IJAW ELDERS FORUM, LAGOS
PRESS RELEASE ON THE MILITARY SIEGE ON IJAW LAND AND
THE NIGER DELTA FOR POLITICAL PURPOSES
13th March, 2019
The Ijaw Elders Forum (IEF), Lagos makes this press statement in line with our inherent and inalienable rights to self-determination, preservation of our cultural identity and continued existence in our homeland as guaranteed by law, territorially defined on the eastern flank by Eastern Obolo and Ibeno and on the western flank by the Toru-Ebe clans of Apoi, Arogbo, Egbema, Furupagha, Gbaran, Okomu and Olodiama in the present Niger Delta Region, as well as to organize ourselves as an autonomous and contiguous geopolitical entity.
We have observed with dismay the militarization and use of state institutions like INEC, the military and the police to subvert the will of the people, intimidate, oppress and disenfranchise the people of the Niger Delta from exercising their God-given right to choose their leaders. We condemn in very strong terms the brigandage orchestrated by political thugs aided by the military. In the past couple of weeks several Ijaw communities, including Nembe-Bassambiri, Brass and Agbere and Oweikorogha in Bayelsa State and Abonema, Okrika, Bonny, Opobo and Degema in Rivers State were invaded by the military with wanton destruction of lives and property.
All of this is happening in a season of elections where people were expected to freely exercise their democratic rights to choose their leaders without fear or undue influence. This gives us serious cause for concern. We are coming to terms with the fact that there is a deliberate attempt over time to subjugate the Ijaw people. We wish to specially mention the unprovoked invasion of the homes of King Ateke Tom and Alhaji Asari Dokubo and the killings in Abonema, Nembe and Bassambiri and Oweikorogha for political purposes. This continuous harassment, killings and destruction of properties is unacceptable, and we call on all the authorities responsible for law and order to live up to their responsibilities.
The military siege in Rivers State during the governorship election on the 9th of March is highly condemnable. The people should be allowed to exercise their civic responsibility without threat from the military authorities. The huge involvement of the military and police in Rivers State is uncalled for. Without doubt, this was a premeditated attack on the people openly led by officials and representatives of Government and they need to be held accountable for their actions. We are all witnesses to and have evidence of the open threat issued by a former governor and serving minister of the federal republic of Nigeria which manifested in wanton loss of lives, property and breakdown of public peace, law and order in Rivers State. Akwa Ibom and Bayelsa States had their fair share. We demand that these brazen acts of lawlessness, abuse of office and the use of instruments of state for purposes other than the good of the people must be investigated and their perpetrators and collaborators brought to justice. The perpetrators and collaborators must account for their actions which are a clear violation of people’s right to life and personal dignity.
We wish to call to order key political actors of Ijaw extraction and other Niger Delta indigenes involved in the political process to desist from further fanning the embers of war and destruction of lives and property in the region. We condemn the use of military escorts by government appointees and politicians to intimidate voters and cause violence in the communities mentioned above. Democracy is about wooing the electorate to support the political ambition of individuals and it is not about adopting violence to acquire political power. Likewise, we call on the youths not to allow themselves to be used by politicians in causing violence during elections. The state governments of the region should come up with policies and programs to keep the youths gainfully employed in order for them to shun violence.
As advised in our last press release of 20th February, 2019, we wish to re-echo our demand for an independent investigation of the shameful looting/vandalization of the Vocational Training Center (VTC) at Kaiama. The panel set up by the Special Assistant (SA) to the President on the Presidential Amnesty Program (PAP) is not likely to yield the desired result. We again call on the Federal Government and Bayelsa State Government to setup an independent panel to investigate the incident.
The Niger Delta region has made enough sacrifices for the corporate existence of the nation. We have been continually dealt with and pilloried by successive governments without allowing peace to reign in the region. The government must restore civil authority as a matter of urgency in the area. The carnage in Rivers State must stop immediately and all soldiers withdrawn to the barracks. Otherwise, the people may take it as a provocation and resort to self-help to defend their fundamental human rights.
Atamuno Atamuno Efiye Bribena
Vice President Secretary General
Ijaw Elders Forum, Lagos Ijaw Elders Forum, Lagos