A group of Niger Deltans in the Diaspora have called for concerted efforts by all stakeholders to end the protracted crises in the region.
Delivering a keynote address at the Citizens Forum on the Niger Delta held recently at the National Press Club, Washington DC, Dr Saliba Mukoro traced the problems in the region and indeed past religious, military insurrections to a “protracted history of mistrust between those from the northern and southern parts of the country which have impeded the realization of the true destiny of the nation”. Mukoro, further stated that for Nigeria to attain its dream of being the giant of Africa and indeed the black race, both the government and citizens should “make more bold moves towards national integration, embrace ideas that unites us and refrain from acts that further divides us.
The time cannot be more apt. Let us draw inspiration from the example of the American nation whose past efforts towards national reconciliation have seen the emergence of Barack Obama as the first black Leader of the Democratic Party and a probable President of the United States”.
Also in the speech titled, “Realizing Nigeria true destiny and ending the Niger Delta Quagmire in Nine Months”, Mukoro noted that for lasting peace to emerge in the Niger Delta region, the government and people of the region should embrace dialogue and genuine practical efforts aimed at development. “The militants must henceforth desist from violent acts, maintain their recent ceasefire, while government should act swiftly to grant a general amnesty to all militants and absorb them in phases into a Special Anti Bunkering Unit, of the Nigeria Police Force. The amnesty process should also involve third party witnesses from the UN, AU and a delegation from the region led by an elder statesman representing the militants” Mukoro while urging government to create a Special Reparation Fund to cater for all that have suffered pain from the activities of oil exploration, however urged the people of the region to consider the interest of other sections of the country in their quest for resource allocation. “I think between 25% and 30% increase in the derivation formula is justifiable for now” he noted. He also advocated for the setting up by government of a National Unity Award that would reward efforts at national unity and the encouragement of more inter tribal marriages between northerners and southerners.
In an earlier remark, Rev. Jerry Odugala Eziomano, President of Redemption Voice Ministries and Coordinator of Coalition of Niger Deltans in Diaspora (CONDIDIA) organizers of the event, urged Niger Deltans and indeed Nigerians not to despair but remain hopeful in facing current challenges. “We are meeting here today across the street from Pennsylvania Avenue and the White House. We are at the crossroads of liberty and freedom. We must set our eyes on loftier ideals and reflect on the clarion call from our land of birth about what each of us can do to plant to plant a better future for the Niger Delta region and realize the Nigerian Dream”
Dr Abel Dafiaghor, President General, Urhobo Association in the Americas and member representing Diaspora in the Niger Delta Technical Committee, asserted that although there still remain some cynicism from some quarters about the sincerity of the present government in addressing the problems facing the region, “we in the Diaspora, however must support government and give the Yar’adua administration the benefit of doubt. I believe that with the setting up of the 45 member Niger Delta Technical Committee (NDTC) the FGN has put the ball in the court of Niger Deltans, we have the opportunity to determine our faith as a people and today Niger deltans in the Diaspora of USA can contribute directly through this forum to the process of bringing sustainable economic and human development, peace and progress to our region and country”.
The Forum attended by a wide array of persons that included leaders and members of Niger Delta based organizations in the United States, academics, NGOS, policy-makers, the media and members of civil society after a participatory plenary session issued a communiqué highlighting some short term and long term solutions to the Niger delta debacle.
These include urging the Federal Government of Nigeria to intensify necessary efforts and political will aimed at ending the crises in the region in more practical ways due to the cynicism of many concerning the handling of previous interventionist programmes and reports; a redress of past wrongs due to negligent oil exploration activities in the region by the setting up of a Special Reparation Fund to pay financial reparations to those that have suffered pain and injustices in the region; de-escalation of tension in the region which should include sincere law enforcement procedures and demilitarization of the region and the granting of immediate general amnesty to militants. The Forum was worried about the slow progress in the achievement of peace and security in the region which is attributable to the corruption and greed in the law enforcement procedures which they say is attributable to the influence of fifth columnists benefitting from the crises; the involvement of Third Parties Monitoring of the final dialogue and process of sustainable peace and development, which is the immediate implementation of the submissions of the recently inaugurated Technical Committee of the Niger Delta so as not make it suffer the same fate of previously unimplemented reports; a declaration of the of the region as an Environmental Disaster Zone, concerted efforts on the part of the government, international organizations, citizens, oil firms towards a Greener Niger Delta and the criminalization of activities despoiling the environment in line with international convention and protocol.
While lauding government for creating the Niger Delta Ministry ,the Forum noted that for the ministry to make the necessary impact there should be immediate constitutional reforms to remove the immunity clause that currently act as a shield for breeding corruption and economic sabotage by some public officials and their cronies. They also called for appreciable increase in the current derivation formula, free children health care and an immediate economic stimulus package in the form of small business loans and scholarships to indigent students of the region.