*Advocates Devolution Of Power
Bayelsa State Governor, Senator Douye Diri, has charged the Ijaw nation leaders to relentlessly speak out on issues of injustice and under-development confronting the ethnic nationality until they are addressed.
Senator Diri stated this on Saturday at the All Ijaw Summit with the theme, “The Nigerian State and the Ijaw Question” in Yenagoa, the state capital.
The summit was organised by the Ijaw National Congress (INC).
While commending the INC leadership for convening the summit, the governor maintained that the Ijaw people would continue to oppose the the three per cent allotted to the host communities in the Petroleum Industry Act until justice is done.
In a press release issued by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Daniel Alabrah, the governor said: “The Niger Delta people view the 13 per cent derivation from the prism of 87 per cent deprivation.
“The three per cent allotted to oil producing communities in the PIA is very paltry and we will continue to oppose it until it is addressed.”
He also said that the country for too long has operated a unitary system of government instead of true federalism and called for devolution of powers from the centre to the states.
Where power is properly devolved, the governor advocated that the federal government would be responsible for currency, foreign policy and national security.
He urged the summit to interrogate issues of constitution amendment, particularly state police, additional local governments for Bayelsa and more states for the Ijaw nation.
The state’s helmsman urged the summit to also deliberate on matters of oil and gas exploitation in the Niger Delta and the inherent dangers to the people and environment in view of the ongoing oil spillage from the Aiteo Eastern Exploration and Production Company Limited’s facility in Nembe.
“I strongly believe that this summit should indicate clearly our stand with our people who are in imminent peril of extinction and impose stringent ethical responsibilities on oil exploration companies on our land.”
Reacting to Arewa youths that opposed his comments on the Nembe oil spill, Senator Diri stressed that he had never played politics with the health and development of his people and did not need to be a petroleum engineer to defend his people.
“I have never played politics with the health and development of our people and if the Arewa youths think that what I said is to over-politicise the situation in Nembe, then I want to believe that they are the most ignorant people on what is happening in the Niger Delta.”
In his remarks, chairman of the occasion, former Justice of the Supreme Court and Pere of Tuomo Kingdom in Delta State, Francis Tabai, said it was paradoxical that while the Niger Delta people produced the wealth of the nation for over 60 years, they remain the poorest.
The retired jurist noted that the Niger Delta people who occupy the most difficult coastal areas deserve special attention as they have been responsible for the economic survival of the country.
Also, Chairman, Board of Trustees of the INC, Chief Edwin Clark, represented by Amb. Godknows Igali, said the Ijaws have been unfairly treated and called on the ethnic group’s leaders, particularly National Assembly members and other elected officials, to speak out on the injustices meted out to the Ijaw nation.
“We are the goose that lays the golden egg but we receive the other end of the stick. We will continue to shout about the injustice meted out to our people. We have been unfairly treated,” he said.
In his address, the INC President, Prof. Benjamin Okaba, said the essence of the summit was to evoke a common understanding and build a concensus on the the way forward for the Ijaw people.
Prof Okaba, who highlighted a number of challenges confronting the people, noted that with the support of patriotic Ijaw leaders the Congress would continue to employ the tools of dialogue and persuasion, which are non-violent advocacy.