We need Industrialisayion of The Region


Saturday, October 10, 2009

'We Need Industrialisation Of The Region'

Coordinator of Ijaw Monitoring Group (IMG), Joseph Evah insists that the region's problem is political and says an emergency industrialisation of the region will calm frayed nerves.

By Onyedika Agbedo

What do you think the government should do, in concrete terms, now that most of the militants have laid down their arms?

It is very sad that for the past three months that there was no shooting in the Niger Delta, there is nothing on the ground as we speak. The government has no plan for the region. They only appear on television to say that something is on the way; that government is sincere and President Yar'Adua loves the people.

That is the governors are preaching; that amnesty is equivalent to salvation in the Bible. We expected the Federal Government to go to Liberia and look at how their President surrounded herself with sincere and genuine responsible patriots of the country to handle its post-civil war era.

We lack those types of patriots in this present dispensation. It is not that they are not in the country, but President Yar'Adua will not go the extra mile to identify them; he will not go for this type of people.

For the same government that said amnesty is a panacea to end anarchy in the Niger Delta to be saying it is the Ministry of Niger Delta and the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) that will take care of post-amnesty problem, like rehabilitation and re-orientation, is a mark of insincerity.

We need an emergency structure that will be different from these organs, but they should carry out mega projects, not trying to identify who is a genuine militant and who is not and who wants to go for carpentry or furniture making.

How can the whole of the Ministry be wasted into that type of senseless projects? If they say the Ministry will carry out mega projects, let them carry out mega projects, likewise the NDDC. Let the rehabilitation and emergency relief for the idle brains that government wants to re-orientate have a different structure.

Government wants to create more confusion; it is bereft of ideas, especially as there has been no impact of the lull in fighting. That is why you hear of the protest along the East-West road. You can imagine that repentant militants are now blocking roads; it clearly shows that there is nothing on ground.

Even the South-South governors cannot press for a bailout of the region, just as the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has bailed out troubled banks in the country. Our governors are so afraid that they cannot talk to President Yar'Adua on the needs of the region; to create empowerment and industrialise the region. That is our lamentation.

How should the rehabilitation of the militants be handled?
There were fundamental issues that led to the present crisis. We said we want a sovereign national conference for all tribes in Nigeria to decide how they would live together. We are saying that we are not given enough local councils and states.

Some parts of this country have councils that far outnumber their contemporaries within the same polity. For example if you look at the old three regions that have been split into states, you would discover that the northern region dominates the country, with the number of states and councils.

Kano State, from where Jigawa was created, has 44 councils, while Jigawa has 38. Meanwhile Bayelsa has only eight.

So, when some people say the South-south governors are receiving 13 percent derivation, I laugh. The money that some states in the north receive is double the amount they receive, because allocation is issued based on the number of councils.

This is why I have always said that the political leaders in the South-south lack what it takes to move the region forward desirably. We don't have an intelligent political structure; our political leaders don't think, once they enjoy luxury. Otherwise, the governors should by now be insisting on restructuring, because all the councils in the South-south put together are not up what you have in Jigawa, Kano and Yobe states. So where is the gain of the 13 percent.

Our governors are not asking why, because they are afraid. So, we are now saying that the governors should be bold enough to confront the President and the National Assembly to address these fundamental issues.

They are only talking about amnesty, while the real issues, such as SNC, resource control and creation of states and councils have been relegated to the background. Meanwhile, these are what we need to match the challenges of development.

If they say that one is a secondary matter, what of the primary matter of asking the oil companies to line up their own development initiatives for the Niger Delta, as part of the amnesty deal? The companies can, for instance, use the by-products of crude oil to provide plastic industries in the region. How much will it cost them to provide fishing trawlers, so that the people can go into commercial fishing in the Atlantic Ocean, since they have destroyed the creeks and waterways?

All the youths that graduated from the School of Marine Oceanography, Lagos and Marine Academy, Oron are wasting. Many of them are part of the militants, when they have been gainfully engaged. If this signs are there, the youths will know that there is hope.

Rather than doing this, the governors are distributing N2, 000 to the militants per day and caging them inside primary schools compounds. By the time the money finishes, they will say they are waiting for more funds.

But government said it would establish rehabilitation centres for the repentant militants?
Where are the rehabilitation centres? Don't you see people demonstrating? Where are the lecturers to rehabilitate the people? Where are the medical doctors to look into the health of the boys? Where are the psychologists to study their psyche and re-orientate them? Who is heading the rehabilitation centre? Have you ever seen somebody speaking as the head of the rehabilitation team or talking on the behaviour of the boys, whether they are improving or not?

I mean, there is nothing; there is no structure in place, which is very sad.

How else do you think the development of the region could be best achieved?
The problem is that our political leaders are not interested in the development of the region. All this they are doing is to buy time. You will see the calamity.

People are already demonstrating and causing confusion in the highways. The Niger Delta problem is very simple to address. If they put the kind of political will they used in building Abuja into the development of the region, everywhere will be calm and there will be peace, progress and industrialisation.

To build Abuja, former Head of State, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida employed trade by barter. Julius Berger was exporting crude oil from the Niger Delta in payment for jobs done by the company. It is not that President Yar'Adua doesn't know that, likewise all the political leaders.

So, the major problem is that there is no political will. People say that Kano has land mass and that accounts for the number of local councils they have, what of the water mass of Bayelsa, Delta and Cross Rivers states, among others?

That is the unfortunate situation we have found ourselves. The problem is the political leaders we have in this generation, especially in the Niger Delta, because they are all displaying zombie.

Do you see the amnesty as the end of restiveness in the region?

Militants are already complaining that they are not getting feeding allowance and other things. But we are saying that daily feeding allowance is not the issue; that an emergency avenue should be created to engage the idle brains to be meaningful to their families and society. When that is not there, how can one say that the amnesty will succeed?

We thank God that MEND is still giving honour to the Ijaw nation and the Niger Delta. So, if they think that MEND does not exist, let them know that MEND is egbesu. MEND represents the power of the Ijaw nation- egbesu.

If the Federal Government thinks it is clever now that the militants have surrendered their arms, it will know that the people have not delivered one per cent of their arms. It will also be surprised that the arms they saw in the name of amnesty were mere toys, because they will see original arms from Ijaw nation that egbesu himself, as a spirit, will supply. The arms you saw were all provided by egbesu; none of them were bought.

So what are your expectations from the federal and state governments?

We keep talking, but they will never listen, and that is unfortunate. I have given the example of President Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia and we have our own Gen. Yakubu Gowon after both countries civil wars.

The President needs patriotic people to execute the amnesty, not gamblers. We need emergency training centres and industrialisation of the region. The oil companies can do it within six months, if they wish. They always argue since 1968 that they remit their taxes to the government, but they will not have peace.

So, when anybody disturbs them, they will tell the Federal Government to deploy soldiers to the region. When they pay tax in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Angola and Libya are they not part of the countries' development?


Your comment






News Archive