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Niger-Delta: The Sacrifices Made by Ijaw Youths

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The Ijaws are not troublesome people, they only resist oppression and intimidation and this piece provides a skeletal background of various emancipation attempts by Ijaw Youths from Isaac Boro to Asari Dokubo and Tompolo

The struggle for the emancipation of the Niger Delta people began with the declaration of Niger Delta Republic on February 23, 1966, by Major Isaac Adaka Boro in a revolution that lasted 12 days with volunteers of the Niger Delta People’s Volunteer Force (NDPVF) to wage guerrilla war against the Nigerian government.

The spirit of the struggle for the emancipation of the people of Niger Delta continued with the Kaiama Declaration. The Kaiama Declaration was issued by the Ijaw Youth Council of Nigeria on 11 December 1998 to attribute the political crisis in Nigeria to the struggle for the control of oil mineral resources and the need for resources control and fiscal federalism and seek and end to environmental degradation.

The inability or reluctance of the Nigerian State ( the federal government ) to address the issues raised by the Ijaw Youth Council in the Kaiama Declaration, gave rise to armed conflicts in the region which lasted several years resulting in loss of revenue to the government as well as hostilities which affected several other businesses operating in the region.

Asari Dokubo was president of the Ijaw Youth Council in 2001 and later founded the Niger Delta People’s Volunteer Force which was one of the most prominent groups in the Niger Delta region demanding for resource control at that time. He was arrested by President Obasanjo and kept in detention for several months which resulted in increased hostilities in the region before he was released.

Government Oweizide Ekpemupolo predominantly referred to as Tompolo was the defunct commander of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta. A group of Ijaw Nationalists who fought for resources control and development of the Niger Delta region arising from several years of deprivation. Although the war was taken to his native country of Okerenkoko by the Federal Government that led to the destruction of the town which was a pattern the government adopted then to intimidate the Ijaw people but that method proved abortive as it didn’t quell armed conflict in several parts of the region.

One key factor in all of these, is the perception of other Ethnic groups within the Niger Delta region who see the Ijaws as troublesome and violent people because at no time did they show solidarity or identify with the demands made by the Ijaw people who are not only fighting for their rights, but for the overall interest of the region and its people.

Before the declaration of amnesty for freedom fighters by the Yar’ Adua administration, a lot of communities in Ijaw land were invaded by the military, burning houses, killing our youths, raping our women and destroying our ancestral homes in a bid to ensure smooth operation of oil companies in the region, because that’s what the government is more interested in rather than addressing the challenges of the Niger Delta people which gave rise to armed conflict in the region.

Forward to the current challenge facing the NDDC board which is key to the development of the region. Ordinarily, it is funny and laughable to hear people say until the forensic audit of the NDDC is concluded, the President should not inaugurate a substantive board as provided for by law.

Running the NDDC with a sole administrator in itself is an offence as it is against the provision of the NDDC act which provides for a board and governing council in a bid to provide proper representation of oil producing states and make it more efficient and accountable.

Yesterday, the 90 day ultimatum given by the Ijaw Youth Council expired and the Niger Delta region witnessed a bit of disruption in its activities especially in certain oil producing communities, NDDC state offices and the East West road, signalling the beginning of another round of agitations.

Like the amnesty programme which primarily was championed by the Ijaws and when the benefits came, other ethnic groups began to agitate for inclusion in a process they never participated in and even clamouring to head the amnesty office.

Now that the Ijaw Youth Council has led the struggle for the inauguration of the board of the NDDC, other ethnic Youth bodies in the region are quiet but will start to agitate when the Ijaws are given what rightfully belong to them.

This is a wakeup call for all Ethnic youth groups in the region to move to the NDDC Headquarters in Port Harcourt and shut down operations of the board because it is the board that is our primary focus and not oil companies who have lived up to their side of the bargain or travellers on the East-West road.

In concluding, it is important to state once more, the position of former Bayelsa Governor, Late DSP Alamieyeseigha, that we have entered the intellectual stage of militancy and those who believe in the struggle and emancipation of the Niger Delta people should contribute their quota by writing and speaking in support of resource control and devolution of power as the way forward in Nigeria.

Anslem Etolor a concerned Ijaw youth
writes from Asaba

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Daily Report Nigeria

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