Says Itsekiri nation is known for spreading falsehood, misleading information
By Binebai Princewill
Ijaw Youth Council (IYC), Clan structures of Gbaramatu, Isaba, Ogbe-Ijoh Warri, Diebiri and Egbema Kingdoms in Warri South West and Warri North Local Government Areas of Delta State have tackled their Itsekiri counterparts in Delta state via a message they tagged setting the records straight.
The Ijaw youths are purportedly responding to an open letter authored by the leadership of the Itsekiri National Youth Council (INYC) worldwide wherein it attempts to allegedly misrepresent the Ijaws in bad light while trying to make case for the appointment of Itsekiri son to occupy the Niger Delta Amnesty office as its coordinator.
The Ijaw youths had noted that they could have remain mute on the matter but stressing that such is no longer an option as their response becomes important in setting the records straight for the sake of the Federal Government and the public that may have been misled by such report.
They particularly described the Itsekiri nation as a people known for spreading falsehood and misleading information while trying to reap where they did not sow.
The IYC noted that Ijaws producing the next Coordinator of the Amnesty programme and special adviser to the President on Niger Delta Affairs should be non negotiable, stressing that it is not a subject for debate.
The open letter reads in full below:
April 6, 2020
President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed
Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria
A REJOINDER BY THE IJAW YOUTH COUNCIL (IYC) CLAN STRUCTURES OF DIEBIRI, EGBEMA, GBARAMATU, ISABA AND OGBE-IJOH/WARRI OF DELTA AND EDO STATES TO THE OPEN LETTER TO PRESIDENT BUHARI SEEKING THE APPOINTMENT OF THE NEXT COORDINATOR OF THE PRESIDENTIAL AMNESTY PROGRAMME FROM THE ITSEKIRI ETHNIC NATIONALITY
The Itsekiri National Youth Council (INYC) in an open letter attempted to make a case for the appointment of an indigene of Itsekiri Ethnic Nationality of Delta State as Coordinator of the Presidential Amnesty Programme. Ordinarily, it is the right of any individual or group of people, as it were, an ethnic nationality, to be emotive in making a case for their sons or daughters to be appointed or elected into any public office. However, in the case of the publication under reference, it was a direct attack on the Ijaw Ethnic Nationality of the Niger Delta Region of Nigeria by the Itsekiri National Youth Council (INYC) on behalf of the Itsekiri Ethnic Nationality.
We ordinarily would have dismissed the said letter as a no-consequence but for record purposes and public knowledge it is imperative to set the facts in historical perspective. Your Excellency is graciously invited to note that the indigenous Ijaw people of Diebiri, Egbema, Gbaramatu, Isaba and Ogbe- Ijoh/Warri Clans share the same local government areas of Warri North, Warri South and Warri South West of Delta State with the Itsekiri. It is interesting to note that the Itsekiri geographical territories can be found only in the said local government areas in the whole of the Niger Delta Region and no where else.
The Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) structures of Diebiri, Egbema, Gbaramatu, Isaba and Ogbe-Ijoh/Warri Clans having met to consider the above letter and taken into account the extent of falsehood, misinformation, its implication and other urgent matters, resolved that it was of essence to do a rejoinder to correct the deliberate falsehood in the said publication so that members of the public and the authorities would not be misled.
The INYC raised issues relating to the beneficiaries and management of the Presidential Amnesty Programme; Ijaw demography and Itsekiri economic relevance to Nigeria. We shall address these issues one after the other.
BENEFICIARIES AND MANAGEMENT OF PRESIDENTIAL AMNESTY PROGRAMME
Your Excellency, this is one of many attempts by the Itsekiri ethnic nationality to create the false impression that the Presidential Amnesty Programme was designed for the benefit of all Niger Deltans and has unnecessarily accused the Ijaws of using their majority position to dominate the programme. This position is very far from the truth; a misinformation and distortion of documented facts. For the records, the Amnesty Programme was designed by the government of former President Umaru Yar’Adua to address the problem of armed struggle in the Niger Delta region, which at that time had almost crippled the Nigerian economy that is predicated on oil and gas exploration activities. The government specifically asked Niger Delta Agitators that were willing to drop their arms and ammunition in exchange for an amnesty programme to do so within a specific period of time.
The Niger Delta Agitators operated in different camps across the states of the Niger Delta Region. Therefore, the government went further to set up a Presidential Amnesty Committee under the Chairmanship of General Godwin Abbe, then Minister of Defence, to meet and dialogue with the agitators at their respective camps; inviting them to surrender their arms and for appropriate documentation and records. The Gen. Abbe committee executed the assignment irrespective of the ethnic nationality of the agitators but did a camp-based documentation informed by what was on ground. In line with its Terms of Reference and limited time to accomplish the arduous task to demobilize, disarm and detailed documentation of the agitators as prescribed by the Presidential Amnesty proclamation, the committee visited the different camps in the region wherein different agitators surrounded their arms and ammunition to the committee through their camp leaders.
Your Excellency, it is on records that the Itsekiri Ethnic Nationality through the same Itsekiri National Youth Council under the leadership of Mr. David Tonwe emphatically told the Amnesty Committee when they were to be documented at Koko that the Itsekiris were not militants and not involved in armed struggle hence they were not part of the amnesty offer. In short, while the armed agitation was at its peak, the Itsekiris called for military repression against the agitators with the hope that the Ijaws who form the core of the agitation would suffer the effect or be the victims of such a military action. The Itsekiris repeated a similar call through one of their traditional chiefs in the recent Avengers resurgence of militancy in the Niger Delta region.
It was in this state of affairs that the Presidential Amnesty Committee accepted the surrender of arms and ammunition by agitators and rightly documented them for a Demilitarization, Nonviolence and Reintegration Programme. The programme is currently at the Reintegration stages and therefore strange for the Itsekiris that thought that the records would be used negatively against the Ijaws to now suddenly realize the positive aspect of the programme and are agitating to be part of it.
It is also on record that their initial agitation led to a public hearing at the National Assembly. On compassionate grounds, the then Chairman of the Presidential Amnesty Programme and Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta, Dr. Kingsley Kuku, by a memo, advised the then President Jonathan and obtained his gracious approval for inclusion of Five Hundred (500) Itsekiris in the Amnesty Programme under the Impacted Communities Scheme; a “Non-Camp-Based” arrangement. This category of beneficiaries did not bear arms and were never documented as militants. This is the only nexus of the Itsekiris to the Amnesty Programme. The Urhobos and some other ethnic nationalities in the Niger Delta region equally benefitted from this non-Camp- Based arrangement.
Therefore, the point is that the Amnesty Programme is not for all Niger Deltans but only for those who took up arms to protest the injustice against the region and voluntarily surrounded their arms and ammunition in response to the appeal from Ijaw leaders and the Federal Government. Hence, our leader, Alhaji Asari Dokubo, a former IYC President, is right to say that the Amnesty Programme is an Ijaw programme because it was only the Ijaw agitators and people that accepted to lay down their arms and accepted amnesty under terms as prescribed in the Presidential Amnesty Declaration. The Ijaw Nation lost hundreds of youths and communities destroyed by the federal authorities from the date of the Kaiama Declaration up to the time the amnesty declaration was proclaimed. It is therefore logical for the Ijaws in general and specifically those who participated in the armed agitation that led to the programme to be the beneficiaries and managers.
THE IJAW DEMOGRAPHY
The Itsekiri National Youth Council (INYC) in tandem with the time honoured style of the Itsekiri people tried unsuccessfully to misrepresent the demographic spread of the Ijaw people of the Niger Delta Region in an attempt to create the false impression that the Ijaw population is insignificant in the Niger Delta Region. To achieve this purpose, they deliberately suppressed the presence of the Ijaw people in different parts of the region, including the three Warri local government areas of Warri North, Warri South and Warri South West. The impression created in the publication under reference is that Ijaws do not exist in the three Warri local government areas just like several other parts of the Niger Delta Region like Ondo State where the homogenous Ijaw Ese-Odo Local Government Area was presented as being shared by the Ijaws and Ilajes when in actual fact the Ilaje people have their separate Ilaje Local Government Area. This is typical of the Itsekiri people.
To set the records straight the three Warri local government areas of Delta State, which are the only LGAs/place in Nigeria the Itsekiris are found, is inhabited by the Ijaw, Itsekiri and Urhobo people. We the signatories to this rejoinder are all aborigines of the Warri Federal Constituency from the Ijaw Clans of Diebiri, Egbema, Gbaramatu, Isaba and Ogbe-Ijoh/Warri.
Furthermore, the Itsekiri publication claimed that Ijaws share Ese-Odo LGA with Ilaje. This is absolute falsehood and repugnant; a display of crass ignorance. Need the Itsekiris be educated on elementary civics that Ese-Odo Local Government Area of Ondo State is a homogeneous Ijaw Local Government Area comprising Arogbo Ijo and Apoi Ijaw. The Ilaje has a distinct Ilaje Local Government Area. The Olodiama Ijaw of Taribo also share Odigbo Local Government Area with the Yoruba in Ondo State. The same pattern was applied in the deliberate suppression of the existence of Ijaw people in Ovia South West, Ovia North East and Ikpoba-Okha LGAs of Edo State, Ibeno LGA of Akwa Ibom and several of the nine Ijaw LGAs in Rivers State.
The Ijaw people are the only ethnic nationality that is found in seven (7) out of the nine (9) states making up the political Niger Delta region with significant population. There are Ijaw people in Ondo, Edo, Delta, Bayelsa (homogenous Ijaw State), Rivers, Abia and Akwa Ibom states. And with respect to the geographical Niger Delta outside the political Niger Delta Region, which refers to the coastal parts of the Niger Delta Region, it is mainly inhabited by the Ijaw people. These are verifiable facts and enjoy legislative backing. In the Nigeria (Constitution) Orders in Council, 1954 to 1959 Proclamation of the Area of the Niger Delta by Sir James Wilson Robertson, Governor-General, the area of the Niger Delta was defined as follows:
(a) In respect of the Western Region, the Western Ijaw Division of the Delta Province; and
(b) In respect of the Eastern Province, Yenagoa Province, Degema Province and Ogoni Division of Port Harcourt Province.
Therefore, the majority position of the Ijaw people in the Niger Delta Region both in spread and in actual population is not and has never been in doubt. Also the fact that the geographical Niger Delta is the area occupied by the Ijaws is not in doubt.
ITSEKIRI ECONOMIC RELEVANCE
As a very small ethnic group without even a single local government area of its own, there is no doubt when compared to some other ethnic groups, especially outside the Niger Delta region, that the Itsekiri has economic relevance to the Nigerian economy. However, it is not correct as asserted by the INYC that the Itsekiri produce up to 35% of the oil and gas in Nigeria. This is very far from the truth. In the first place and as we have pointed out earlier, the Itsekiris are only in the three Warri local government areas of Delta State and from the record of oil production on ethnic nationality basis currently being used by the Delta State Government, which is seriously disputed by the Ijaw people and overdue for review, the Itsekiris produce 29%, Ijaws 27%, Urhobos 23%, Isoko 14% and Ndokwa 9%. The oil and gas in Edo State is produced by Ijaw and Bini communities only.
Now if in Delta State where the Itsekiri have records of oil and gas production, they produce only 29% of the total Delta State production, how can they claim to be producing 35% of the total oil and gas production in Nigeria? In fact, the whole of Delta State oil and gas production is not up to 35% of the total production in Nigeria. This is another misrepresentation taken too far. It is also important to note that the area of land where the Warri port, Delta State is sited is owned by the Ijaw people of Ogbe-Ijoh contrary to the wrong impression created by the INYC.
However, we must state clearly that the Ijaw people are not against the agitation of other ethnic groups within and outside the Niger Delta region for their right. In fact, we support the agitation of other ethnic groups and that was the basis of the Alhaji Asari Dokubo comment for other ethnic groups in the Niger Delta region to speak out for their rights. This point we have noted long ago hence in the historic Kaiama Declaration of the All Ijaw Youth Conference of 1998, we extended hands of friendship to the other ethnic groups of the Niger Delta to join in our common agitation for our rights.
It was also in furtherance of this spirit of promoting the aspirations of other ethnic groups that the Ijaws of Delta State in 2007 and 2011 supported an Itsekiri, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, to become Governor of Delta State despite the fact that they do not have an autonomous local government of their own moreso with very insignificant population.
In conclusion, we call on Mr. President to completely disregard the blatant falsehood stated in the INYC publication under reference. We also call on Itsekiri Ethnic Nationality in particular and other nationalities of the Niger Delta to address their issues to the Federal Government of Nigeria. The Ijaw people are not the problem of the other ethnic nationalities of the Niger Delta region but the federal government that is depriving us of enjoying our God-given resources through unjust and oppressive laws made without our consent and input. The Ijaws are just like other nationalities of the Niger Delta region that are victims and not the villain!
Signed for the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) Clan Structures in Diebiri, Egbema, Gbaramatu, Isaba and Ogbe-Ijoh/Warri Clans:
1. Smart Okosu,
(Chairman, IYC, Ogbe-Ijoh/ Warri Clan)
2. Egbuwa Raphael,
(Chairman, IYC, Egbema Clan).
3. Peter Pudie, (Chairman, IYC, Gbaramatu Clan).
4. Michael Emontonghan, (Chairman, IYC, Isaba Clan).
5. Kenneth Nadifa, (Chairman, IYC, Diebiri Clan).