By Clifford Ndujihe, Deputy Political Editor
Ms Annkio Briggs, 65, is a Niger-Deltan and a human and environmental rights activist. In this interview, Briggs, who was a delegate at the 2014 National Conference shares her thought on the state of the nation, rising tension in the Niger-Delta following threats by some militants to resume bombing of oil facilities and why Nigeria must be restructured urgently.
She picked holes in President Muhammadu Buhari’s declaration that his appointments were based on merit, saying that the president favours his relations, friends, and religion.
WHAT is your take on President Muhammadu Buhari’s defence that his appointments are not lopsided against the South?
As far back as 2015 from the portfolios of the ministerial appointments, to the National Security Adviser, NSA, Air Force, Police, Defence, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Department of State Services, DSS, Federal Road Safety Commission, FRSC, National Immigration Service, NIS, and many other appointments, complaints have come from the Niger-Delta, South-West, South-East and Middle-Belt that President Buhari gave the critical positions to his region, relatives, friends and people of his religion.
It is therefore irrelevant and untrue for the presidency or the president’s media people to attempt to lie to Nigerians and the world in saying that his appointments, so far, are not lopsided. Anyway, if it makes them feel better by telling themselves those lies, that is okay. We know what we know.
How do you see the tussle between Pan Niger-Delta Forum, PANDEF, and Pan Niger-Delta Peoples Congress, PNDPC, as the main negotiation group for the Niger-Delta, the threat of militants to resume hostilities over the issue and failure of the Federal Government to fulfil its promises?
It is really sad and embarrassing that the two Niger-Delta groups that emerged in 2016 have allowed themselves to be used by the Federal Government, the oil and gas greedy cabal, and sons and daughters of Niger-Delta in the Federal Government against the interest of the Niger-Delta people and environment.
Members of both bodies are Niger-Deltans and have a right to speak for the region and their people; yet, the majority of the Niger-Delta people don’t regard either of the two bodies to be speaking for them. I say this because not all the ethnic nationalities of the Niger-Delta are represented, and the demands they have made, are not the current demands or aspirations of the people.
The demand for modular refineries licences, which I support, is only meant for a few and it is a business and interested Niger-Delta people are entitled to go into that business, but it does not answer our decades calls for liberty, equity and justice.
The call by the bodies that a few oil wells should be given to the people of the Niger-Delta, though I support that, does not answer to the call for resource ownership, management and control.
The Niger-Delta has given too much to Nigeria in the past 103 years, regions who have not given even half of what the Niger- Delta has given are asking for far more than the two groups are asking for on our behalf.
The minimum we should be asking for is a new Nigeria through a restructuring that will give the states, all the 36 states the right to federalism, development, free and fair elections that will give us all the political independence, choice and pace of development.
Really, it is not so much who the Federal Government chooses to speak with from the Niger- Delta, it is the content of what is discussed.
The Federal Government, one day, says it does not know who to speak with, the second day it says it is speaking to the two groups, and both groups are trying to outdo each other. They are willing pawns in the game of divide and rule. The Niger-Delta people and the environment remain the victims of the Federal Government, international oil companies (IOCs) and our own people.
What is your take on the decision of the Federal Government not to implement the report of the 2014 National Conference?
The present Federal Government can reject the 2014 National Conference while it is in office. Either in 2019 or 2023, this government will cease to govern Nigeria, the government after it may look at the report.
Their refusing to recognise the 2014 National Conference report as representing the people of Nigeria is their minority position. I was a humble delegate at the 2014 National Conference, every issue tearing Nigeria apart today – nepotism, injustice, oppression, restructuring, free and fair election, ownership of resources, security, devolution of power, killer herdsmen, and many other things were discussed and the representation was across board, everyone, religion, culture, etc., were well represented.
To reduce the 2014 National Conference to the person of President Goodluck Jonathan is petty and destructive towards the claim that Nigeria is one united nation. Nigeria is not the inheritance of the Federal Government or a particular people or religion. The present call to restructure Nigeria is the path to hold onto Nigeria as one.
What are your views on the recall of Abdul Maina into the civil service and the claim by the presidency that supporters of former President Jonathan were behind Maina’s recall?
The unbelievable drama of the recall, redeployment, promotion into the system and subsequent disappearance of Abdul Maina, all in the name of fighting corruption, will be questioned even if the set up was at LGA level.
To turn around and say that President Jonathan and his supporters are responsible shows that even the Federal Government does not know who is in control of the government. Like many other dramas that have played out, it does not deserve any further comment only to say that the only chance Nigeria has to qualify for recognition as a responsible country is by restructuring, this is the only way out.
How do you think the restructuring should be done?
There are many suggestions, a new people’s constitution, we have the framework in the 2014 National Conference report, the late Chief Anthony Enahoro-led PRONACO People’s constitution, the 1963 Constitution, and other suggestions. Let us discuss, and invite the UN to observe. We will listen to each other and accept what is just and equitable.
I am certain that the Niger- Delta people will no longer accept to remain the cow that the Federal Government and 27 states should milk dry. The Federal Government and some individuals’ position that Nigeria will not be restructured is not acceptable to us. The change from oppressive government to federalism is the only path to keeping Nigeria one.
In terms of performance, what is your assessment of the President Buhari administration almost 30 months after?
The President Buhari Government still has another 17 months to go before this tenure ends. In the past 30 months, this Government is yet to deliver on any of its campaign promises to Nigerians. No government in the past has delivered on everything but this government is yet to deliver on even one of the numerous promises it made to Nigerians.
Personally, l am not surprised, considering the promises he made: that he will fight corruption to a standstill, every elementary student will have one free meal, unemployed graduates will be paid N5,000 per month. That he won’t travel abroad for treatment, Boko Haram will be a thing of the past, one dollar will be one Naira. What was more amazing is that highly educated and exposed people who should know better not only believed it but drove it as if government is by Abracadabra.