The Director, Institute for Niger Delta Studies (INDS) of the Niger Delta University, Prof. Ambily Etekpe, has said former President of Nigeria, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, made a grave mistake when he included Imo, Abia and the Ondo States as member states when he created the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
Prof. Etekpe explained further that it is an unarguable fact that Imo, Abia and Ondo States are crude oil-producing states but that they do not fall into the geographic region referred to as Niger Delta, and therefore, should not be benefiting from funds specifically earmarked for the development of the region.
Etekpe stated this while presenting a paper entitled “Towards good governance: rethinking the Ijaw Nation’s agenda in the past in Nigeria” during a one day Intra media workshop organized by the Oloibiri Youngstars Foundation in partnership with the Environmental Rights Action (ERA), in Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State Capital.
He averred that if the intention of the Obasanjo led administration was to create an Oil Producing States Development Commission, Imo, Abia and Ondo States would have been legitimate members but that since the commission was established with the aim to provide extra funds for the development of the Niger Delta as a result of its peculiar and difficult terrain, capturing the three states in the NDDC was a misplaced priority.
He further urged the umbrella bodies of the Ijaw ethnic nationality, Ijaw National Congress (INC) and Ijaw Youth Congress (IYC) to look beyond the struggle for resource control for wealth generation and seek political restructuring for the people of the Niger Delta region in order to engender sustainable growth and development.
He said “There is a generic term when you talk about a Delta region. And from my research, there are about ten Deltas across the world, with three in Africa. They are the Nile Delta in Egypt, Okavango Delta in Botswana and the Niger Delta in Nigeria. And out of the ten Delta regions across the world, the Pearl Delta in China does not produce oil but it has similar environmental features and challenges like the Niger Delta.
“So, Obasanjo while creating the NDDC, equated the Delta as an oil-producing area and this is wrong. I say so because Saudi Arabia for example produces oil but is not a Delta. So if you are creating a commission to cater for the special needs of a people in the Delta, why add states that do not have the features of a Delta? We need to distinguish these facts when we are talking about how we sincerely want to develop an area and the people that inhabit it.”
Speaking on behalf of the organizers, Mr Bright Igrubia, said the gathering was strategically planned to Ijaw leaders of thought together to dialogue and highlight some of the contemporary issues facing the people of the Niger Delta and engage the media on how better to report them.
He said “we, as a foundation, felt it is a matter of responsibility for us to retrospect the past and prospect what the future holds for the Ijaw Nation and engage the media to help us highlight some of the challenges bedevilling us as a people. We see this as a lacuna that needs to be addressed so that the struggle of the Ijaws can be adequately promoted.
Also presenting a paper entitled “The environmental perspective to the contemporary Ijaw struggle”, the Project Officer of the ERA Niger Delta Resource Center, Comrade Alagoa Morris, advocated for the establishment of a Niger Delta Environment Forensic Investigation Center, saying it would aide in bringing perpetrators of crude oil spills to justice.
He said “one of the main reasons for the absence of genuine peace and development in the Niger Delta is the absence of Environmental Justice. We lack a system that could bring oil companies and their partners that play double standards each time there is a case crude oil spill in the Niger Delta region.
“Every day, our people witness what prefer to call environmental terrorism perpetrated by oil and gas companies with protection from our government. In many cases, oil companies refuse to admit that the spill is caused by equipment failure even when it is clear because we don’t have the technology to prove them wrong, thereby leaving many Communities to suffer without proper cleanup and compensation.”