By Nathan Nwakamma
Ijaw National Congress (INC) says Ijaws will only support Presidential candidates who are disposed to restructuring the country to give the Niger Delta region greater control of its natural resources.
The congress further maintained that Ijaws would identify with any political party and presidential candidates whose government, when elected, would ensure that obnoxious laws negating fiscal federalism were repealed.
Prof. Benjamin Okaba, President of the INC, said on Wednesday that Ijaw stakeholders presented their position when the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar visited the Ijaw House in Yenagoa.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Atiku met with Ijaw leaders on Monday at an interactive session shortly after the party’s presidential campaign rally at the Ox-Bow Lake, Yenagoa.
He said: “In the midst of the environmental pollution and other hazardous consequences from the extractive activities, the Nigerian Government has deliberately instituted obnoxious and repressive laws.
“These policies and regulations, particularly the Land Use Act (1978) and the Petroleum Industry Act (2020) deny us our right to the legitimate ownership, control and management of our God-given resources that are deposited in our environment.
“As if these were not provocative enough, the anti-Ijaw National Water Resources Bill has been proposed to further suffocate and stifle us out of existence.
“We vehemently condemn and detest these instruments of injustice, unfairness, deprivation and oppression which are evidently at variance with the principles of federalism the Nigerian State claims to be operating as a system of government.
“These and several other tendencies and propensities have informed our age-long struggle for self-determination.”
Okaba said that Ijaw people across political parties had “resolved to support and cast their votes for the political party and presidential candidate that are committed to tackling the existential challenges and concerns of the Ijaw people”.
According to him, the apex Ijaw socio-cultural organisation has come up with “a set of irreducible conditions” for their continued commitment to the Nigerian Project.
He listed things such as the restoration of fiscal federalism, devolution and repeal of all discriminatory environmental and resource-related pieces of legislation.
Others , he said, include the Land Use Act and the PIA; remediation of the massively polluted ecosystem and relocation of the corporate headquarters of all oil companies and their subsidiaries to their operational bases in Ijaw land and indeed the Niger Delta.
Also, Ijaws want proper funding of all interventionist agencies like the Niger Delta Development Commission, Presidential Amnesty Programme, set up by the government to deal with the challenges of sustainable peace and development of Ijaw land and the region.
The Ijaw leader noted that the Ijaws were encouraged by the former Vice President’s understating on the issues of restructuring, fiscal federalism and resource control.
He expressed satisfaction with Abubakar’s visit and interface with the Ijaws directly. (NAN)