Emmanuel Addeh in Yenagoa
Commercial activities in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, were paralysed Wednesday as Ijaw youths in their thousands marched through the streets of the state capital in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Ijaw hero, Maj. Isaac Boro.
Filling stations and major eateries also did not open for business, following the announcement by the leadership of the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) on Tuesday that no business should operate in honour of the late activist.
Starting from INEC road, Yenagoa/Mbiama road, the youths rallied through the town ending their march at the national headquarters of the IYC on Sani Abacha way at about noonday.
The youths took the opportunity to call for true federalism, fairness and equity in the allocation of resources in the country, but noted that the Ijaw were being persecuted by the federal government to scare them from taking part in the next round of bidding for oil blocks in the region.
Chairman of the Central Zone, Mr Tare Porri, who led the rally, told the teeming crowd to impress it on the federal government to stop paying ‘lip service’ to the directive to oil companies operating in the region to relocate their headquarters to the Niger Delta.
He argued that like Houston in the United States of America, where all oil dealings are concentrated in the city where the natural resource is found, the oil multinationals must move their headquarters to the Niger Delta, rather than operating from Lagos and Abuja.
â€œNigeria today is being built by the resources of the Niger Delta. It is our resources that they used in building Lagos and Abuja. Yet they say we are not good enough to be part and parcel of the oil and gas sector.
â€œMoving forward, this anniversary should be used to stop the persecution of Ijaw people in the oil and gas industry. A case study is the Dan Etete issue. Today, it is only former ministers from the Niger Delta that are being investigated.
â€œWhat about those from the north. What about those from the West? There are former petroleum ministers that own oil blocks every where in the Niger Delta. The table of those who own oil blocks show itâ€™s only Dan Etete and itâ€™s even a partnership.
â€œWe must let them know that our quietness should not be taken for granted. Today, we rally against the way and manner the ijaw people are treated in this country. To send a message to the Nigerian state that 2019 is a referendum on restructuring. We stand and say we want a fairer Nigeria or else they are saying that they donâ€™t want to take oil from our land,â€ the IYC chair said.
While extolling Boro, he noted that the late activist fought for the unity of Nigeria, the Niger Delta and that of the Ijaw nation, adding that Boro never accepted injustice even in the face of intimidation.
He added: â€œWe are aware that next year will be another round of bidding for oil wells. So, they want to scare Ijaw people who are capable of participating by tagging them with corruption allegations. Ijaw people must be given the first right of refusal.
â€œBoro gave himself for the liberation of Ijaw people. We want a Nigeria where we are all equal. Where our rights are preserved. A restructured Nigeria where we will control our resources. Abuja and Lagos are already developed. It is time to develop the Niger Delta.â€
He also commended the youths for their peaceful conduct, noting that the youth body had been working with the Department of State Services (DSS), the Joint Task Force and the police to ensure that the rally was violence-free.