By Chris Ochayi
ABUJAâ€”Eminent Nigerians, including Vice President Goodluck Jonathan and prominent Ijaw leader and elder statesman, Chief Edwin Clark, yesterday agreed that the only permanent solution to the Niger Delta woes was for the Federal Government to embark on massive development of the region.
Their position received the support of Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Chief Ufot Ekaette and President of a pressure group, Friends of the South-South, Alhaji Suleiman Yerima.
They spoke yesterday at the presentation of a book, titled: â€œResource Control: Legal Right of Niger Delta Region of Nigeria,â€ which held at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja. The book was written byÂ Justice Robert Isaac Ewa Odu, a retired judge of Cross River State judiciary.
ChiefÂ Edwin Clark, who was the Chairman of the occasion, said with peace returning to the region following the success of amnesty, the Federal Government, the Niger Delta Ministry and the NDDC must all come out now to commence the process of developing the region.
He said the various development agents should do their jobs in the various places so that between now and December, some changes should be made in the physical position of the Niger Delta.
He said â€œnow, like I have always said, amnesty is not an end in itself, it is a mean to an end. The amnesty has ushered in a period of peaceful co-existence, what should follow now is dialogue. After war, after any battle, after any conflict, the sensible people must come together to dialogue, to find solution to their problems.
â€œHaving said that, the elders, the leaders of the areas and the leaderships of the ex-militants will now come together and discuss with the Federal Government. But that does not mean that should be the end. It should go side by side with massive development of the areas so that the boys will not go back, will not regret for what they have fought for.
He said â€œthat is, the Federal Government should kick-start the Niger Delta Ministry, the NDDC must all come out now to do their job in the various places. Let there be, between now and December some changes in the physical position of the Niger Delta”.
He said â€œthere would be no re-occurring of militantsâ€™ activities in the sense that nobody forced them to surrender their guns. They have voluntarily surrendered and they now want to dialogue, they now want to see massive development in the area. They won’t go back provided the government provides for them.
On the book, he said, it was not the crowd that mattered but the quality of the attendance and it was very well organised. And the message sent to the people of the Niger Delta and to Nigeria as a whole is very very commendable.
â€œThat now people know the problem of the Niger Delta, the legal aspect of it-whether resource control is an issue to affect the Niger Delta is very well discussed in the book. And we are happy that the launching has come at a time Mr. President declared the amnesty and it has succeeded and we are now waiting for the aftermath, what follows and that is what we are waiting for.
On his part, the Vice President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan noted that the launching of the book was very timely, “coming at a time that we are seriously finding lasting solutions to the crisis in the Niger Delta”.
He said â€œfor students of history, the book has added deep insights to issues surrounding agitations for revenue allocation, derivation principle and resource control and clarified certain misconceptions about the situation in the Niger Delta”.
Dr. Jonathan who was represented by the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Chief Ufot Ekaette, said the book had added another chapter to the events that shape the history of the Niger Delta.
In his address, President, Northern Friends of South South said it is important the crisis in the Niger Delta region is resolved to enable a meaningful development carried out there.
On this note, he said, the Friends of the South-South are intensifying approaches to hold a national summit to critically discus the issue of resource control in Nigeria from multi-dimensional perspectives.
The summit according to him, â€œwill surgically evaluate the Niger Delta agitations and make appraisals within the context of our historical values and traditionsâ€.