The leader of the South-south delegation to the National Conference, Chief Edwin Clark, yesterday raised the alarm over the circulation of a purported controversial document from the South-south delegates at the confab, stating that the said documents did not emanate from the delegates of the zone.
The document by the Niger Delta Self Determination Movement (NDSDM) group in a position paper presented to the Justice Idris Legbo Kutigi-led 2014 parley yesterday said, “On hundred per cent resource ownership we stand or self determination shall be our only option.”
The group urged the conference to address the burning issue for which there have been agitations over the years and quickly stem the imminent drift the country is facing.
NDSDM in the 51-page document obtained by ThisDay at the venue of the conference, particularly expressed concern over the structure of the country, which allegedly placed the South-south at a disadvantage position, said the submissions made by the northern delegates were unacceptable to the people of the Niger Delta area.
The group also faulted the recent rejection of the minority report submitted by Ms. Annkio Briggs, a representative of the Niger Delta people and member of the committee on Power Devolution at the National Conference.
It said the report being a fair and an undisputed position of the Niger Delta people, was conspiratorially meant to undermine the Niger Delta interest.
However, Clark said that the South-south had played a role towards the unity of Nigeria, as a nation therefore cannot at this time be fanning the embers of war or disunity of Nigeria.
Clark in disowning the controversial documents traced how he and late Anthony Enahoro were part of the conference that ensured the continued unity of Nigeria.
According to Clark who spoke under matters of national importance said, “Mr. Chairman, in 1966 this country was at the crossroads and a national conference was summoned. The South-south people, then Niger Delta, played a very leading role to keep this country together. There were five documents prepared.
“One in yellow, one in red, one in white, one in blue and another in green. Should this country remain together was one; do you want a unitary form of government that is two; do you want a federation that is number three; a confederation; do we break this country.
“These were the things discussed at that time and the people of Niger Delta under the leadership of Chief Anthony Enahoro, I was a member, we preached that we do not want to break this country. Nigeria is one country and since then we have been together.
“We have been cheated, we have been downtrodden, oppressed, discriminated against. Everything has been done to the people of Niger Delta and we kept quiet.
“But today God has made it that the President of this country is from the South-south or the Niger Delta and we believe that Nigerians voted for us. We didn’t vote for ourselves and we are members of this country.
“The importance of this conference is for us to see whether we can build up a new Nigeria. This afternoon, a document came into my hand. This is the document (waving it). I want to say that the South-south members did not subscribe to it. I am the leader.
“This document is vicious, malicious and it is not a Southsouth paper. We are investigating this matter and we will report back to you.
“We are Nigerians and we will remain Nigerians despite whatever we get from this conference. Thank you and God bless you”, he said.
As a result of this, a labour delegate, Issa Aremu called on the secretariat of the conference to monitor the circulation of some documents within the conference to avoid the circulation of such seditious documents like the one Clark mentioned.
As Aremu was speaking, some delegates were shouting, “No, no, don’t censor us,” but the chairman of the conference, Justice Idris Kutigi ignored the shouting.
According to the document, “Key Issues before the Northern delegates to the 2014 National Conference, Northern Nigeria the backbone and strength of Nigeria,” NDSDM said the northern position was predicated on their permanent right of control over a predatory federal government that expropriates the resources of a Niger Delta they consider weak.
“Through the 1999 Constitution, General Abdulsalami Abubakar installed a permanent northern majority in the National Assembly by the lopsided manner the seats in the Senate and House of Representatives have been allocated.
“In the same manner, the numbers of local governments per state have been so structured, as to give the north a permanent majority in local government. The major implication of this is that the direct funding of local governments from Abuja means that the bulk of the 20 per cent of the federation account that goes to local governments, ends up in the north.”
According to the document, whilst the Southern states have a total 357 councils, the northern states have 419 councils out of a countrywide total of 776.
On the issue of representation in the House of Representatives, NDSDM said the north has 182 seats as against the South’s 154. It was, therefore, no surprise that the courageous bill for resource control, brought by Hon. Temi Harriman on Wednesday May 9, 2001 was defeated by the permanent Northern majority by 81 votes against the 64 in favour.
“The Bill merely sought to amend the 1969 Petroleum Act, praying that oil producing states, local governments and communities be granted ownership and control of the resources thus reversing the present situation where the federal government exercises excessive control over oil.
“Until these structural imbalances of representation are corrected or a new basis is created for representation and other unfair but pro-northern factors redressed, Nigerian nation cannot enjoy a harmonious relationship with each other,” the group argued.
On the issue of environment, NDSDM said the findings of the UNEP study as contained in the report has been a disturbing and heartbreaking to all the people of the Niger Delta area.
Other complaints of the group includes the submission that communities in the Niger Delta drink water from the wells that are contaminated with benzene, a known carcinogen, at levels over 900 times above the World Health Organisation (WHO) guideline. The report states that this contamination warrants emergency action ahead of all other remediation efforts.
Benzene was also detected in all air samples at concentrations ranging from 0.155 to 48.2 ug/m3. Approximately 10 per cent of detected benzene concentrations in Niger Delta were higher than the concentrations WHO and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) report as corresponding to a 1 in 10,000 cancer risk.
Hydrocarbon contamination was found in water taken from some wells and the samples are at least 1,000 times higher than the Nigerian drinking water standard of 3/I. Local communities are aware of the pollution and its dangers but stated that they will continue to use the water for drinking, bathing, washing, and cooking as they have no alternative.
“The title of the northern delegates’ document at the national conference is dubious and must be rejected as same is provocative with a calculated attempt to reap where it has not sown and this shall no long be allowed.
“We must once more remind ourselves that the hundred year’s life span of amalgamation treaty had expired on December 31, 2013. Hence, we urge all our neighbours such as the Oodua, Ndi-Igbo, Middle Belt and any others in solidarity with us to join hands with us in unison to synergise for us to win this struggle together, as we assure you of our highest cooperation.
“Finally, on hundred percent resource ownership we stand or self determination shall be our only option”, the controversial document stated.