At Niger Delta Conference, leaders seek restructuring of Nigeria
Leaders and traditional rulers from the six Coastal states of the Niger Delta met for several hours in Warri yesterday to discuss the current neglect, insecurity and destruction of vital national assets and economy in the region.
The various leaders and speakers including Chief Edwin Kiagbodo Clark, Chief Alowei Bozimo, Prof. Lucky Akaruese, Prof G. G. Darah, Tony Uranta, Japhet Ogbueri, Rear Admiral I. W. Yanga, Chief Victor Otomewon, amongst others from Delta, Akwa Ibom, Edo, Rivers and Bayelsa states, were unanimous that Nigeria needed to be restructured and that the region needed urgent intervention from federal government to halt the inimical destruction of critical oil infrastructure in the region by militants.
Clark in his opening remark said the meeting was convened to seek and proffer solutions to chart a way forward to bring lasting peace and development to the Niger Delta region, noting that in the past few months the Niger Delta had once more been visited by a spiral of bombings and acts of disruption of oil and gas infrastructure reminiscent of the 2005 to 2006 era.
While advocating for restructuring of Nigeria, he said: “We must find a permanent solution to the various problems we are facing in this country including the youth revolt in the Niger Delta, Fulani herdsmen, Boko Haram, Biafra agitation, kidnapping and recently the inability of the various states to pay their workers.
“We have no other homeland than the Niger Delta. We are here to appeal to the youths to embrace dialogue and declare reasonable period of cessation of hostilities while awaiting government’s reaction.
“My strong belief is that only a genuine restructuring of the political administration of the country will remove most of these problems in the country.
“With such, the issues that led some of us to take up arms will be removed. I posit that the answers to many, if not all, of these issues are contained in the Reports of the 2014 National Conference.
“I salute well-meaning persons who have supported the call for restructuring the country. Among these are former Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon, who fought an intensive war to keep this country together. I also salute the first civilian Vice President, Dr. Alex Ekwueme, and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, who have also made strong calls for restructuring. The Southern Nigeria Peoples Assembly, the South West, South East, South South and other well meaning groups and associations, have made the same patriotic calls.
“I strongly wish to allay the fears of those who feel that restructuring will break the country. No! Rather, I have the conviction that it will strengthen the country more and unite us.”
Darah, who also spoke at the stakeholders meeting said the present Nigerian structure is no longer tenable as the federal government “has conquered all the states.”
According to him how Nigeria would be restructured had already been articulated in the National Confab document, urging the Muhammadu Buhari government to implement the Confab report.
He said more states should be created, that there should be true fiscal federalism and economic equity.
Delta State Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, who also spoke at the conference, warned that the destruction of oil facilities by militants portends economic danger to the region.
He advocated the relocation of head offices of oil companies to their areas of operation and expressed worry that Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) was deliberately being delayed.
Okowa equally solicited that aggrieved parties settle issues through dialogue instead of hostilities.
The traditional rulers specifically tasked the conveners of the meeting to bring all the agitating militants under one roof to seek dialogue with the federal government.
The Akwa Ibom representative, who spoke under the aegis of the Bakassi Union, caused a stir when he expressed sadness that despite a court order, the federal government ceded Bakassi to Cameroun, creating a series of problems for the people.