I am a Nigerian, a Niger Deltan and an Ijaw. As would all Ijaws, Niger Deltans, true Nigerians and lovers of freedom in the world, I thank and commend Jeff Koinange and CNN for this objective reporting of the Niger Delta Crisis which clearly shows that the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, MEND, and its members are not terrorists but Freedom Fighters!!
Nigeria is sustained by the Ijaw wealth of Oil and gas, which accounts for about ninety (90%) of Nigeria’s revenue. Paradoxically, the Nigerian government refuses to provide roads, electricity, drinkable water, healthcare or quality education for the Ijaws while it provides such necessities for other Nigerians with proceeds from the Ijaw Oil Wealth. Furthermore, the Ijaws have been effectively robbed of their natural resources as the Nigerian State has given the ownership and control of the Ijaw resources to other Nigerians, on a platter of gold to the total exclusion of the Ijaws by its brazenly unfair Oil Industry Privatization Scheme. While other Nigerians have become millionaires and billionaires by looting the proceeds from our Oil Wealth, we live in abject poverty.
The unbridled continuous exploitation of crude oil and natural gas beneath the farms, fisheries and houses of the Ijaws over the past fifty years has caused indescribable and irredeemable environmental destruction and ecological devastation of Ijawland. There have been no countervailing environmental protection measures instituted by the Nigerian Government and the trans-national oil companies that principally benefit from the mining of these resources. Prior to the mining of crude oil and natural gas in Ijawland, there was abundance of fish in Ijawland and the Ijaws exported large quantities of fish. It is very sad, painful and unacceptable that the Ijaws now import fish to eat because pollution by highly toxic hydrocarbons from continual oil spillages has caused the virtual extinction of fish in our rivers.
These pollutants have also rendered our farmlands barren as well as made our waters poisonous, carcinogenic and undrinkable. The continuous flaring of gas in the Niger Delta, besides being a reckless and an unconscionable waste of this valuable natural resource, has severely poisoned the air we breathe and produces acid rain that is extremely hazardous to our health and ecosystem. The continuous destruction of our habitat and traditional means of subsistence by oil prospecting activities results in the progressive deterioration of the socio-economic conditions of our already utterly impoverished Ijaw people. Consequently, the survival of the Ijaw people is under serious threat especially in the face of episodic genocide committed against our people by the Nigerian State. Since we depend on the Niger Delta ecosystem for our survival, its wanton destruction has made us to become highly endangered species of Homo sapiens.
In response to our peaceful agitation for fairness, equity and self-determination, the Nigerian government has inflicted an ever-intensifying Genocidal Reign of Terror on our defenseless people. In the last decade, members of the Nigerian Security Forces, acting at the behest of the Nigerian government, have wrongfully and needlessly murdered thousands of Ijaws, raided and burnt Ijaw towns and villages, cruelly tortured many of our people, imprisoned several Ijaw Rights Activists and raped numerous Ijaw women and children; in response to our legitimate demands for a halt to our oppression, the wanton destruction of our habitat and looting of our God-given wealth.
The Nigerian government has recently ordered gunboats from the United States to attack the Ijaws. Furthermore, it is aggressively sourcing supplies of weapons from China and elsewhere to further its war of genocide it is waging against the Ijaws to forcibly rob the Ijaws of their God-given Oil Wealth. Instead of engaging the Ijaws in dialogue to peacefully resolve the conflict, the Nigerian State has entered into alliance with foreign countries and foreign interests against the hapless Ijaw people. Instead of protecting the Ijaws as its own citizens, Nigeria is treating the Ijaws as foreigners, colonial subjects and enemies. Nigeria is determined to exterminate the Ijaws.
Our oppressors are the advocates of violence because they are using guns and violence, military force and genocide, to keep us oppressed. No Ijaw person would take a gun to fight if the oppressive Nigerian State does not use guns (military power) to repress us and deny us justice! A thief knows that it is wrong for him to take your personal property from you without your consent, and he knows that you will not allow him to do so, so he comes armed with a gun to coerce you to relinquish your property to him. Nigeria is committing armed robbery against the Ijaws. A thief comes to steal, kill and destroy. Nigeria is stealing our resources, killing us, and destroying our habitat and means of livelihood.
It is the most cruel irony of fate that our Ijaw people are being killed by Nigerian soldiers that are paid, clothed, fed, housed and armed with our Ijaw Oil Money; to enable the Nigerian government and the Oil Companies to plunder our resources and destroy our habitat. It is unacceptable that our God-given wealth has become our inexorable curse!
We are slaves and hostages in our own land. However, by virtue of Article 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we cannot be forced to belong to the association called Nigeria.
Oppression is enforced by violence and terror that rob its hapless victims of their peace. The Nigerian State has visited tremendous violence and terror upon us to subdue us to steal our resources. Nigeria’s military forces of occupation in Ijawland continually murder and maim us, and rape our women. This terror and violence has totally robbed us of our peace and security. This terror and violence must stop for us to regain our peace and security.
We, the Ijaws, are therefore engaged in a noble and heroic Struggle for Peace by resisting this horrendous violence and terror that have robbed us of our peace.
In the face of this intolerable oppression and proven intent and acts of the malevolent Nigerian state to exterminate the Ijaws and destroy their habit to steal their oil wealth, the Ijaws have no choice but to exercise their legitimate and God-given Right to Self-Defense!
Furthermore, it is the Nigerian State that has made dialogue and peaceful resolution of the Niger Delta Conflict impossible; by militarizing Ijawland and by ensuring that Ijaws who speak up are murdered or imprisoned as deterrent to other Ijaws. No Ijaw person will carry gun to fight the Nigerian State if Nigeria withdraws all its military forces of occupation in Ijawland and allows Ijaws to express their grievances without harassment and intimidation.
Most importantly, it is our sacred custodial responsibility to ensure that the land God has given us is neither destroyed nor abused. At the minimum, we owe it to God and future Ijaw generations to preserve the fragile ecosystem and productivity of the Niger Delta that God lovingly provided for our sustenance. Furthermore, the pathological dependence of Nigeria on our “free” OIL WEALTH has engendered endemic corruption that has brought perpetual underdevelopment, poverty, destitution and misery to the Nigerian masses. As the rightful owners, it would be foolish and unpardonable for us to allow our resources to be wasted without any benefit. We must stop this plunder and profligacy!
The loss of any Nigerian or Ijaw life is extremely painful to us because we hate violence and bloodshed. But the Nigerian State should know that the sleeping dog may lay no more. We only claim, demand and defend that which is rightly and justly ours. Our motivation is love, our passion is justice, and our goal is liberty in peace. The Ijaw Freedom Fighters have shown remarkable restraint in the face of extreme provocation. While the evil and genocidal Nigerian military bombs sleeping Ijaw civilians
in their villages, the Ijaw Freedom Fighters don’t even want to kill these same Nigerian troops! Our Fight is not against Nigeria or Nigerian soldiers but against evil and oppression! This is a battle of good against evil. We are confident of the glorious triumph of good over evil!
A self-imposed selfish, corrupt, dictatorial and unaccountable clique of opportunists rules Nigeria. Since these rulers do not need the mandate of Nigerians or Ijaws to rule, there is no political pressure or incentive for them to change the corrupt and unjust status quo that benefits them. The Niger Delta Conflict would therefore be kept aflame perpetually because the unjust status quo would continually evoke disenchantment amongst our people. This is the stark realty! The cause of the conflict is that the Nigerian State is robbing us of our resources and destroying our environment. Nigeria has the opportunity to destroy our environment and us simply because it has access to our lands and resources by virtue of our being part of Nigeria. This would be eliminated once we separate from Nigeria. Self-government for the Ijaws is therefore the solution to the Niger Delta Conflict. Freedom is the solution to oppression. The Ijaws will therefore reassert the sovereignty of the Ijaw Nation that had always existed prior to our conscription into Nigeria by colonial Britain.
The Right of the Ijaws to Freedom and Self-government is given absolute support and legitimacy by The Conscience of Humanity as expressed in Article 1 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights ratified and accented to on the16th of December 1966 by Resolution 2200A (XXI) of the General Assembly of the United Nations:
1. All peoples have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.
2. All peoples may, for their own ends, freely dispose of their natural wealth and resources without prejudice to any obligations arising out of international economic co-operation, based upon the principle of mutual benefit, and international law. In no case may a people be deprived of its own means of subsistence.
3. The States Parties to the present Covenant, including those having responsibility for the administration of Non-Self-Governing and Trust Territories, shall promote the realization of the right of self-determination, and shall respect that right, in conformity with the provisions of the Charter of the United Nations.
We thank and commend Jeff Koinange and CNN for calling the attention of the world to the ruthless oppression, atrocious exploitation, reckless plundering, unconscionable environmental destruction, inhuman deprivations and utter dehumanization the Ijaws suffer in Nigeria.
The Ijaws call on all champions and lovers of freedom, and indeed the entire world, to join the Alliance for Freedom and stand with them against oppression.
- Dr. Ebipamone N. Nanakumo lives and writes from East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania USA. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org