Niger Deltans demand law protecting their right to political autonomy
Ethnic nationalities in the Niger Delta, led by Niger Delta Congress (NDC), have adopted a charter demanding that the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999) be amended to protect the right of the people of the Niger Delta region to economic and political autonomy.
In the charter adopted by representatives drawn from Edo, Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Cross River states, Niger Deltans also warned that failure to amend the constitution to capture these rights in the shortest possible time would leave Niger Delta people with no option but to exercise their rights to self-determination, independent of the Nigerian federation.
THEWILL learned that a motion for the adoption of the charter was moved by the NDC chairman, Delta state chapter, Comr. Destiny Noritsegho, and seconded by the representative of Ibibio ethnic nationality, Chief Ubong Akpana, at Ijaw House Complex, Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, during a conference convened by NDC.
The five-point declaration in the NDC charter states that the people of the region have the right to defend their land against violent attacks, using whatever means deemed necessary to protect their rights to land, water and other resources, right to political and economic autonomy, right to clean and conducive environment and right to justice.
Parts of the declaration read” “That all land, resources (underneath and on it) in the Niger Delta belong to and shall be controlled, managed and protected by the peoples of the Niger Delta for our benefit. By this, we mean complete land and resource control.
“That the political and economic affairs of the Niger Delta shall be controlled by Niger Delta people for the advancement and development of the Niger Delta.
“That an environmental assessment of the entire Niger Delta region and a corresponding cleanup of the region must be carried out.
“That adequate compensation for the destruction of the Niger Delta environment must be paid by all oil companies that have operated in and are currently operating in the region, in collaboration with the Nigerian government. That reparations of oil revenue deprived the people from 1960 till date must be paid in full.
“The wishes of our people were dismissed by the pre-determined Henry Willink’s Commission set up by the British Colonial Government for the purpose of looking into our fears. The victimization and robbery of the Niger Delta people have been done using various laws and decrees, including constitutions, which have over time been forced on our people, despite protest against such from our people.
“In the process of the forceful exploration of our mineral resources by the Nigerian government in collaboration with foreign governments and oil companies, our environment has been severely degraded and devastated, destroying the economic livelihoods of our people by rendering our lands unfit for Agriculture and harmful for habitation.
“While rendering our rivers largely unfishable and poisonous for consumption where available. In addition, the groundwater reserves of our land has been contaminated with benzene, making it unfit for consumption, putting the lives of millions of our people in the balance between a certain death from dehydration or a certain death from the consumption of hydrocarbon contaminated water.
“As at today, the Niger Delta region has been purposely underdeveloped and the people economically emasculated by legislations and policies of the Nigerian federation, which has limited, or in most cases eliminated the socio-economic and socio-political freedoms of our people, as a means to keep our people perpetually down and completely subjugated.
“Whereas it is only a just society with economic, social and political freedoms that can develop in peace and unity, however, the existing framework of the Nigerian government, has neither been just to the people of the Niger Delta, neither has it provided nor allowed for the exercise of our freedoms as human beings.
“The current administration of the Nigerian Government though said to be democratic, has so far manifested as an ethnic and regional dictatorship, with no regard for the principles of fairness and equity and has shown utter disregard and disrespect for the people of the Niger Delta, who contribute 90% of the resources that fund the budget of the Nigerian Government.
“The rising cases of insurrections, ethnic cleansings and land grabs and insurgencies within the country, puts to question the usefulness of the current security architecture and has shown the failure and inability of the Nigerian government in protecting the lives and properties of the people of the Niger Delta.
“The blunt refusal of the Nigerian Government to heed to several calls for resource control, restructuring and devolution of powers by the region as documented in the various charters and declarations of our people over time, has brought the people of the Niger Delta to a critical point where we have, collectively, decided to take our destinies in our own hands.”
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