The Director, Institute for Niger Delta Studies (INDS) of the Niger Delta University, Professor Ambily Etekpe, has said former President of Nigeria, Chief Olusegun Obasenjo, made a grave mistake when he included Imo, Abia and Ondo states as member states of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
Professor Etekpe explained that it is a fact that Imo, Abia and Ondo states are crude oil producing states but they do not fall into the geographic region reffered to as Niger Delta and, therefore, should not benefit 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,” at 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 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 perculiar 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, the 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 10 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. 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?”
Speaking on behalf of the organizers, Mr. Bright Igrubia, said the gathering was planned for Ijaw leaders of thought to come 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 bedeviling us as a people. so that the struggle of the Ijaws can be adequately promoted.
“One vital message we are also sending is that it was time Ijaws considered the idea that the pen is mightier than the sword. We believe that whatever is gained through violence is temporary because if you gain any progress by violence, another violence can take it down by force. It is better for Ijaws to adopt intellectual warfare than armed struggle in achieving our collective goal as a people.”