The Ijaw National Congress (INC) has indicated its willingness to stop militancy and ensure peace in the Niger Delta if the Federal Government is ready to declare a moratorium on all military actions within the next 30 days.
The body, which is representing the Ijaw ethnic nationality in the six Niger Delta states, made this known while addressing journalists on Friday in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, on the state of the organisation and the region.
The new president of INC, Mr Charles Harry, said the forebears of the Ijaw nationality entered into the Nigerian union in error, adding that the region should be given the opportunity to state its terms for a continued relationship with the other parts of the country.
He threatened that the group would drag the government before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague should it use force to suppress the increasing agitation in the region.
He advised the Federal Government not to resort to war or use of force to attain peace in the oil-rich region, stressing that the incident in Odi community in Bayelsa State should not be repeated in any part of the region.
Giving the assurance that peace would return to the region within 24 hours should the government grant the moratorium, Harry said “I am a president who is a child of circumstance trying to fulfil the obligation of the eastern zone in tenure of four years.
“The Nigerian nation is at a crossroads and the Ijaw nation is playing an important role in that denouement. An Ijaw man is suffering from the yoke on his neck.
“The oil in our area has become a weapon of destruction and it is intolerable. We suffer acid rain and our people still drink from the same water they defecate inside.
“I will want to use this medium to appeal to the Federal Government and the military to be moderate in their quest for peace in the Niger Delta.
“We will give our support to do everything to ensure peace but we will only do that if the Federal Government is willing to take a moratorium on all military actions in our land.
“We have had communities displaced and abductions in our land and we believe that if the Federal Government is sincere and wants dialogue it should dialogue with the people of the Niger Delta.
“The problem of the Niger Delta goes beyond the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) and even beyond the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND),” he said.
The INC president accused government at all levels of marginalising the Ijaw nation, adding that the Ijaw people had been reduced to a minority group in all states of the Niger Delta.
He said one of the ways to end the agitation among the Ijaw people was restructuring of the country, noting that the foundation of the country was erroneously laid by the colonial masters.
Harry called for the creation of three Ijaw states, stressing that all the Ijaw in all the states in the region ought to be grouped together.
He expressed worries over some laws which, he said, were made to denigrate the Ijaw people and warned that the “marginalisation” of the people of the area must stop.
“We are stretching out our hand of peace to Nigeria but we will not accept marginalisation. We urge the Federal Government to sign the Petroleum Industrial Bill (PIB) which will benefit the oil-producing communities. That will be one of the recipes for a lasting peace.
“We don’t want blood to be shed again in the Niger Delta. We ask the Federal Government to give INC the opportunity to wade into the Niger Delta matters and there will be a ceasefire.
“Our people trust us because they know that we are not a political party or a set of people championing the interest of politicians, rather we are there for the welfare of our people. So, they will listen to us. If we are brought into the dialogue, we will ensure that the boys stop all attacks.
“We give the Federal Government 30 days for this moratorium to be entered for peace to return in the Niger Delta. If the right thing is done, peace can return to the Niger Delta within 24 hours.
“Our participation in the Nigeria project has been without our consent but we accept it and Nigeria must realise that our forefathers never had the discretion of choice in determining our participation in Nigeria.
“We call on Nigeria as a point of necessity to call for a union conference where a declaration of union will be put together by all the ethnic nationalities in Nigeria. Nigeria has to be restructured,” he said.