PRESS RELEASE: FRIDAY JUNE 26,2020
‘One of the swiftest ways of destroying a kingdom is to give preference of one particular tribe over another or show favour to one group of people rather than another. And to draw near those who should be kept away and keep away those who should be drawn near”.
-Sheikh Usman Dan Fodio
Happenings around the country point contrary to claims by the 2020, June 12 Anniversary address of President Muhammadu Buhari, that his government has done well. Though his supporters may be shouting to announce his success, South-South Chiefs, Elders and Opinion Leaders want to state that it is obvious that the five years he has been in office as our president, has not met the expectations and yearnings of our people.
For us in the Niger Delta, these past five years have been years of continuous dislodgment, harassment and depression.
Our sons and daughters in critical national positions have been experiencing gradual dislodgment in the form of outright displacement, redeployment or retirement, while very few new ones are recruited into the federal system.
We watch with dismay as even the wealth from our land is distributed nationwide without due regard to us, under some clumsy national arrangements that favour the north especially, the North West, confirming the president’s inaugural claim that he is more for the 97 percent than the five per cent that did not vote him into power, a finger that points clearly to this region which clearly voted for the opposition candidate in the 2019 presidential election. Projects that should by their nature be domiciled in the Niger Delta region are daily being pushed to Katsina or Lagos.
We are forced to publicly complain because this country was founded on a policy of, “though tribe and tongue may differ, in brotherhood we stand’’. This has become abandoned to the consternation of many groups within the country. South-South Chiefs, Elders and Opinion Leaders want to state that in the five years of Buhari’s government, he has not shown us any brotherhood and as the burden bearer of Nigeria by virtue of our oil and gas, we deserve to be appreciated and courted.
Recent revelations on operations in the country’s oil and gas regulatory body, the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation clearly depict the place accorded Niger Delta in the country. The recently released NNPC top management appointments, insinuations of a purported change of name of the company to the Northern Nigeria Peoples Corporation; a clandestine conversion of the country’s most crucial national asset into a regional entity in gross violation of existing laws that bid us, demand that we call for a halt to this targeted abuse and neglect of the Niger Delta.
Under the mandate of the Federal Character Commission, and in line with the Nigerian Constitution, appointments into federal offices are supposed to reflect all the regions that constitute the union put together by British Amalgamation as Nigeria in 1914. The Buhari government has consistently disregarded this, but more so in the NNPC. The NNPC appointments have skewed all critical decision making positions to the north, leaving only very few positions to the South West and the South-South and none for the South East.Of the 16 newly appointed top NNPC management staff, 11 critical positions went to the North, three the South West and only two insignificant positions came to the South South.
If any region deserves more top cadre positions, it should be the South- South and the plot to turn a national wealth asset into a Northern Nigeria Petroleum Corporation clearly explains the design that threw up an almost all-north leadership of the NNPC. South-South Chiefs, Elders and Opinion Leaders categorically states that the present composition of the leadership of the NNPC and moves to change the Corporation into a northern entity is abhorrent, criminal and must be halted.
We demand the revocation of the NNPC management structure and re-arrangement to reflect Nigeria as well as the revocation of the Northern Nigeria Petroleum Corporation. If a change is needed, it is only proper that it should read, the NIGER DELTA PETROLEUM CORPORATION, the uncontested basin from which the trillions of dollars from oil and gas, that have fed the country, is drawn. It is shameful to imagine that President Buhari would assent to any group thinking of taking over what the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has declared a national property.
It is even mind boggling and criminal to know as recently revealed on the floor of the Senate by Senator Ita Enang that 83 per cent of oil blocs allotted individuals in the country, are in the hands of this same Northerners while only an insignificant number of Niger Deltans have access to marginal oil blocs. Some emirs have even more than one bloc while our people are skimmed out. South South Chiefs, Elders and Opinion Leaders say no to this awkward arrangement and demand the cancellation and redistribution of marginal fields to reflect federal character.
In like manner, we call on the National Assembly to speedily approve the minimal 10 per cent Community Fund recommended in the Host Community Petroleum Bill, and pass the bill as a sign that they recognize and respect the huge danger Niger Delta communities encounter to make Nigeria reap trillions from oil and gas operations in the region.
We also want to place on record the unwholesome invasion of the region by youths identified as Northerners sneaking in under the guise of food haulage even during a nation-wide state-lock-down. This is coming even as our communities are being vandalized by supposedly cattle herdsmen, busy destroying our farms, killing our people and raping our women and girls. Notable sons of the land including kings, successful business men and even school children have fallen victims of these unwholesome evil acts of the Fulani herdsmen to the bewilderment of our governors.
Thankfully, this insecurity is now national as the north, even the president’s home, Katsina State, are all now acknowledging the danger of the heinous crimes of the herders and bandits who parade boldly, AK47 rifles unquestioned or checked by security agents who would destroy Niger Delta communities in seconds over oil bunkering.
With the Nigerian security leadership solely in the hands of Northern Muslims, we join forces with other Nigerians and the Northern leadership in calling for a complete overhaul of the security leadership structure as well as the return of South-South police commissioners posted to the north to help restore our faith in the ability of the police to protect the region from any aggression. We demand the attention we deserve as an area key to the survival of Nigeria and not one open to the whims and caprices of any group.
We call on other Nigerians to lend their voice to the critical issues raised and challenge our representatives in government especially, our legislators and ministers to think Niger Delta before self to ensure nothing stops us from what should be ours. Nigeria belongs to all of us and Niger Delta has paid and is making huge sacrifices to keep Nigeria going.
HRH Obong Dr. Essien Udo, Ekidem, Ntisong Ibibio111, Grand Patron, South South Chiefs Elders and Opinion Leaders
High Chief Omubo Atuboinoma Harry, JP, National Chairman
Chief Constance Meju, National Publicity Director
#Keep Safe, Kick Out COVID-19.
*Release was read on behalf of the association by the national chairman, High Chief Omubo A.Harry JP
Venue was the Nigeria Bar Association Mini-Hall, Port Harcourt.