Monday, October 11, 2004

IKWERRE RESCUE CHARTER

IKWERRE RESCUE CHARTER

A DECLARATION ADOPTED AT THE ALL IKWEERE YOUTHS CONVENTION HELD UNDER THE AUSPICES OF IKWERRE YOUTHS CONVENTION (IYC) IN THE HISTORIC TOWN OF ELELE (OMENELE) IN IKWERRE LOCAL GOVERNMENT AREA OF RIVERS STATE, NIGERIA ON 4TH SEPTEMBER, 1999

PREAMBLE

Long before the forced amalgamation of northern and southern Protectorates in 1914 by the British colonialists, Nigeria was and essentially remains a union of vibrant ethnic nationalities. The creation of a 12 -state structure in May 1967, threw up pristine Nigerian nationalities, which older and larger dispensations had Subjugated. The idea of state creation heightened the quest for Self-assertion and recognition of the ethnic identities of previously disadvantaged nationalities within the Nigerian Federation. Based on the actual acts of discrimination and marginalisation within the old Rivers State, the Ikwerre Ethnic Nationality was and remains deeply committed to the principle of self-determination and autonomy to preside over our own affairs within the Nigerian federation.

Arising from the above facts therefore:

We, the Youths of Ikwerre Ethnic Nationality, acting for ourselves and on behalf of our distinct ethnic nationality in Nigeria with a population of 14 million persons, presently comprising Port Harcourt, Obio/Akpor, Ikwerre and Emohua local government areas, do hereby make the following declarations to the people and government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and to the world:

That as a unique ethnic nationality, our medium of communication (Ikwerre) has been recognised within the Niger Delta and the Federation as a Nigerian Language. That about 60% of our land have been acquired in the last 100 years for purposes of "development", resulting in the sacking of several towns and villages; for example, Orominieke, Eligbam, Elieke (parts of "Bori Camp") etc, without any form of compensation, and the cruel destruction of centres of worship and tourism, holy lands, graves and forests.

That the predominant farming occupation of our people was dealt a decisive blow with the acquisition of Obomotu (later renamed Port Harcourt) by the British. Since then, our ethnic nationality has come under severe pressures as a result of unremitting land acquisition by governments, companies and individual speculators, resulting in unspeakable land alienation and socio-cultural dislocation that have now forced our young people into alcoholism, prostitution, unemployment and crime, etc.

That some of the lands pretentiously acquired for public use, have since been converted into private use by dubious government agents without adequate compensation, or reference to the original owners.

That articulate and influential Ikwerre personalities have been and are still being trailed, harassed and assassinated by faceless elements apparently enjoying official protection. This way, about 1,000 thousand activists (including the renowned scholar, statesman and politician,. Chief Senator (Dr.) Obi Wali have been murdered in suspicious circumstances in the last 10 years.

That Chief Senator (Dr.) Wali was brutally murdered in the sanctuary of his bedroom on 6th April 1993, while agitating for self-determination and development of the Ikwerre Ethnic Nationality in particular and other nationalities, by officially commissioned assassins who are still enjoying immunity from prosecution.

That even now, stringent efforts are still being intensified by powerful cabals to balkanise our homogenous ethnic nationality with a view to reducing the Ikwerre people into expendable minorities in there God-given land.

That despite the fact that in a true Federal system larger ethnic groups should not swallow or subjugate smaller groups, no Ikwerre indigene has been appointed as either a Minister, Ambassador, Presidential Special Adviser, Presidential Special Assistant, Chairman of a Federal Board/Commission, University Vice Chancellor, Governor, Security Chief or into related positions since we were forced into the Nigerian "Federation".

That the crude oil forcefully taken from Ikwere land in the last forty years without any compensation is valued at Sixty Billion United State Dollars ($60 b).

That the mindless exploration and exploitation of crude oil on our ancestral lands have inflicted grave environmental, socio-cultural and economic pains on our people to the point of extinction.

That the continuation of these identified forms of exploitation, marginalisation, oppression, group alienation amount to ethnic decontamination and deliberate exclusion of Ikwerre People from Government and Corporate Institutions.

That the indigenous colonisers and their inside collaborators cleverly renamed parts of Rumuwoji community in Rebisi Kingdom, as 'Abonnema Wharf', including the Kidney, Eagle and Isaka Islands from which further encroachments are still being made into the Ikwerre hinterland.

That gas flaring and rampant explosions at several oil locations have sacked several Ikwerre communities. An examples is the devastating inferno at the Apara Flow Station operated by the Shell Petroleum Development Company Limited, which burnt down several villages, polluted the environment and reduced indigenes of these areas into internal refuges in peace time in the late 1960s

That a complex networks of oil pipelines and abandoned dry wellscriss-cross the length and breath of Ikwerre land with attendant environmental degradation, including incessant oil blow-outs.

Today, we the Ikwerre Youths drawn from all the villages, towns, clans and those in the diaspora, gathered under the auspices of the Ikwerre Youths Convention (IYC), determined to take our destiny in our own hands, and to free ourselves from over a century-long entrapment and enslavement, repression and exploitation in the present Nigerian Federation, wish to openly and boldly publicise our cause.

DECLARATIONS

Conscious of the damages and devastation done to our environment by the multi-national and state owned companies in the oil, gas, chemical, agricultural and construction industries through many years of exploitation and exploration of our natural and mineral resources, we hereby demand that all affected institutions should stop operations in Ikwerre land with immediate effect, in their own interests. Realising the impact now and in the future of the continuous acquisition of our ancestral lands under the camouflage of state and national developm ent; knowing the number of such hectares of land ceased for about 100 years, which financial value runs into billions of dollars and the negative effects of such unregulated acquisition of our only source of economic well-being and its attendant impact on us and our future generations in relation to the erosion of our culture and the calculated extinction of our ethnic group, we hereby re-assert our right to existence and dignity as clearly specified in the United Nations Universal Declaration on Human Rights and the African Charter on peoples and Human Rights, particularly as they affect the protection of vulnerable indigenous tribes, we state as follows:1. That no further forceful acquisition of our lands by the government, its agencies or representatives, companies or individual speculators will be tolerated forthwith.

2. That the Ikwerre people will employ all legitimate and democratic instruments at our disposal to resist any such forceful acquisition of our lands and resources, now or in the future. 3. We firmly demand the payment of reparation for all our seized and stolen lands from both the Nigerian and Rivers State Governments. Realising the fact that our people are marginalised in all institutions, resulting from an official and deliberate conspiracy, we demand effective and adequate representation in all institutions in Nigeria, and hereby resolve that we shall within the confines of our constitutional and democratic rights, resist any further act(s) of policy that portend to marginalize our people in the present Rivers State and the larger Nigerian Federation. Cognisant of the fact that our right to self-determination, resource ownership and control cannot be actualised without the abolition of all anti-people laws and policies, we demand the immediate abolition of the following laws: The Land Use Act (as amended) in 1978; The Petroleum Act (as amended) in 1969, etc. These objectionable laws are repressive and cannot guarantee our survival if they continue to exist in our statute books; because they deny us the use of are God-given resources. Aware of our vulnerability and susceptibility to political and other forms of manipulations by our age-long oppressors and exploiters, it is resolved hereby and we appeal to the International Community, the Economic community of West Africa States (ECOWAS), Organisation of African Unity (OAU), Commonwealth of Nations, the European Union (EU) the United Nations Organisation (UNO) and several other institutions and individuals concerned with human and environmental rights and indigenous and minority peoples' rights, to support and come to our aid in our just crusade for democratic rights, justice, equity and fairplay.

Aware that the re-naming of Rebisi to what is called Port Harcourt in 1913 is a violation of our right to self-determination and forceful deprivation of our ancestral ethnic identity, and an attempt to force the Ikwerre ethnic nationality into extinction, we demand that Port Harcourt should revert to its original name of OBOMOTU-REBISI forthwith. Aware that we have the right to self-determination and development as a distinct and homogenous people, we demand the immediate creation of an IKWERRE STATE (presently comprising Port Harcourt, Obio/Akpor, Ikwerre and Emohua Local Government Areas), as it remains one of the only viable means through which our wishes, aspirations and survival can be guaranteed since most part of the current Rivers State do not want us. We resolve as a people to defend these declarations by every legal and democratic means possible in seeking the implementation of our demands. As a result we will categorically employ all legal and democratic means at our disposal to achieve our objectives. We are ready and willing to meet and dialogue with representatives of the Nigerian government at the earliest practicable date to address these issues.

We express our solidarity with all oppressed peoples in Nigeria in their just struggle for justice and equity particularly the Ogonis, the Ijaws, the Ogbas, the Etches, t he Efiks, the Ibibios, the Ekids, the Ekpeyes, the Igbos the Urhobos, the Itshekiris, the Isokos, etc.

Finally, IYC is a democratic and non-violent body, committed to the promotion of peace and justice. We will adopt a policy of non-violent resistance in pursuit of the above legitimate aspirations. We believe in and are ready and willing to dialogue with any body or institution as a means of addressing and finding possible solutions to the various problems confronting the Ikwerre people. Ikwerre land bears our ancestral blood; it must bear our will now and in the future. The youths of Ikwerre Ethnic nationality are irrevocably committed to the total emancipation of Ikwerre land from modernised slavery. It is time to say No! No to oppression No to exploitation. No to marginalistion. No to alienation from our ancestral land. No! No! No! To everything that compromises our humanity and dignity as a people both in the Niger Delta and the Nigerian Federation.

Excerpts from the Ikwerre Charter


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