- Elders demand two additional states
Emmanuel Addeh in Yenagoa
The Governor of Bayelsa State, Mr Seriake Dickson, has bemoaned the neglect of Ijawland in the Niger Delta region, which he argued has contributed over N96 trillion naira to the national economy in the last couple of years.
Dickson, who spoke while receiving the report of the Committee on Restructuring and other matters affecting the Ijaw nation in Yenagoa, also maintained that unless Nigeria is restructured, Ijaw people would continue to suffer injustice.
He stated that despite his peopleâ€™s huge contribution to the Nigerian economy, there were still no access roads to oil-bearing communities from which crude is transported overseas for refining.
â€œYou said LNG alone has generated over N11 billion in the last 10 years and you are working with their own figures. You said also that from oil revenues from our territory, that Nigeria has earned over 96 trillion naira and you say this country makes over N52 billion daily.
â€œYet, in the midst of this sacrifice, even as we speak, there is no road to the terminals from which this money is made. No road to Brass, Forcados, Ogulagha and Bonny, that is the plight of our people and yet we continue to believe in Nigeria,â€ he lamented.
But the governor added that the belief of the Niger Delta and Ijaw land remains unshaken, noting that what the region needed was a Nigeria where justice and equity would prevail.
â€œWe have never lost faith in this country and the statistics that you have brought out shows it clearly of all those stories of our sacrifices and commitment to Nigeria,â€ he said.
Dickson renewed his call for a multi-party committee, to harmonise critical areas of agreement to enable the All Progressives Party (APC)-led federal government facilitate the presentation of the necessary bills that could bring about a restructured Nigeria.
He urged the federal government to put the machinery in motion, before the next general elections in 2019, adding that â€œwith the support of the Peoples Democratic Party (APC) and other political parties, the federal government can push through, in the quickest time possible, before the next general election, the necessary bills that can bring about a restructured Nigeria.â€
The governor vowed to mobilize and join other well-meaning Nigerians to canvass support for a restructured Nigeria, stressing that the 2019 election would be a referendum between the proponents of true federalism and those opposed to it.
â€œFor us as a people, 2019 election is going to be a referendum. Itâ€™s going to be an election that will separate those who are for a restructured and equitable Nigeria and those who are opposed to it. Our people will be mobilised at all levels to stand by and support those who want an egalitarian Nigeria.
â€œYour report deals with a very important issue of how our people will survive within the context of a united Nigeria, how we can achieve a stable sustainable, progressive and prosperous Nigeria that is immune from most of the internal problems threatening to tear it apart.
â€œUnless we have a stable Nigeria where everybody is happy, treated fairly and have space to manage their internal affairs and grow at their own pace, and yet be in one stable big country, we canâ€™t have a peaceful and sustainable Nigeria.
â€œOur country can only be stable when all parts of the country are stable. Those of us who seek a stable, restructured and equitable Nigeria, that can be preserved from generation to generation. We are proponents of a strong united progressive Nigeria, not enemies of Nigeria. Those of us who are asking for a restructured Nigeria are the real believers in the Nigerian project.â€
He thanked Ijaw leaders for believing in Nigeria â€œeven with what our people have gone through and continue to go through.â€
The Chairman of the Restructuring Committee and other Matters of the Ijaw Nation, Prof. Dagogo Fubara, said the document, which is in three volumes captures the Ijaw position on the issue of restructuring the country.
Fubara also noted that, as the fourth largest ethnic group in the country, the report recommended the creation of two additional states, namely Toru Ebe and Oil Rivers States.
He added that the report demanded the enthronement of true federalism, operating a fiscal regime as well as special funding for the Niger Delta to address development challenges.