PRESS STATEMENT DELIVERED ON WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 27, 2019, D-LINE, PORT HARCOURT.
We, the mothers and daughters of KALABARI-IJAW Nationality have gathered here today, in deep sadness and mourning to register to the people of Rivers State, the Niger Delta, Nigeria and the world, our deep distress, pain and anger over developments in our beloved ancestral home Abonnema, in Akuku-Toru Local Government Area, Rivers State, which played out on Saturday, February 23, 2019 during the Presidential and National Assembly Elections.
We are equally deeply pained at the needless deaths that occurred in other parts of the state, including Asarama, Oweikorogha, Bayelsa State as well as incidents of electoral violence in several other states of the Niger Delta and country.
Certainly, many of you like millions of people around the world watched the video/audio clip of the horrific shootings, bodies dropping on Abonnema’s main street that trended on social media and is still being shared all over the world.
By the time the day was over, several young persons had been killed. Also, a Lieutenant of the Nigeria Army was reportedly gunned down in the intense shooting of that day. A young daughter of Kalabari-Ijaw stock, a mother of two, Ibisaki Amachree on her way to deliver electoral materials, was also killed in Degema on that day. Several other yet unidentifiable persons were also killed and many more injured.
From that Saturday to Sunday, Abonnema was placed on a military lock down. Community based persons and others who had come in to vote, found themselves terrorized, denied basic freedoms in their ancestral land, founded and developed by their noble Kalabari Ijaw ancestors, long before Nigeria became an entity and a yoke on their necks.
We condemn totally these deaths, violence and the resultant denial of the Abonnema people, the right to participate in peaceful elections to have a determining voice in who leads them, as affirmed by democratic practice in modern society.
Our preliminary investigations place responsibility for the massacre to the importation and deployment of strange armed thugs and heightened military presence in the community. We have since learnt that the desecration of Abonnema, pointless deaths of her young was part of a grand design to deliver the community, A PDP stronghold to the All Progress Congress, APC.
Also culpable is Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, Minister of Transportation who had made statements during the February 12, 2019 APC rally in Port Harcourt, threatening violence.
We, the Mothers and Daughters gathered here, among other intellectuals of Niger Delta extraction, have been part of the Niger Delta struggle for Resource ownership and control, development, equity, justice and self determination. On the contrary, none of the government functionaries mentioned at the centre of the Abonnema violence and others has ever spoken up for the Kalabari-Ijaw or Niger Delta peoples in their travails over the years.
Kaiama Vocational Center Looting And Associated Fraud
We hereby also, call for forensic investigations into the troubling looting of the Presidential Amnesty Programme,PAP Vocational Skill Acquisition Centre Kaiama, Bayelsa State, purportedly by local people of Ijaw extraction from Monday February 11 – Friday February 15, 2019. We draw the attention of all, to the huge questions which persist about this depressing incident with photos going viral on social media. Kaiama is the hometown of Ijaw revolutionary, Isaac Adaka Boro.
These questions include confounding details of how a Federal Government facility, was left open for looting for 5 to 6 days from Monday February 11, 2019 without any effort made to order security intervention to arrest the looting. Presently, no evidence exists of a police report on the days long looting. Central to these developments is an emerging clarity of intent to cover fraud linked to empowerment items, claimed to have been supplied and which cannot be traced.
Kaiama, the town which also was the location for the famous Kaiama Declaration of 1998, the Ijaw Youth document of demands to the Nigerian State, has been desecrated by the organized fraud disguised as community persons looting a government facility.
We, as Ijaw Mothers and Daughters vehemently denounce this narrative of Ijaw people as common thieves and looters. It is not in our character to steal. Izon, our name and identity means truth.
In view of the foregoing, we, Kalabari /Ijaw Mothers and Daughters, make the following observations, assertions and demands:
- We condemn the violence in Abonnema and other places in Rivers State, the rest of Ijaw land and the Niger Delta, where human life was violently, abruptly terminated during the February 23 elections.
- We demand that the violence and killings be investigated and criminal proceedings commenced immediately against all those found culpable.
- We call on the Abonnema and Kalabari Traditional institution to investigate and place appropriate traditional sanctions on all persons of Abonnema, Kalabari origin, who funded and facilitated the violence and killings in Abonnema.
- We reassert our demand for the Restructuring of Nigeria. Once the process of restructuring is activated, we insist on the dismantling of all Federal agencies of underdevelopment in the Niger Delta as a first step to begin the process of rebuilding the Nigerian polity, as the only sustainable path to peace, security and development, in what is an otherwise failed country, Nigeria.
In place of these federal agencies of underdevelopment, among them the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP), Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), and the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, we call on the governors of the Niger Delta states to work jointly to create with full uninterrupted funding with Niger Delta Resources, home grown alternative agencies for Human and Infrastructural development, Youth Education / Vocational Skills/Business set up agencies, managed by Niger Delta peoples. As corollary to this, we call for Secondary School and University scholarships to all children of the Niger Delta.
As people of the Niger Delta, we seriously object to the declaration of Rivers State and the Niger Delta as a war zone at every election. It is bad enough that the region is heavily militarized to protect the Federal government interest in oil, an interest not matched with development of the oil bearing communities.
We, Mothers and Daughters of Kalabari/Ijaw hereby affirm our age long preference and campaigns for the restructuring of Nigeria as the way out of the violent scramble for power during elections and decades long massive looting of resources of Ijaw land and the Niger Delta, and the callous neglect of the needs and aspirations of the ordinary citizen.
The Violence Must Stop Now! Restructuring, Only Path to Tread!