By Constance Meju
As anger continues to boil over a clandestine move by the federal government to dispossess an already over-deprived region of its remaining natural resources, legislators representing Federal constituencies in states of the Niger Delta, have been ordered to sit up and begin to resoundingly protest issues against the interest of their people.
This much was part of decisions reached at a 100 participant virtual conference convened by the Ijaw Nation Group, INDG on Sunday August 20,2020. Key speakers including Prof Benjamin Okaba, who was Guest Lecturer, Comrade Joseph Evah and Ibiba DonPedro, discussant, decried the silence of Ijaw and Niger Delta representatives in the National Assembly in the face of obnoxious laws being passed there against the interest of the very people they were elected to serve.
The conference described the Water Resources Bill smuggled back into the House of Representatives after being thrown out in 2016, as a return of the also rejected Rural Grazing Area, RUGA policy, an attempt by the federal government to forcefully create settlements for cattle herdsmen around the country.
Prof Okaba said the bill seeks to give unchallengeable power to the presidency to control management of water resources and allow people from within and outside the country to come into community water and land without the consent of traditional communities, describing it as a suspicious law.
Pointing out that if allowed to scale through the NASS, the bill which he termed an ‘incursion’, will be seriously resisted by communities, he said the bill sponsors are enemies of the country.
“This incursion will be resisted by the locals to the last. We, aborigines will not sit down to watch them take over our waters. The Bill sponsors are real enemies of the Nigerian system for re-presenting it.”
Comrade Joseph Evah called on the conference to take the outcome of the meeting as the Ijaw Ethnic position to the national legislators to push onto the Assembly and demand a rejection of the bill or stage a walkout as the people should not accept any refusal of their demand.
“This conference is timely considering that the Governors Forum told us they are planning to meet and take a decision. Take the outcome of this conference to them and present our position.
“We are going to put pressure on our National Assembly members that if our position is not accepted, they should walkout. If they say No, Nigeria will break. Nobody is going to ignore us anymore from Aso Rock. Our elders walked out of Obasanjo’s Constitutional Conference and the conference collapsed.
“We should not allow anybody to disgrace us before our children. What manner of representatives in the National Assembly do we have?”
The respected Ijaw activist said if the southwest is able to push its insecurity issue, Niger Delta legislators should be able to get the National Assembly to see reason to drop the bill.
‘If Southwest is taking decision on security, we have a decision to handover to our legislators, the world will recognize us.”
Heightening the call for pressure to be mounted on Niger Delta legislators,Ijaw female activist and respected veteran journalist Ibiba DonPedro, expressed concern that the voices of Niger Delta legislators are not booming in the National Assembly.
“I am shocked the voices of our members in the National Assembly are not booming over such a bill instead of the few sound bites that we hear unlike the arrogant Hon. Sada Soli representing Jibia/Kaita Federal Constituency in Katsina sponsor. Where are the counter statements from our representatives against those threatening to take away our rights? Where is the voice of Farah Dagogo, Boma Goodhead, my constituency representatives and my other Ijaw reps?”Ibiba asked.
She said because of the silence of Niger Delta representatives who failed to do the needful after the first bill was thrown out, “We are starting from the back”. According to her, “Sali has challenged us to state clearly what as opponents of the bill we have against it”, so people should speak up.
Ibiba said the bill goes against the grains of federalism which guarantees autonomy of states and local governments as tiers of government.