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Imo, Abia, Ondo not part of Niger Delta region ― Prof. Etekpe


The Director, Institute for Niger Delta Studies (INDS) of the Niger Delta University, Prof. Ambily Etekpe, has said it was wrong to have included Imo, Abia and Ondo as member states of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
The NDDC was created by former President Olusegun Obasanjo after years of agitation by the people of the Niger Delta for a special interventionist agency to cater for the development of the region but Included Imo, Abia and Ondo as member states of the commission because of their oil-producing status.

Prof Etekpe said though Imo, Abia and Ondo States are crude oil-producing states, they do not fall into the geographic region referred to as Niger Delta, and therefore should not be benefiting from funds specifically earmarked for the development of the region.
He stated this in Yenagoa while presenting a paper titled “Towards Good Governance: Rethinking the Ijo Nation’s agenda in the past in Nigeria” during a one day Intra media workshop organised by the Oloibiri Youngstars Foundation in partnership with the Environmental Rights Action (ERA).

He argued that if the intention of the Obasanjo led administration was to create an Oil Producing States Development Commission, Imo, Abia and Ondo States would have been legitimate members.
The university don added that since the commission was established with the aim to provide extra funds for the development of the Niger Delta as a result of its peculiar and difficult terrain, capturing the three states in the NDDC was a misplaced priority.
“There is a generic term when you talk about a Delta region. And from my research, there are about ten deltas across the world, with three in Africa.
They are the Nile Delta in Egypt, Okavango Delta in Botswana and the Niger Delta in Nigeria. And out of the ten delta regions across the world, the Pearl Delta in China does not produce oil but it has similar environmental features and challenges like the Niger Delta. “So Obasanjo while creating the NDDC equated the delta as an oil-producing area and this is wrong. “I say so because Saudi Arabia, for example, produces oil but is not a delta.
So if you are creating a commission to cater for the special needs of a people in the delta, why add states that do not have the features of a delta? “We need to distinguish this fact when we are talking about how we sincerely want to develop an area and the people that inhabit it,” he said.
Prof Etekpe, therefore, challenged the umbrella bodies of the Ijaw ethnic nationality, Ijaw National Congress (INC) and Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) to look beyond the struggle for resource control for wealth generation and seek political restructuring for the people of the Niger Delta region in order to engender sustainable growth and development.
Mr. Bright Igrubia, who spoke on behalf of the organisers, said the event was strategically planned for Ijaw leaders of thought to come together to dialogue and highlight some of the contemporary issues facing the people of the Niger Delta and engage the media on how better to report them.
He said “we, as a foundation, felt it is a matter of responsibility for us to retrospect the past and what the future holds for the Ijaw Nation and engage the media to help us highlight some of the challenges bedevilling us as a people.
“We see this as a lacuna that needs to be addressed so that the struggle of the Ijaws can be adequately promoted. “One vital message we are also sending is that it time Ijaw consider the idea that the pen is mightier than the sword.
“We believe that whatever is gained through violence is temporary because if you gain any progress by violence another violence can take it down by force. “It is for Ijaw Nation to adopt intellectual warfare than armed struggle in achieving our collective goal as a people.”
Also presenting a paper titled “The environmental perspective to the contemporary Ijaw struggle”, the Project Officer of the ERA Niger Delta Resource Center, Comrade Alagoa Morris, advocated the establishment of a Niger Delta Environment Forensic Investigation Centre, saying it would help in bringing perpetrators of crude oil spills to justice.
He said “one of the main reasons for the absence of genuine peace and development in the Niger Delta is the absence of environmental justice. “We lack system that could bring oil companies and their partners that play double standards each time there is a case crude oil spill in the Niger Delta region.
“Every day our people witness what we prefer to call environmental terrorism perpetrated by oil and gas companies with protection from our government. “In many cases, oil companies refuse to admit that the spill is caused by equipment failure even when it is clear because we don’t have the technology to prove them wrong, thereby leaving many communities to suffer without proper cleanup and compensation.”

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