Department of State Services (DSS), Nigeria’s secret police, is blaming the outlawed Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) for the EndSARS mayhem and bloodletting in Rivers State, the capital of oil and gas in Nigeria.
At a presidential parley with leaders of the South-South geopolitical zone in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, DSS Director-General, Yusuf Magaji Bichi, who lauded Governor Nyesom Wike, for his stance against IPOB, said the Biafra group hijacked the EndSARS protest and killed 10 security operatives, torched stations and court buildings in Oyigbo Local Government Area of the state.
This is coming as Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari, Ibrahim Gambari, who led the presidential delegation announced that beyond the EndSARS issue, the President now acknowledges that citizens in the environmentally despoiled oil region have also been dealing with other concerns that are particular to the region such as the degradation of environment due to decades of mishandling and adherence to environmental standards.
IPOB is, however, a Biafran separatist organisation in Nigeria. Its main aim is to restore an independent state of Biafra in Eastern Nigeria through an independence referendum.
The group was founded in 2012 by Nnamdi Kanu, a British Nigerian political activist known for his prominent advocacy of the contemporary Biafran independence movement.
Apart from Ndigbo, supporters of IPOB include people from ethnic groups within the former territory of Biafra.
IPOB has been criticising the Nigerian central government for its poor investment, inequitable resource distribution, ethnic marginalisation, and heavy military presence in the Biafran region.
The organisation rose to prominence in the mid-2010s and is now the largest Biafran independence organisation by membership.
In recent years, it has gained significant media attention for becoming a frequent target of political crackdowns by the Nigerian government
The people and governors of the oil and gas zone are, however, demanding for restructuring in line with the principle of true federalism, to guarantee peace, security and stability of the troubled country.
They observed that the country is not at peace with itself and not working as it should, particularly, for the people of the South-South region.
Chairman of the South-South Governors Forum, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State stated this as the position of the zone during the regional stakeholders meeting with presidential delegation at the Government House, Port Harcourt on Tuesday.
Governor Okowa, explains that the peoples of the oil region are committed to restructuring of Nigeria in a way that guarantees true federalism and devolution of powers to the states to create and manage their own police and security architecture under a federal structure.
“True federalism guided by the principle of derivation, revenue sharing and control of resources by each State of the federation as it was the case in the first republic”, he says.
According to him, the kind of federation the geopolitical zone desires is one where federating units are constitutionally empowered to create their own structures like Local Government Areas, manage their elections and control their judiciary.
“We are all aware of the huge endowment of this country. As such, it is imperative to stress that with a little bit of efforts, imagination, hard work, sacrifice and leadership, every state of the Federation as of today, has the ability and capability to contribute to the national purse.
‘’This should be encouraged rather than the whole country depending substantially on a region of the country. What is worse and even more painful in this ugly situation is the deliberate lack of understanding, empathy and the uncompromising attitudes of some Nigerians, who have refused to understand the challenges of the South-South region.
‘’Our environment and our waters are degraded. As a result, most of the demands of the region have remained unattended to while the resources of the region have been used continually to develop other parts of the country”, says Okowa, the spokesperson for the oil region.
Collectively, the governors reiterated the call for the relocation of the headquarters of major oil companies, NNPC subsidiaries from Lagos and Abuja to the region.
Okowa requested for immediate implementation of the consent judgment entered in the Supreme Court Suit No: SC/964/2016 to enable the region get its share of $55billion shortfall of collection on deep offshore and inland basin production sharing contracts.
The governors further called for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of the region’s major seaports in Port Harcourt, Calabar, Warri in order to enhance the economic development of the South-South region.
In addition, they are demanding that the two refineries in Port Harcourt and one in Warri that have continued to bleed the country’s resources in the name of Turn Around Maintenance (TAM), should be privatised.
According to them, “enough is enough. Let us now privatise them and in doing so, allow the states and the region among others, considerable equity in the name of fairness and justice”.
Concerned about the rot in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), the governors observed that one of the major failures of the intervention agency is its refusal to forge and foster synergy, consultation and cooperation with the state governments especially, on project location, development and execution.
“We have resolved and we, as the State governments will no longer allow NDDC to execute any project (s) in any state of the region without it consulting State governments. Frankly, enough is enough and we have a court judgment to back our position.”
Gambari in his remarks, said the stakeholders meeting was at the instance of President Buhari, to the presidential delegation comprising of all the ministers from the region to visit and consult with representatives of the people regarding the recent EndSARS protest.
Gambari notes that reports indicated that there were instances , where breakdown of law and order was reported across various locations in the South-South states. He lauded the governors of the zone for their quick response and actions in addressing the EndSARS crisis.
While the chief of Staff said he will convey the demands of the region to the President Buhari, Governor Wike of Rivers State, one of the worse oil-polluted states in the Niger Delta says excuse of insecurity by the multinationals for not relocating to the oil region is not tenable.
He stresses that the relocation of the multinationals oil companies to the region will help stem restiveness, and accordingly urged the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, to make history by ensuring the oil companies relocate to the region during his reign in office.
Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege, urged the leaders of the region to avail themselves of the on-going review of the 1999 Constitution by the National Assembly since most of the issues contained in their demands are constitutional matters.
Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, said fake news gave impetus to the nationwide EndSARS that culminated in the death of civilians, police personnel and their assets.
Adamu alleged that intelligence has confirmed that the EndSARS protest was funded from within and outside the country. He further added that one of the primary objective of the protest was to effect a regime change.
Present at the meeting were: Governor Wike, Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River, Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom, Governor Douye Diri of Bayelsa State, and Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State.
Others are, Niger Delta Affairs Minister, Godswill Akpabio, Timipre Sylva, Minister of State for Petroleum; Minister of State for Power, Goddy Jedy Agba, Minister of State for Labour, Festus Keyamo, Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, and Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammad. Transportation Minister, Chibuike Amaechi was, however, absent.
Other eminent persons present included: National Chairman of the Pan Niger Delta Forum, retired Air Commodore Idongesit Nkanga, former President, Nigerian Bar Association, Onueze Okocha (SAN); among others.