Tony John, Port Harcourt
The Ijaw ethnic nationality has opposed the Water Resources Bill currently before the National Assembly.
Ijaw leaders under the aegis of Ijaw Nation Development Group (INDG) said the bill was aimed at further distorting Nigeria’s federalism.
The leaders, both in Nigeria and Diaspora, during their zoom conference stressed that the region should be given the right to manage their water as it was their heritage.
The participants maintained that there was serious threat to the Ijaw nation inherent in the Water Resources bill.
Guest speaker, Prof. Benjamin Okaba, said the Water Resources Bill 2020 was “a re-branded version of RUGA policy, designed to grasp people’s ancestral settlements and resources to set up grazing reserves or cattle colonies.”
Okaba described Ijaw as the fourth largest ethnic nationality and dominant group in the Niger Delta, adding that they were the most ancient and aborigines of the Niger Delta. He explained that the Ijaw occupy the most deltaic riverine and coastal belt of Nigeria.
“They have large community-city original settlements in Akwa-Ibom, Bayelsa, Delta, Edo, Ondo and Rivers states in Nigeria. Water and its associated marine resources means everything to the typical Ijaw man. Its major occupations, fishing, gin production, canoe building, seasonal coastal farming, and others are all aqua-dependent. Water is synonymous to air, to the Ijaw man. Therefore, denying him/her free access, and rightful ownership, control and management of the water resources around her, can be likened to pulling a fish out of the river onto a dry land.”
Prof Okaba, who is Dean, School of Postgraduate Studies, Federal University Otuoke, Bayelsa State, reminded the Federal Government that its primary constitutional responsibility to citizen was to protect, safeguard and secure the fundamental human rights of citizens and promote their welfare and well-being.
Also Anthony George-Ikoli (SAN) urged Ijaw nations not to sit aloof and seemingly oblivious of the hole being dug all around it, adding that the people must set an agenda for its legislators.
Similarly, an Ijaw female activist, Annkio Briggs, alleged that the Federal Government was trampling on the rights of Ijaw people.