The pan-Ijaw Socio-Cultural Organisation, Ijaw National Congress, on Friday said only true federalism in the ongoing constitutional review would address their concerns in Nigeria.
Prof. Benjamin Okaba, President of the INC, made this assertion while addressing a press conference on Friday in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State.
He said the minorities, which produced the resources to develop the country, have remained neglected over the years.
Okaba advocated the restoration of true federalism under a new constitution, enacted by the people, wherein a clean exclusive legislative list was prescribed for the federal tier of government.
He said it was regrettable that Ijawland and the Niger Delta region were the only place in the entire world where oil and gas were produced but have remained impoverished, neglected and underdeveloped.
He maintained that their retreat from militancy to a meaningful and constructive engagement has yet to yield development, adding that their choice of civilised engagement should not be misconstrued for cowardice.
Okaba equally called for the repeal of all obnoxious and discriminatory laws and policies, that have continuously undermined their fundamental human and environmental rights, as indigenous people of Nigeria.
The INC president said the delay in the construction of the East-West Road, connecting the resource base of the country, was a typical pointer to the neglect of the “goose that lays the golden egg”.
He said their current resolve for self-determination and self-actualisation could only be reversed if urgent steps are taken to address the conditions to guarantee the continued commitment of the Ijaws to the Nigerian project.
He advised the federal government to douse the rising tension in the country, resulting from growing insecurity, mass poverty and disillusionment.
Okaba regretted the unbridled atrocities perpetrated by well-known and unknown actors, and unguarded comments by some notable and equally influential political and ethno-religious leaders, which were inimical to peace and unity.
He condemned the divisive activities of political leaders and appealed to them to emulate the nationalism exhibited by the Ijaws, who had shown good faith and supported the country on all fronts.
He said that the Ijaws will organize an “All Ijaw Summit” in the coming weeks to articulate the position of the Ijaws to proffer solutions to the challenges facing the Niger Delta region.