ByÂ FESTUS AHON
Dr. Akpo Mudiaga-Odje is a lawyer,Â human rights activist and facilitator ofÂ Â Â the Niger Delta Democratic Union, NDDU. He is one of those at the forefront of the Niger Delta struggle.Â In this interview, he speaks on the situation in the region. Excerpts:
Advice forÂ youths
The agitation for the empowerment and liberation of our people must continue. We have to within constitutional means advocate for our rights peacefully, legally and complement it with the spirit of intellectual militancy. That is the spirit we should move on, we should get more of our youths educated, we should try to justify our presence and we should use the Ogoni approach.
We should resist through the due process, through constitutional means the exploitation of our resources. If it does not benefit us, we should be in a position to select and choose who should explore our resources with the terms and conditions. Our youths should be employed, both skilled and unskilled labour, our youths should be given good jobs and be paid in dollars with which the expatriate are being paid. What have we done wrong? My message is, we must continue to agitate for our rights within the constitutional framework.
On the activities of the NigerÂ Delta ministry?
If there is a ministry of Niger Delta then this crisis should not be there in the first place, because that is a specific ministry for the Niger Delta. I have not seen the ministry carrying out any rehabilitations activity yet rather itâ€™s been suspiciously quiet.
For the fact that we have been crying that its funds must be increased, even those of us who believe that it is an unconstitutional creation we have discovered that the people at the helm of affair, except the minister of state of the Niger Delta who I believe is a committed man, the people marshalling that particular organization do not give us any hope. There is no light in the tunnel. It is just one bureaucratic structure created there again to add to the woes of the people of the Niger Delta. As you are aware, Nigeria has taken over $440 billion of Nigeria crude oil from the Niger Delta and that was about more than 12 times the amount used to in the marshall plan to reconstruct Europe.
On the future of the ministry?
It does not even exist in my eyes. It does not exist its impact is not felt. To me it is unconstitutional, so scrapping it does not help the matter because it does not exist. Are you feeling it? You are a Reporter in one of the prominent newspapers, are you a citizen, an indigene of an oil producing community, have you felt the Niger Delta ministry in your community? Why ask me about scrapping it?
If they scrap it, it is insignificant, if it is there it is insignificant because nobody is feeling it so like I told you, it is another addition to the Niger Delta woes and was brought in to split the funds of NDDC which they have already done. As you are aware it was given over N84 billion last year and now you can see that the budget has been split between the ministry and the NDDC and this is what the president wanted them to do, that he wants to bring the NDDC under the ministry as a parastatal and we warned him that look our president, the NDDC Act is an Act of parliament.
You can only do so if you amend the law. He is now implementing what he wants to do through the funding whereas he has not asked for the law to be reviewed. He has already started to implement it by putting NDDC under the ministry.