The South South geo-political zone has raised the ante in the agitation for the restructuring of the country, handing down a three-month ultimatum to the federal authorities to start the process of giving Nigeria a new lease of life.
Niger Delta leaders emerged from a meeting in Port Harcourt late Friday asking the federal government to convene a national dialogue for the purpose of charting a new course for the country.
Almost simultaneously, the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) announced its return to the creeks ahead of launching what it called Operation Humble to destroy targeted oil installations in the region.
The Niger Delta leaders, in a communiqué at the end of a South-South zonal conference in Port Harcourt, said the dialogue they are advocating should draw its membership from all ethnic groups to chart a new course for the country.
The conference had as its theme, “Restructuring: imperatives for sustainable development, unity and security.”
They spoke of an urgent need for the devolution of powers to the states and vowed to resist oppressive and repressive tendencies against the Niger Delta region and its people.
They appealed to the Federal Government to stop selling their resources to the Chinese and others.
The stakeholders, who came from the nine states of the region, threatened to actualise their freedom if nothing happened at the expiration of the ultimatum.
The communique was read by prominent Niger Delta activist and President of Agape Birthrights Development Initiative, Ms. Ann Kio-Brigss.
The communique: “We the people of the Niger Delta hereby give the Government of Nigeria a three months window within which to cordially address our concerns towards re-federalising the polity, by convening a national dialogue of the representatives of the ethnic groups in Nigeria to chart a new course for the country.
“At the expiration of this three months window, we the people of the Niger Delta will commence the process that will guarantee our freedom and progress.
“Our people should mobilise all human resources to see that fiscal federalism and devolution of powers are included in the constitution. There should be internal justice amongst us- charity begins at home.
“We the people of the Niger Delta hereby reaffirm their commonality, unity and oneness despite our multi-ethnic diversities.
“The Niger Delta people, who are the breadwinners of Nigeria, demand to be heard and fairly treated with equity by the oppressive Nigerian state, and by extension, the insensitive Nigerian political class, as the only basis for peaceful co-existence.
“We the people of the Niger Delta demand restructuring, with the states as the federating units and devolution of more powers to the states.
“We the ethnic nationalities of the South-South affirm the right of peoples to self-determination and to fully control their resource to stop and put an end to further deprivation and despoliation of their environment which they have suffered in the last 60 years.
“The people of the Niger Delta will take all lawful measures to develop an agenda for freedom and liberation and development of the region.
“The Niger Delta ethnic nationalities hereby demand that the governors of the South-South immediately set up security outfits in their respective states and network with each other in the region to protect our territories against terrorists, criminals, land grabbers and other criminals who often operate as bandits and kidnappers.
“Niger Deltans demand that the governors of the South-South region immediately set up community based defence forces in all local government areas of the South-South.
“The ethnic nationalities of the Niger Delta demand the Federal Government of Nigeria to immediately discontinue the selective appointments, posting and deployment of mainly non- Middle-Belt and Southern Nigerian security officials to the Niger Delta to oppress our people.
“The Niger Delta demands equal representation, control and headship of all relevant security and military organisations in the country. The Niger Delta demands and expresses the desire for a provision in the Nigerian constitution for the exercise of the inalienable right to self- determination through a referendum in line with international laws.
“The Niger Delta demands total ownership rights to lands, natural resources, seas and waters by communities wherever such are located in the region.
“The Niger Delta has resolved to put an end to all oppressive and repressive tendencies by the Nigerian State against our region and warns that we shall no longer tolerate same from other nationalities.
“The Niger Delta people demand immediate environmental remediation and clean-up of Niger-Delta which has been deliberately devastated by crude oil exploration and exploitation.
“The Niger Delta governors should as a matter of extreme urgency take the issue of food security as to prevent the starvation of our people in the event of any food blockade.
“The Niger Delta governors are to ensure protection of the flora/fauna and take interest in general environmental protection, including endowments above or beneath the soil for sustainable development.
“The Niger Delta people demand that the federal government desists from selling out our resources to the Chinese or Sukuk promoting countries, to secure any project.
The Niger Delta People demand their enjoyment of the right to own and bear arms for self defence as law-abiding citizens. The selective grant of firearms licences is hereby condemned and denounced. This is necessary considering the present state of insecurity in Nigeria.
“The people of Niger Delta demand the establishment of State Police in their respective states.”
The Port Harcourt meeting came 48 hours after President Muhammadu Buhari met with the leadership of the Ijaw National Congress (INC) and promised to follow the lead of the National Assembly to implement the wishes of Nigerians on restructuring.
Buhari said he would not hesitate to endorse any move by the National Assembly on restructuring.
“As soon as they finalise the process, necessary action would not be delayed on my part,” he told the Professor Benjamin Okaba-led delegation of the INC.
Only penultimate Saturday, the President had branded agitators of restructuring and secession as mischievously dangerous and naïve.”
“You are telling us to dissolve a system and call for an obscure conference to come and discuss how we can move forward as a nation, that can never be done and no country will agree to that,” Buhari had said in a message to the launch of the Kudirat Abiola Sabon Gari Peace Foundation in Zaria, Kaduna State.
He added: “Those who are discussing restructuring, my question is that what are you going to restructure?
“If you ask many Nigerians what are they going to restructure, you will find out that they have nothing to talk about.
“Some of them have not even studied the 1999 Constitution. The 1999 Constitution is almost 70 to 80 per cent 1979 Constitution.”
In a separate statement, the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) said it was staging a return to the creeks to launch Operation Humble designed to destroy targeted oil installations in the region.
The statement was posted on NDA’s website.