The call by a Niger-Delta militant group, Reformed Niger Delta Avengers, RNDA, on the Federal Government, last week, to reject the newest seven-point demands by South-South governors until they (governors) start paying 13 per cent derivation directly to oil communities, has caused division among leaders, activists and stakeholders in the zone.
While some slammed the militant group for the request they considered outrageous and diversionary, others said RNDA was right in its demand, as governors had frittered away derivation fund over the years. A number of them said both the governors and militants have rights to express their views.
Among those who condemned the militants' action were a former National Chairman of Traditional Rulers of Oil Producing Communities of Nigeria, TROMPCON, HM King Charles Ayemi-Botu, and former Provost Marshal, Nigerian Army, Brigadier-General Idada Ikponmwen (retd.) while the Anglican Bishop of Calabar, Cross River State, Rt Rev Tunde Adeleye; son of First Republic Finance Minister and Chairman, Warri Consultative Forum, Emmanuel Okotie-Eboh, and spokesman, Niger Delta Rights Advocates, NDRA, Darlington Nwauju, threw their weight behind the militants.
Convener, South-South Reawakening Group, Elder Joseph Ambakederimo and Executive Director, African Network for Environment and Economic Justice, ANEEJ, Rev David Ugolor, were of the opinion that governors from the zone are disconnected from the people that elected them.
Environmental activist, Nnimmo Bassey, and Ijaw Youth Council, IYC, however, advised the Federal Government to listen to both the militants and governors, noting that both are saying same thing in different ways.
South-South governors, lawmakers, monarchs and other leaders, led by Chairman of South-South Governors Forum, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa (Delta State) had, last Tuesday, presented a seven-point demand, which included restructuring and true federalism to the Federal Government, through the Chief of Staff to the President, Prof Ibrahim Gambari, who led a Federal Government delegation to a consultative meeting with people of the zone.
However, barely 48 hours later, RNDA, a coalition of nine militant groups headed by the Commanding Officer, CO, self-styled "Major General" Johnmark Ezonebi, opposed all the demands of the governors, describing them as politically motivated, urging the Federal Government to discard the demands until the governors begin to pay 13 per cent derivation directly to the oil communities.
Continuous Emancipation of Niger Delta, CEND, an amalgam of 36 militant groups headed by General Officer Commanding, GOC, self-styled "General" River Lord, aka Adaka Boro, on the other hand, backed the governors' demands, but agreed with RNDA on payment of 13 per cent derivation directly to the oil communities.
RNDA sold out-- King Ayemi-Botu
In Delta State, paramount ruler of Siembiri Kingdom, King Ayemi-Botu, said RNDA's statement is callous, childish, and meaningless, lacks sense of direction and a complete sellout.
"Frankly, RNDA has exposed itself as being hoodwinked by politicians for a pot of porridge and lost its relevance and credibility," he said.
Militants in order--Okotie-Eboh
King Ayemi-Botu's position was, however, countered by Emmanuel Okotie-Eboh, who insisted that the militants are in order with their demands.
He said: "I support the statement by Niger Delta militants to the Federal Government to reject South-South governors' demands till the 13 per cent derivation is paid directly to the oil producing communities."
"It is very sad to observe that truth is not sacrosanct in this area called Niger-Delta. I am so happy to hear the voice of our brothers fighting against underdevelopment the in zone. It is a sign of good things to come and a welcome development in our great region.
"I salute them and I can see the era of blaming our brother on the other side is coming to an end because we are coming to know the individuals behind the underdevelopment of our dear region.
Militants' objection disparaging, inflammatory-- Ozobo, IPDI
National President of Ijaw People Development Initiative, IPDI, Mr. Austin Ozobo, told Vanguard that the statement by RNDA is capable of causing more trouble in the zone.
He said: "It is provocative and demeaning to have read some supposed agitators under the name RNDA calling on Federal Government to ignore or reject the seven-point demands presented to it by South-South governors.
"This call does not show a true picture of the said agitators as it has never been the style of Niger Delta agitators. These crops of agitators should borrow a leaf from the defunct MEND and Niger Delta Avengers, and remain focused if they are true agitators. Except such groups have ulterior motive, there is no need for conflicting statements and counter attacks from supposed militant groups that should have complemented the efforts of the governors."
FG hamstrung at the moment -- Alaowei (CHURAC)
On his part, National President, Centre for Human rights and Anti-Corruption Crusade, CHURAC, Mr. Cleric Alaowei, said the issue of 13 per cent derivation raised by the RNDA is a constitutional matter and should not be confused with the genuine demands of the South-South governors.
"To me, the South-South governors' seven-point demands are in order. I am in support of the demands. These demands are in tandem with PANDEF's 16-point demands. Even the ex-freedom fighters in Niger Delta under MEND, NDPVF, NDA, etc anchored their agitations on resource control and true federalism. Why then should any right -thinking person from the region be opposing the governors?"
Govs spoke the mind of S'South--Ikponmwen
In Benin City, Edo State, Brigadier-General Ikponmwen (retd) insisted that South-South governors spoke the mind of the people from the zone through their demands.
Describing the statement of RNDA as a distraction, he said: "The governors' meeting with the elders spelt-out the desirables, the things that ought to be done in a federating state in the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Even South-West leaders, governors and the traditional rulers, have also met and are making same demands. These groups should not distract the attention of the leaders of the zones.
Govs disconnected from citizens--Ugolor
Executive Director, Benin City-based African Network for Environment and Economic Justice, ANEEJ, Rev David Ugolor, told Vanguard that the main issue is the disconnect between governors in the zone and their people.
According to him, "This is a case of distrust between the governors of the zone and the people they govern. The governors hardly reach out to the people. The governors are not engaging their people. The people do not trust the government, they do not believe in the government and it shows clearly that the governors do not carry the people along and the governors too do not have anything to justify the legitimacy they want to claim on the message."
FG should listen to both sides-- Nnimmo Bassey
Environmental activist and Director, Health of Mother Earth Foundation, HOMEF, Rev. Nnimmo Bassey, said: "Government should listen to all and take the right decision, everybody has the right to freedom of speech; the militants have their own rights so also are the governors. So my position is that the government should listen to the people and do what is needful at the appropriate time."
Govs've brought shame to S'South -- Ambakederimo
Elder Joseph Ambakederimo in his reaction, said: "I stand totally with anyone, who opposes the governors for the singular reason that the governors have brought shame and disrepute to the region. The governors have shown that they have become bereft of ideas to turn the region around for the better.
"Payment of 13 per cent derivation directly to the communities is like sharing cash money to the people to enrich them and leaving the environment and development of the region limping on one foot. I believe the resources should be used for the overall development and benefit of the people and not diverted for personal gains.
Govs are our major headache-- Akene
Environmentalist and former Commissioner for Lands, Bayelsa State, Furoebi Akene, in his reaction said: "I do not support the paying of 13 per cent to host communities because the definition of host communities will be ambiguous. I support independent and credible people to manage it in form of a special commission like BASOPADEC. For the NDDC, governors should not even contemplate the control of it. In the South- South, the governors are our major problems."
We support militants' position--Nwauju (NDRA)
Spokesman, Niger Delta Rights Advocates, NDRA, Darlington Nwauju, in a chat with our correspondent, declared his support for RNDA's position.
He said: "We align roundly with the RNDA position. The zone has received over N40 trillion in the past 18 years through a combination of the 13 per cent derivation, statutory allocations and allocations to the NDDC. Our position has and will always be that there is no commensurate infrastructural mileage to justify these huge allocations."
Militants, govs on the same page--Igbifa, IYC president
President, Ijaw Youth Council, Peter Igbifa, told one of our reporters that both the militants and leaders of the zone are on the same page. He said: "What they want is that the nation achieves true federalism, resource control. They also want the East-West Road to be completed."
It's a wake-up call on govs--Ekong, UNIUYO don
A Professor of Economics, University of Uyo, Chris Ekong, while commending the governors on the seven -point demands, described the militants' tough stance as a wakeup call, given the fact that the region is bedeviled by unemployment, underdevelopment, poverty and the likes.
His words: "The demand by the governors on the Federal Government on behalf of the South-South zone is germane and timely. The governors, however, have not demonstrated reciprocation to their demand by putting their houses in order.
Govs should be probed - Effiong, constitutional lawyer
Constitutional lawyer and human rights activist, Inibehe Effiong, said: "The reality is that the governors of the region cannot account for the 13 per cent derivation that they receive. I am not standing in for the militants because I do not know them, but as somebody from the zone, the governors should account for the resources that they receive."
Govs should render account-- Adeleye, Anglican bishop
For Anglican Bishop of Calabar, Cross River State, Rt Rev Tunde Adeleye, "The youths are making the demand on behalf of the people and they have the right to ask the governors to account for the trillions they have received so far. Look around you and see if there is anything in the region to show for the huge sums that have been received either as 13 percent derivation, Niger Delta Development Commission, or the various initiatives which have gulped money as developmental programmes."
C'River not receiving 13% derivation --Okom
Chief Linus Okom, Ada Bekwara, pointed out that Cross River State is not among the states receiving 13 percent derivation, a
He said: "Our oil wells were lost to Akwa Ibom, if the state was getting the money, by now the state would have been more developed than what it is now. The state since 1999 has been blessed with good leadership and from the lean resources we have, so much has been achieved. The present government would have actualized at lot of projects assuming we are in the league of those receiving the money," he said.