Evah to FG Dredge River Niger, prepare for trouble By Sunday Ani

2009-08-30
The Sun Newspaper- Sunday Ani

Coordinator, Ijaw Monitoring Group (IMG) and former Publicity Secretary, Ijaw National Congress (INC), Comrade Joseph Evah, has over the years been consistent in his criticism of bad governance in Nigeria. Not known to suffer fools gladly, the fiery activist again takes the government at the centre and in the Niger Delta to task on their handling of the amnesty granted armed militants in the country’s main oil and gas region. He also speaks among other issues on the controversy surrounding the dredging of the River Niger, warning that going ahead with the project would spark off another round of crisis in the oil region. Excerpts…

South South governors need deliverance
Some of the South South governors are my friends. Recently, when I was terribly sick, they stood by me to ensure that I live. But the truth is that they are cowards as far as the Niger Delta struggle is concerned. Everybody is ashamed of them except the sycophants around them. I’m particularly bitter that they are not ready to take advantage of the amnesty granted militants in the region to force the federal government and oil companies to bring relief to our youths. Instead the governors threatened to pull out of the amnesty because of an issue they folded their hands watching when the Petroleum Bill was being drafted. They did not raise an alarm until it got to the National Assembly.

Secondly, the governors are aware that since the establishment of the Petroleum Training Institute in Effurun (Delta State), nothing has been done to upgrade the institution. But they decided to make noise over its relocation using the amnesty, to create the impression that they are fighting for the region. They have no single strategy to force the federal government to declare development emergency in the region. The federal government is owing the NDDC (Niger Delta Development Commission) over N500 billion since 2003. But our governors, both past and present, could not compel the federal government to release the funds. No federal government since independence in 1960 can insult the South West or the North like this because of the political maturity of those zones. The governors are the power house of each of the zones but our South South zone parades cowards. Are these governors telling us they were not aware the government used over eight months to prepare the Petroleum Bill? If they say they were not aware, then they need spiritual deliverance.

What Niger Delta governors should do with amnesty
Very simple. As I explained on television and radio, we expect the governors to insist that the oil companies are part of the amnesty deal to make the post-amnesty plan smooth. We expect them to open registration centres for unemployed graduates from first degree to PhD holders as well as skilled and unskilled youths. This is supposed to go hand in hand with the surrender of arms at the various centres.
We expect our governors to insist that the oil companies have role to play by creating jobs from the byproduct of crude oil. From the byproduct of crude oil, we can establish textile, plastic, chemical, tyre and foam industries. The oil firms can also import fishing trawlers for ocean-going commercial fishing industries. All these can jumpstart the industrialisation of the region while the fundamental issues of sovereign national conference, resource control, fiscal federalism, states and local government creation will take us to the next level of peaceful agitation.

But as we speak, the oil companies are folding their arms watching the drama called amnesty. If the oil companies are forced to participate in the manner I have suggested, it will bring industrial revolution to our region. But they (oil firms) will regret in the near future because the children now between eight and ten years will soon become 16 and 18 years and the level they will operate, the government and oil companies will realise that the present militants they are deceiving were mere toys between 2004 and 2009.
In fact, if the level of poverty in our region does not reduce in the next five years, I assure you that the new set of militants that will emerge will have the heart of stone.
In 2004, when former President (Olusegun) Obasanjo met with us in Port Harcourt; I hope the SSS (State Security Service) still has the recording of that meeting organised by the NNPC (Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation) and I was invited by Dr Levi Ajuonuma to speak on the way forward. I told them that within five years if nothing was done about the poverty in the region, the oil companies will run away as they will experience attack like never before. Today my prophecy has been fulfilled.

Skepticism trailing surrender of arms by militants
The problem is with the government and the oil companies. For sometime now, no oil company has been attacked yet they are not signing agreements with international firms to set up industries that will absorb repentant militants and jobless youths.
Each of the oil companies’ employment statistics shows that South South people are less than five per cent, including the NNPC. Yet our governors are helpless. They only send their family members to these companies for employment. It cannot happen in Yorubaland.

The other day, the South South Senators were the first to confirm Rilwanu Lukman as Petroleum Minister because they want their girlfriends to get petty oil contracts from Lukman. They later shamelessly gathered to ask President Yar’Adua to remove Lukman. Did Yar’Adua listen to them? He won’t listen to them because he knows them as greedy businessmen warming the seats of the hallowed chambers. Do you know that almost all the legislators are contractors to NDDC and local government councils, despite the fact that the government is owing the NDDC?

The little that gets to the commission, they swallow it but they cannot force the Presidency to release the money. We are ashamed of our political class. I think we need somebody like Bishop Desmond Tutu to cast out demons from them. Abuja is no longer our problem but we are the problem to ourselves.

River Niger dredging will cause trouble
The IMG has always opposed the dredging of the River Niger but the federal government has again commenced the project. The environmental impact assessment issues have not been resolved and the government wants to go ahead. We have rejected it again. We have also told communities along the River Nun to attack the dredgers to protect our environment. Government is looking for trouble and they will get it. The global climate change signal is enough for us to protect our heritage. No sane Ijaw man or woman will rely on the federal government EIA and allow dredging of River Niger.

We are back in court. Our lawyer, Femi Falana, and another Ijaw lawyer, Wilson Ajuwa, are back in court. The reasons I went to court during the military era are still there. The tsunami that destroyed the delta in Asia, where riverine communities in Malaysia, Indonesia, Bangladesh among others were submerged with flood was a bitter lesson to mankind. So only a mad person from our region will accept the government’s EIA.

Our argument is clear. We will not allow any ship to sail past our communities from London, Japan, USA Canada or any part of the world to the proposed inland new port at Baro near Abuja, built with over N80 billion while all our seaports in Warri, Burutu, Akassa, Koko, Sapele are dead.

Again, even if we want to dialogue, the Ijaw nation will commission our own experts, made up of our professors with world acclaimed experts to carry out our independent EIA because erosion has wiped away all our communities along the bank of River Nun and other waterways. In the last 30 years, the dredging activities of the oil companies have resulted in the salt water from the Atlantic Ocean penetrating our creeks to kill the fresh water creatures. So any Ijaw leader, who, because of lust for money, mobilises to force the dredging on us, will be under a curse to the tenth generation of his children’s children. Telling us that since bullets are not enough to kill us, so you want to sink us with the Atlantic Ocean through dredging is a needless provocation.

Allegation that Ijaw Youth Council president is one of the dredging project contractors
That is not true. The IYC president, Dr Chris Ekiyor, was a member of the IMG and he is our Director of Mobilisation. He told us he is still our member and he is aware of the struggle to stop the federal government from destroying our communities. If the contractors give our people money, I advise them to take the money and use it to mobilise our people against the evil dredging project. After all it is their money. The INC (Ijaw National Congress) did it in 1999.

Let me also say this. You are aware of the Trans Saharan Gas Pipeline contract Lukman recently signed on behalf of the federal government with Algeria to pump gas from the Niger Delta to Europe through the North African country. So any European country that needs our gas won’t have to travel down to our seaports. They just anchor their vessel in the Arab country and get our gas through the pipe, yet none of our politicians could confront Lukman for insulting us. When the youths in the name of militancy push the government to the wall, the politicians will run around to hijack the show and make the militants to talk to the press like drunkards. Any militant who allows politicians to deceive him will regret.
Where are the politicians who deceived others before them between 1999 and 2007 to help them fight their opponents?

Obasanjo manipulated Reverend Kukah
Every oppressed person in the universe is ashamed of (Rev) Father (Matthew) Kukah over his comments against President Obama. We thought he would replace Anthony Cardinal Okogie or Bishop Desmond Tutu but we are wrong. I think it was Obasanjo that manipulated his spirit. I lost faith in Father Kukah when he blamed the Ogoni for not cooperating with Shell. He never asked Shell why it does not have a single industry in Ogoniland to employ the people. Instead he was always confronting the Ogoni people.

I remember Prof Bolaji Akinyemi calling Kukah to order over his reaction to Obama’s speech only for him to do a senseless write-up in the newspaper. If you read the reply, you will weep for Kukah; you will know why our politicians in Nigeria behave like animals; why they shamelessly send their children to universities in Ghana while our higher institutions are deteriorating.

Father Kukah knew that slave trade and colonialism took place in the whole of Africa. But today Ghana is ahead of Nigeria in everything except the senseless population we parade as highest in Africa. Even India, whose population is far more than ours, conducts free and fair election. Corruption and maladministration has made life miserable for us. Father Kukah should be ashamed of his priestly robe and I think Prof Wole Soyinka gave him a knock he deserved.

Media war among militant leaders
The militants fighting in the media are suffering from intellectual poverty, so the politicians in the region are using them to fight each other. You should know that over 95 per cent of the militants were the foot soldiers of politicians in the region since 1999. Before they changed to militants, they were actually political thugs, maiming and killing political opponents of politicians. Many of them don’t know the difference between political thuggery and militancy for the Ijaw struggle in which you have to exhibit maturity and wisdom to manage distraction and other temptations that can rubbish all you have struggled to attain for the people.
Those attacking themselves don’t know that no sane person respects them because they have exposed themselves as people who cannot manage victory and success. Can you imagine some of them who were hired to kill two prominent Ijaw sons, Marshall Harry and Chief A.K (Aminasoari Kala) Dikibo, may appear before you to say they are militants for the struggle?

Look, the Yoruba were involved in the June 12 struggle and they had differences. Did you see them in the media exposing and abusing themselves? But in our case, we have a shameless political class, who despite their education, prefer to show the world that we are in animal kingdom.
It is because of the attitude of our political class that one retired military officer, Sagir Mohammed, could insult us in an interview, saying only the military not amnesty can end militancy. He was so arrogant because he knows that our political class is made up of zombies. But let me tell that Mohammed that the Nigerian army was disgraced by Cameroonian soldiers in 1981, 1983, 1986, 1989 and 1991 in all the clashes over the Bakassi Peninsula. Nigeria only used legal method to save face. He should know that kind of military cannot fight the guerilla war in the creeks. If not for our fake federal character principle, he cannot become an officer in the army.

 

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