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‘Nigeria’s insensitivity to Niger Delta issues responsible for renewed militancy’


Ms. Ann-Kio Briggs. PHOTO: gettyimages

Ms. Ann-Kio Briggs. PHOTO: Getty images

Environmental rights activist and a delegate at the 2014 National Conference, Ms. Ann-Kio Briggs, in this interview with KELVIN EBIRI AND OBIRE ONAKEMU in Port Harcourt, said that unresolved issues of the Niger Delta would continue to give impetus for the emergence of aggrieved militant groups, until the federal government decides to sincerely address the Niger Delta question

Is the renewed militancy necessary at this point?
I am a non-violent agitator for equity and justice for the Niger Delta region. As an advocate of non-violence l can and will only plead for people to lay down their arms and consider the advocacy of non-violence. We the people nor the government can run away from the fact that the Niger Delta people have very heart-breaking issues for too long and that they must be resolved. Ignoring a problem does not make it go away. Only justice gives peace where injustice reigns.

Won’t the development portray the region as being against the present government?
The Niger Delta will always agitate against the injustice we have suffered over the decades. Our forefathers confronted the British Empire, then leaders such as the late Chief Harold Dappa Biriye, played their roles, our fathers did not want to be part of an independent Nigeria, the issues they were worried about turned out to be the same issues we face today. We don’t want our children and grand children to inherit the fight for justice. We need them to inherit victory and justice. That we want justice and equity does not mean we are against any government past, present or future.

Is it not an orchestrated plot to frustrate the Buhari government?
No there is no plan to frustrate Buhari’s government, but there has always been a plan to get equity and justice. All Niger Delta people have ever wanted is to have the right to access our God-given resources to develop at our own pace, live in our clean and serene riverine, marine, mangrove environment.

All we have ever wanted is to be free to practice our chosen religion in peace. We are a peaceful people. We are loving and caring. We have endured too much oppression, abuse and neglect. The question is the other way round, we believe that the Federal Government have always plotted with the oil companies to deny us access to our God-given resources, thereby keeping us perpetually poor with no hope for a tomorrow better than today. We are rather left to accept that Buhari’s APC government made it very clear that they won’t accept another four years of a Niger-Delta president and succeeded in making it happen.

From the militants’ terms for truce, is it not obvious that they are not fighting the real cause of the region?
I have not seen any terms for truce, what l have seen were demands the NDA has made. Those demands are not strange or new in the demands that have been made from the Niger Delta at different times. The only new item is the demand for the unconditional release of Nnamdi Kanu. I consider that call a call for establishing his basic human rights, the gentleman has been held since October 2015. Who has the sole right and authority to determine which Niger Delta man or woman is fighting for the real cause of the Niger Delta people and the region.

Having seen how the Amnesty programmme was handled in the last eight years, would you say it was/not a waste programme?
The Amnesty programme kicked off properly in 2010, though it was offered in 2009, 2010 to 2016 is six years, the Amnesty was not offered as a developmental agency for Niger Delta, it was offered for as many people as were willing to come out of the creeks and lay down their arms.
The Amnesty was offered by President Y’ar Adua when the output of crude oil was around 700,000 bpd a few months after the Amnesty the programme started. The crude oil output rose to the level that the budget and the supplementary budget balanced out. The major beneficiary of the Amnesty programme remained the Federal Government, her partner the International Oil Companies (IOC) and   the   non-Niger Delta oil well owners.

The Federal Government became comfortable, and when the then Vice President became the president after the death of Y’ar Adua in 2010, and elected president in 2011, the Niger Delta agitation was put on hold. I remember in 2012, one year after Jonathan came into office, I talked about the disappointment felt across the Niger Delta, l was cautioned and l believed that they were right that if l called for continued agitation for justice and equity for the Niger Delta under Jonathan, Nigerians would see us as being ungrateful that our son was the president. l wish l had not listened, and maybe it was the right thing to do, but it is wrong for anyone to say that l was silent for the time that Jonathan was President.

The Amnesty provided a peace that was useful only to the point that as long as the Niger Delta was releasing the oil and gas. While we kept the Niger Delta peaceful at all cost then, the power-hungry people kept stoking the fire during Jonathan’s administration with all sorts of manipulations and verbal attacks that made him and his government looked incompetent. Amnesty did not fail, what failed was the Niger Delta people particularly the Ijaw people who did not utilise the six years Jonathan was in power. We truly saw him as a Nigerian President and not a Niger Delta president.

A son of the region was president of the country for six years, where were these militants in their quest for the development of the region?
The youths of Niger Delta, like all other youths of other zones of Nigeria, are always there. We should have carried on our agitation.  We believed that we were doing the right thing for the Federal Government headed by our son, but we rather did the wrong thing for ourselves, but that does not take away our rights to agitate for equity.

President Buhari has ordered for a crackdown on them, won’t it be another round of battles in the region?
During the campaign before the 2015 Presidential elections, l watched the Presidential candidate at that time saying that he is a reformed democrat. He had previously been defeated in three presidential elections, therefore, it is unfortunate that President Buhari will choose to take positions and use sentences that are threatening, and most undemocratic as a democratic president.

He does have a military background but he is not a military President. He may have retired military people around him but he is a civilian and democratic president and we will not accept that he will behave like an active General. We are not soldiers, we are civilians in a democracy. He may be irritated by the ways of civilians but, as a President, we expect him to behave like a civilian President.

What does the region stand to gain or lose in all these?
We have lost a lot since the amalgamation and 1960, our environment has been destroyed, in more than 50 years our resources have been carted out of the region, taken to Abuja and shared amongst 36 states out of which 27 states bring nothing. We have been arm-twisted out of Nigerian government by force and threat.

We are pushed aside as 2nd class citizens in a nation we are 100 per cent citizens. We are denied political and economic participation.
We have to gain back our rights to our resources, our rights to determine who will govern us, and our speed of development. We will not beg to be Niger Delta people because we are already Niger Delta people.

In what ways can maximum peace be entrenched in the Niger –Delta region?
Dialogue, equity and justice, we have never changed our demands. We believe in fiscal federalism, resource ownership, a new constitution written by the people and for the people. It is fair for each state to generate their own funds either through their natural resources or through attracting investment and industrialization to their States if they don’t have natural resources.

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  • Amukoko

    About time someone called a spade a spade!

  • Babalakin

    It is a good junction to solve the militancy problem once and for all. each month from the whole of the nation’s income, 13% goes to the niger delta area, yet you say the country is not sensitive to the area. now all the pipeline are been blown up and next we will cry oil pollution? i think the niger detla people are proud that their children are militants because the militancy monies goes round, else the problem is solveable. its unfortunate for our nation

    • onyema22ohaka

      If this oil that has fed project Nigeria since 1970 at least is located in yorubaland or the north ,do you think there will be one Nigeria today &only 13%.
      Be honest & dispassionate?
      Have you been to anywhere in the Niger delta where this oil is extracted & you think 13% is enough?
      Be honest?

      • Babalakin

        i actually do not reply responses, but please look at this figures – Giving a breakdown, they disclosed that from January to December 2012, Akwa Ibom collected a total of N193.69 billion, Rivers got N165. 33 billion, while Bayelsa got N133.77 billion as 13 percent allocation.
        the figures speaks for themself, or should i explain further? with this every year these states should be like paradise. but i hope you know that Bayelsa cannot pay salaries, despite the 13% and monthly allocation. its the nigerian people i blame that have not found a way to hold their leaders accountable and those that connive with the leaders too.
        I have been all over nigeria spending a minimum of 3 years in each side of the country, so i know better.
        i do not exonerate the center for their short coming. but as i said, the figures speaks for them selves.
        let me tell you my take on the niger delta and nigeria project issue. put a cost on all the assets that generates money for us as a nation, sell it and distribute the proceeds to all the states, then each state should generate their revenues and send to the center each month. then all the problems (boko haram, niger delta, the reckless borrowing of funds etc) will go (to simplify it). but am not a politician and that is not my carrier path.
        but even the present arrangement will work if we have good leaders and educated followers

        • igboham

          Why is Nigeria taking even a dollar from them – when they had clearly stated to the colonialists and even before oil was discovered their unwillingness to be part of Nigeria?

    • simssoon

      yes it’s solvable if there be a useful seaport in warri,Akwa ibom and rivers and not only lagos,build bayelsa like lagos and abuja,Direct international flights to other parts of the nation and not only lagos,Abuja and kano,share the oil blocks accordingly,recruilt police,Army and others normally or according to states.Give jobs in the whole federal parastetals according to states you look at all this and tell me if they are wrong in their agitation even the igbo people and their Biafra tell me if they are wrong.They own 90% on the total goods in Apapa but have to transport them to Onotsha from lagos.Petrol tanker fire by day because they come from lagos to other part of the country instead of using other port,so let the whole pipe be blown up and let people come to their sences.

  • larr

    Ann-kio brilliant, brilliant! This is our daughter, articulate. We are fighting occupation and injustice. We will win!

  • Marcus Ijele

    God bless this woman. Wise and virtous. Let the burning issue be adressed.

  • Alhassan Abu Ghulaam

    This woman is not being sincere. I keep on saying this the Deltans are there own enemies.

    • UYI111

      Why dont you shut ur trap ! U can never know the Niger problem nor solutions more than the Niger deltans themselves she spoke the ND minds and sincerely too!

  • Airunukhoin

    Did I hear Ms. Briggs called the militants civilians? The bastards just killed seven soldiers in Bayelsa. They keep blowing up pipelines of oil and gas in military style. PMB doesn’t have to be a soldier or General to stop the madness. Ms. Briggs, it’s easy to blame others for your problems. What roles have your fathers and past and present leaders played in selling out the region? The problem of the region is and has always been encouraged by N/D leaders. Let me ask the pretty lady this; each time the fools, your children, born throway blow up oil pipe, where does the oil flow back to? It doesn’t go up north. When the fools blow up gas pipeline, where does the gas go? I think people like Ann should stop deceiving their people. You reside in Lagos or Abuja or Europe. You don’t farm or drink water from there. Most of your leaders collected money from oil companies or beg these companies to send your children abroad. If you guys were calm during GEJ and he did nothing for the region in six years, how do you think PMB can turn the tide around in just 11 months? What do you people want? There is13% derivation, there’s a whole ministry for N/D, and there’s amnesty program. If that region has not improved with all these largess, it’ll never. Nobi curse. Have they ever thought that if the revenue coming to the federation is low due to their stupidity, it will equally affect them? PMB will use all the constitutional means to deal ruthlessly with the crackheads.and nothing will happen. And by the way, am also from N/D but I hate their actions.

  • Curseless

    I’m a believer that the people in the Niger Delta deserve more but the question is where has the colossal money that have gone to that area over the last 10 years gone. We understand that Tompolo and other militants leaders have settled themselves and the people managing the NDDC have cashed in big time. If anything at all the accountability have to start from that area, to see why the average Nigerian in that region are still worse off.

  • Chiedu7

    Please I am not from the Niger Delta , so I am neutral.

    How can 90% of Nigeria oil if not more be found in the Niger Delta but the headquaters for NNPC & co be in Abuja & Lagos?

    How come the Niger Delta people are in poverty, while those from the North own the oil block?

  • Allan Udo