[OVIE OKPARE – PUNCH] WARRI – Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State; elder statesmen, Chief Edwin Clark; and some prominent leaders including traditional rulers of the Ijaw nation drawn from the seven Niger Delta states, on Saturday, met in Warri, Delta State, over the resurgence of militancy in the region.
At the meeting, which was convened at the instance of Clark and held behind closed doors, the Ijaw leader said in his opening remark that unless Nigeria was restructured, marginalised voices would continue to rise against being treated as “second-class citizens in their own country.”
The emergency meeting convened over the resurgence of militancy in the region was attended by delegates from eight states of the Niger Delta region, including Dickson and the Deputy Governor of Delta State, Mr. Kingsley Otuaro.
While expressing displeasure over the crisis in the Niger Delta, Clark stressed that dialogue was the only possible solution.
He stated that while it was commendable that the Federal Government had agreed to dialogue with the militant groups to halt attacks on oil and gas facilities, it was not clear whom the government was discussing with.
According to the elder statesman, no Ijaw leader has been consulted by the Federal Government on the proposed dialogue towards halting ongoing attacks on oil facilities in the region.
“This country deserves restructuring. Unless this country is restructured, we (Ijaws) will continue to be treated as second-class citizens. We are not second-class citizens. We must fight for our rights but not by destruction of pipelines.
“We (Ijaw) are not presently in the scheme of things in this country. The Ijaw people must be accorded and included in this government. We are part of this country. We believe in the unity of this country.
“We cannot fold our arms when our children, women and people are being attacked and we pretend nothing is happening. The purpose of this meeting today (Sunday) is for us to address the issue,” Clark stated.
He added, “The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation which is the major firm conducting oil exploitation operations was recently constituted but of its nine (board) members, not a single person is of Ijaw ethnic extraction where most oil exploration is done.”
Clark further berated the government’s decision to cancel the controversial Maritime University sited in Okerenkoko in the Warri South West Council Area of Delta State, adding that the governing council had been constituted even before former President Goodluck Jonathan left office.
Prominent Ijaw leaders from Bayelsa, Edo, Rivers, Ondo, Akwa Ibom, Delta and Cross River States, including traditional rulers, were present at the meeting held at Clark’s residence in Warri GRA.
After the Ijaw leader’s opening remark, the meeting went into a closed-door session.
A communiqué signed by Clark and issued at the end of the meeting and read by Pastor Power Ziakede Aginighan, accused the Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government of perceived plans to marginalise Ijaw people.
It said attendees at the meeting urged Ijaw militant groups to cease plans to declare a Niger Delta Republic by Monday this week, noting that its indigenes believed that through restructuring, various crises bedevilling the country could be resolved, including that of the Niger Delta.
The communiqué read, “The elders and leaders of thoughts in the Ijaw nation call for the immediate restructuring of the Nigerian nation along the lines of peaceful federalism. Thus is the panacea for the sustainable development of Nigeria.
“As a demonstration of sincerity of commitment to dialogue, the Federal Government should immediately withdraw the military from all occupied Ijaw communities, particularly Gbaramatu Kingdom. The meeting also calls on the government to immediately release the 10 innocent students of Gbaramatu Kingdom.
“The meeting also passed a vote of confidence in the Chief Boma Obuoforibo-led leadership of the Ijaw National Congress. We condemn the move to scrap the Nigerian Maritime University approved by the preceding FG with temporary site at Kurutie and call for the immediate takeoff of the university.”
Dickson, emerging from the meeting, told journalists that there was no need for another round of war in Ijaw land because the people were still recovering from previous ones.
While commending the Ijaw leaders, which included traditional rulers, the governor said the problem in the region could be amicably resolved through dialogue and consultations with the people.