NDDC Board: Gbaramatu youths reply to Itsekiri protest letter to Buhari [FULL TEXT]
Monday, 21 June 2021
RE: A CALL TO APPOINT AN ITSEKIRI PERSON AS THE SUBSTANTIVE CHAIRMAN/MANAGING DIRECTOR OF THE NIGER DELTA DEVELOPMENT COMMISSION (NDDC) BOARD PURSUANT TO THE EXPRESS PROVISIONS OF THE NDDC ACT 2000 DEVOID OF ANY PAROCHIAL INTEREST MASQUERADING AS ETHNIC LEADERSTO FORESTALL THE TOTAL DESTRUCTION OF OIL AND GAS FACILITIES IN OUR HOMELANDS—MOVEMENT FOR THE PROTECTION OF IWERE HOMELAND, DEVELOPMENT AND HISTORY
President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR,
President Federal Republic of Nigeria and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces,
Aso Rock Villa, Abuja,
We write in response to the above subject matter raised by the Movement for the Protection of Iwere Homeland, Development and History—MPIHDH dated June 7, 2021 on Page 23, Vanguard Newspaper, signed by Aderojor James and Lucky Ayomike Okonedo, President and Secretary respectively, seeking the attention of His Excellency, President Mohammadu Buhari, GCFR, President, Federal Republic of Nigeria on the need to appoint their kinsman as the substantive Chairman/Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC). Ordinarily, this attention seeking publication would not have necessitated our response. However, the justifications for the said demand expressly put forth spurious lies, blackmail, deceit and unwarranted propaganda against the good Ijaw People of Gbaramatu Kingdom, erroneously making baseless claims and arrogating so much to the Itsekiri ethnic group in Delta State with a target to deliberately undermine other co-aborigine ethnic groups and their contributions to the economic growth and development of Delta State in particular and Nigeria at large in terms of generated oil revenue.
More so, while we do not want to join issues with this insignificant attention seeking group especially at this juncture where stakeholders across ethnic lines within the Niger Delta including notable and decent Itsekiri leaders are gradually seeing the need to work together with the consciousness that, regardless of our differences in language, culture, custom and tradition, the Niger Delta people are faced with common challenges of uneven representation, imbalance in revenue allocation, underdevelopment, environmental degradation and so on vis-a-vis our quantum of revenue contribution to the national treasury in the current federal arrangement thereby, harmonising interest within and adjusting positions to seek for collective redress in the Nigerian context in order to enjoy the full dividends of democracy.
We wish to make clear to these great comrades and leaders of the Itsekiri ethnic group that this response is not intended to undermine their efforts to collaborate with the other ethnic groups in the Niger Delta especially the good Ijaw People of Gbaramatu Kingdom. Rather, this clarification is pressingly necessary in order to reorient the federal, state authorities, security agencies and the general public who might have been misled to believe the spurious claims made by the said group who have since resorted to unnecessarily maligning the good Ijaw people of Gbaramatu Kingdom into pointless controversies with an intention to undermine our very existence, incite the federal and state authorities against us and of course indict us against the good will of the general public.
A.) AMADINO KIDNAPPING INCIDENT AND THE TANTRUM OF ALLEGATIONS AGAINST GBARAMATU YOUTHS: FAST FACTS BEYOND THE BLACKMAIL AND PROPAGANDA
1. According to claims by the Movement—Mpihdh, the Ijaws of Gbaramatu Kingdom launched an attack on Amadino Community, killed one person and kidnapped others. This is a blatant lie that is far from the truth. For the records, on April 19, 2021, we were invited by His Excellency, Senator (Dr) Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa, The Executive Governor of Delta State for a meeting at Government House, Asaba over the claim from some stakeholders of Itsekiri descend that Amadino, Deghele and Bateren communities should be part of the Joint Investigation team to ascertain the cause of the oil spillage in Chevron Nigeria Limited 16-inch Makaraba Otunana Abiteye Truck Line domicile in Gbaramatu territorial waters. In that meeting, we clearly stated our position that the reason why we are insisting that we do not want the Itsekiris to be part of the JIV process in the oil spillage that occurred on CNL’s 16 inch Abiteye Otunana Makaraba Truck Line within the axis of Gbaramatu Kingdom territorial waters is because such JOINT JIV WITH THE ITSERIKI PEOPLE OF DEGHELE BATEREN AND AMADINO COMMUNITIES WILL AMOUNT TO UNDERMINING OUR SOVEREIGNTY AND BREACHES OUR TERRITORIAL INTEGRITY AS GBARAMATU PEOPLE.
Worse still, doing so with a people that constantly paint us in bad light to the world, calling us all sorts of unprintable names such as ‘customary tenants’ and ‘slaves’ in a world that is trying to do away with the scourge of racism and slavery and the attendant negativity, could be a more dangerous path to toe at this point of our history.
2. In that meeting, we passionately put the record straight that we are neither slaves nor customary tenants to the Itsekiri people. For instance, in a petition written by Urhobo/Isoko Native Authority Council dated 20th December, 1952, “in the Matter of the Change of Title of the Olu of Itsekiri”, the foremost Urhobo socio-cultural group attested to the fact that “the Itsekiris came to the present day Warri from Ode Itsekiri to meet the Ijaws and Urhobos already carrying on trade.” This fact was further substantiated by an heir apparent to the Itsekiri Throne Prince William A. Moore who insisted in all honesty that prior to the advent of Bini Prince Giniwa to Ode Itsekiri, the area now known as Warri was occupied and owned by the Ijos, the Sobos and the Meins. This means that even before Giniwa was driven away from Bini amounting from him sleeping with his father’s wife, which led to the first migration of the Itsekiri people to Ode Itsekiri, the Ijaws and Urhobos have been living and carrying on social, economic activities in all of these areas.
3. Before our meeting with the Governor, there was a meeting between Delta State Government, Gbaramatu people, CNL and the Itsekiris at the office of the then Secretary to the State Government on April 12, 2021. As we briefed the Governor, it was the reckless, provocative and unjustifiable comments made by the Itsekiris that prompted us to promise the State Government that after the meeting, we are going back home to ask all Itsekiris to peacefully leave our lands because we cannot be abhorring them in our communities while they are calling us ‘customary tenants’ and ‘slaves’, thereby undermining our very existence, desecrating our cultural heritage and insulting our sensibilities.
4. Our action was justified before His Excellency by drawing his attention to historical facts that Gbaramatu people were not the first to have sent the Itsekiris packing from their lands and could likely not be last as a result of their notorious land grabbing spree through fraudulent court judgments and false history bequeathed by their forebears from generation to generation. In a letter written by The Itsekiri Progressive Union dated 1st September 1952, the Itsekiris living in Eroh Abraka were asked to leave the community. The letter reads in part: “About 6 a.m. this morning we (Itsekiris) were all called by the Urhobo meeting people and they bring to our knowledge that they are having case with the Olu of Itsekiri… and that they want all Itsekiri people to leave their lands”. In another instance, in a Telegram from Achomere Lagos, to residence of Warri dated 22 September 1952 alluded that “the Itsekiris” were “driven out of Okpara houses” by the people Okpara. In another Telegram from Uvwie Urhobo Accra, to resident of Uvwie who are aborigines of Warri dated 25 September 1952 they insist that their people should “warn Itsekiris against unlawful claim on Warri ownership careless talk causing confusion.” From the foregoing, the world should judge, if one visits your house and in prideful cum covetous manner addresses you erroneously as a ‘slave’ and ‘customary tenant’, is it not decent to ask the person to peacefully leave your house before you are angered to take laws into your hands? Your answer is as good as mine!
5. After both parties presented their cases, His Excellency Senator (Dr) Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa alluded to the fact that “spill point is different from impacted area(s) or community(ies)”. He went further to propose a joint problem solving mechanism by asking His Excellency Barr (DCN) Kingsley Burutu Otuaro and Hon Michael Diden AKA Ejele to within a short period of time, reach out to all critical stakeholders within Gbaramatu Kingdom and the Itsekiri ethnic group to converge for a meeting in order to find an in-house solution to the issue. It is in keeping with this resolution that we have kept to our own part of the peace process till date, waiting for the outcome of the proposed meetings.
6. Hence, for one to think that Gbaramatu youths had gone to attack Amadino Community with a 115 horsepower engine, when the state government and well-meaning stakeholders are taking responsibility to broker genuine peace, is a malicious, untrue and cheap propaganda against the youths of Gbaramatu Kingdom in order to perhaps portray us in the usual scheme as violent people. While we sympathize with the Amadino people who are originally Gbaramatu people living in Gbaramatu land owned by Oweizibri of Oporoza Community, we stress that we will not abuse and disrespect the effort of His Excellency Senator Dr Ifeanyi Okowa, our dear Governor and well-meaning stakeholders from both Gbaramatu and Itsekiri kingdoms to attack Amadino community. Proving us right, the youth Chairman of Amadino community, Comr Niro hinted that what happened in their community is purely kidnap case. According to him, there has been several failed abduction attempt on the Okpe descent Sawmill owner who is also the Chairman of Pipeline Surveillance contract within the Okpe axis. According to the Amadino Youth Chairman, on that very day, “when people noticed what transpired, they raised alarm. It was in the process of scaring the people away that they (i.e the kidnappers) shot sporadically, killing an Itsekiri young boy in the process”.
7. Thus, leveraging on the previous view of the youths of Gbaramatu Kingdom to insinuate that it was Gbaramatu people that launched the attack is the most malicious spread of falsehood against the youths of Gbaramatu Kingdom as put forth by Aderojor and his co travellers. The said group and its leadership are unaware that times have changed and that it is not easy to employ state backed terror against a people through spurious lies, deceit and propaganda especially in an era of consultative leadership where the state collaborates with its member stakeholders in maintaining peace and security.
B) THE BOGUS CLAIM BY MPIHDH ABOUT ITSEKIRI OWNERSHIP OIL FIELDS IN DELTA STATE: FACTS BEYOND THE SPURIOUS LIES
1. According to the Movement for the Protection of Iwere Homeland, Development and History—MPIHDH, Itsekiri ethnic group are the “number one and the highest producer of crude oil” in Delta State, claiming the ownership of Abiteye, Otunana, Makaraba, Jones Creek, Egwa I & II and Meji Fields. While we do not object to any claim made by anyone or group of persons, we stand to correct the impression made by the MPIHDH on the ownership of the said fields as these claims are spurious and baseless.
Hence, if these aforementioned fields form part of what the group leveraged on to insist on the Itsekiri as the highest oil producers in Delta state and the second highest oil producer in Nigeria, then one could see the obvious cloud of dishonesty put forth by this gathering of ignorant men. We make bold to say that the above mentioned flow stations and oil fields are in Gbaramatu Kingdom and are owned by its people except for Meji Field operated by Chevron Nigeria Limited that is owned by the communities of Sokebolou/Youkiri of the good Ijaw oil rich people of Ogulagha Kingdom.
2. The claims made by Aderojor and his co-travellers using distributed term such as “There is NO single drop of oil” in Gbaramatu Kingdom exposes their depth of ignorance and their lack of discipline in upholding the values of truth and honesty. If Aderojor and his co-travellers are employing the sensibility of the general public and necessary federal and state authorities to believe that these spurious claims are true, then they should sort out the following puzzles: Why is it that none of their tribesmen leave in the said areas? Why are you threatening to destroy critical oil infrastructure in areas you cannot come to organize ordinary peaceful protest? Is it not obvious that Aderojor and a few other Itsekiri people are the leftover of the people within the Itsekiri ethnic nationality that are still drunk in the false history bequeathed to them by their forebears who utilized the privilege of being warrant chiefs and errand ‘boys’ to the British Colonial masters to grab lands and mischievously and fraudulently obtained court judgments that are granted on illogical premises without historical consistency?
3. It is against the above backdrop that we enjoin the Olu of Itsekiri people designate to reorient his people immediately he ascends the throne of his ancestors. Your Majesty, you need to tell your subjects the truth. The massive underdevelopment in Itsekiri communities is not caused by the good Ijaw people of Gbaramatu Kingdom. Just as the Itsekiri ethnic group, the good Ijaw People of Gbaramatu Kingdom are faced with uneven distribution of the dividends of democracy. Also, since God in his infinite mercy and grace has brought us together to dwell in the same territorial space; our collaboration is what will serve us right in ensuring that there is massive human capital and infrastructural development in our respective Kingdoms as we continually respect one another’s difference and dignity.
A word is enough for the wise!
Signed For the Gbaramatu Youth Council (GYC):
Comr Shadrach Onitsha Ebikeme,
Comr Ebike Joel Asoh,