliance called Nigeria as at today, saying the alliance has not been working based on trust, honesty and responsibility.
“The level of insecurity is another proven fact that the alliance is not working in tandem with the desired objective. Because the alliance is not working that is why we function with anti-project knowledge in terms of dealing with the issues of the system.
“If the alliance is working, then we will be deeply involved with seeking and milling knowledge that will be able to combat the issues of today. We equally have the challenge within this alliance tribal and ethnic tendency that have assumed what I called a demonic dimension”, he noted.
Participants at the FENND Summit
Commencing the panel discussion, Professor Dauphin. Moro stressed that poverty, corruption, unemployment and environmental degradation were the greatest challenges that have befallen the people of the Niger Delta, adding that the existence of the Niger Delta as a people is threatened.
“We might go into extinction as Ijaw people. Our politicians, the elected representatives both at the Senate and the Reps have jettisoned our common interests. They have turned the struggle to their own personal gains thereby using our resources to even oppress. The problem of the Niger Delta today is about national integrity.
“The essence of this meeting is very germane because this is an opportunity for all ethnic nationalities in the Niger Delta to come together and fight the common enemies and our common enemies are the Nigerian state and the multinational oil companies which have denied us everything that we need to benefit as a people”, he said.
View of speakers and other participants at the summit
According to the former National Secretary South-South Peoples Assembly, High Chief Ayakeme Whisky, the only way forward for FENND to contribute meaningfully in the struggle for self-actualization was to institute a litigation against the British government.
He asked, “Since the 1914 amalgamation, don’t we have a right to seek a review of that amalgamation? As Niger Delta, can we if tomorrow we are on our own, manage our resources for our common good better than what we are experiencing today?
“For me we do, and if FENND is supposed to be meaningful in its contribution towards freeing us from the shackles of oppression then we should think of the option of litigation. Go to the court in England and sue the British government for the court to interpret whether it is right to find somebody in a union without the person’s consent.”
Another view of participants
Comrade Richard Inoyo who represented the Ibibio and Efik nations from Akwa Ibom and Cross River states said it is very clear that the Nigerian State is not committed to the true development of the ND region, saying it is high time Niger Delta start “challenging whatever dysfunctional unity that we have with the Nigerian State”.
“I believe in unity but I don’t believe in dysfunctional unity. As Niger Delta, the deal we with have with the Nigerian State is a bad deal. It’s better for us to have no deal than to have a bad deal. The unity of this country needs to be challenged and that is what we all need to come together and agree on.
He called on the ethnic nationalities in the region to mobilize their people to say the Water Resources Bill will not stand because of several reasons.
“One, there is environmental issue with the bill itself. The FG will start issuing out licenses against even the provisions of the Nigeria constitution that says all lands should be under the purview of the state government.
“That bill itself is an affront to the Nigeria constitution and that is one good reason to reject it outside the fact that when FG takes over the waterways, what does that really imply?. It also implies that our physical planning will be affected. First the law is illegal, it was hastily passed”, Inoyo stated.
At the end of deliberations, a communique was issued with positions taken on setting up legal processes to challenge the usurpation of the Niger delta’s unique identity and co-option into forced union with neighbouring ethnic nationalities, as well as obnoxious laws including the Petroleum Industry Act and the impending take over and abrogation of communal rights of ownership and control of water resources through the Water Resources Bill being promoted by the Federal Government.