PRESIDENT of Itsekiri National Youth Council, INYC, Mr Esimaje Awani, has warned that if care was not taken, the approach of the Federal Government to the resolution of the Niger Delta crisis would exacerbate it. In a statement, yesterday, he said: “I can say authoritatively that some of the proposals currently on the table do not constitute sustainable solution in a civilised society but only amount to negotiation of the very values upon which civilised societies rest. “Unfortunately, these proposals have been placed on the front burner of issues obviously because they are intended to achieve ignoble aims, including to illegally claim territories belonging to other ethnic groups, making it appear, therefore, that there is only one ethnic group in the Niger Delta region. “I call on the Federal Government to either be a government or accept that Nigeria is a failed state, in which case, people should be allowed to take laws into their hands, carry guns and blow up pipelines and have their demands met even if they are against the laws of the land.” On the yet to be resolved issue of the naming of the proposed Nigeria Maritime University, Okerenghigho, which is a name declared for it by the Supreme Court, Awani argued: “The Nigerian Government should not be seen as acting against itself by succumbing to blackmail in the face of the judgement of the highest court of the land with respect to the naming of the site of the university. By the pronouncement of the Supreme Court on the issue, the place remains Okerenghigho and not Okerenkoko and if any group of people is interested in having a university in the area, I believe that will be the Itsekiri, but why should the executive arm of government act against the judicial arm? We want to beg the government not to reward lawlessness because the ability to disrupt the flow of oil pipelines is not the exclusive preserve of one tribe. Those who elect not to destroy oil facilities should never be taken for granted.” He urged government to weigh its options properly and act on the side of the law and established global practices rather than succumbing to blackmail as anything otherwise will be an invitation to anarchy which according to him, “several other tribes within the region will gladly honour.”

Below is the response of the IYC:

"The attention of the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC), Worldwide has been drawn to a vexed and rather provocative news publication authored by Mr. Esimaje Awani, National President of the Itsekiri Youth Council (NYC) in the Vanguard Newspaper of November 10th 2017 edition at page 33, where he alleged to have claimed that Okerenkoko Community in Gbaramatu Kingdom belongs to Itsekiri people. We ordinarily would not have responded to his misleading and self-contracdictory claims but for the fact that the public maybe dissuaded to erroneously believe his gross misrepresentation of facts.

Historical accounts which the Itsekiri nation has also affirmed through their respected scholars and historians that they are tenants to Ijaw people. The history of the first settlers of the Escravos River, Benin River and all the adjoining tributaries are well documented up to date and none of them claimed that Itsekiri people owned Okerenkoko land or any part of the Gbaramatu Kingdom. There is no judicial pronouncements in any Court in Nigeria that said Okerenkoko land belonged to the Itsekiri people.

The so-called Okenghigho Supreme Court judgment the NYC President is talking about has nothing to do with Okerenkoko (if truly there is any such judgment). As far as the Ijaw nation is concerned, no judgment has precluded the people of Okerenkoko from exercising the traditional and customary ownership of their Lands which they have being living on for centuries beyond human memories.

There is no time the Itsekiri people instituted action in Court against Okerenkoko people and succeeded. The only one we know is still subject of litigation pending at the Supreme Court. It is the Gbaramatu people that even won the Itsekiris at the Court Appeal. We make bold to say that Okenghigho is not Okerenkoko. The Itsekiris should take their surreptitious Supreme Court judgment about the unknown Okenghigho to where they can find it.

No inch of the Ijaw land be it in Gbaramatu Kingdom or any part thereof will be ceded to the Itsekiri land grabbers. The Maritime University at Okerenkoko is the only known legal name to call the University. There is no alternative to that.

IYC hereby advices the general public, particularly the Federal Government to disregard the mischievous claim of Mr. Esimaje Awani or any of the Itsekiris' adverse claimants about Okerenkoko land.

We advice the Itsekiri people to join the peace-building team in the region for the purpose of achieving our common goal. We need one another to champion our collective struggle for resource control, true federalism, self-determination and political autonomy.

In a related development, IYC has been duly informed that soldiers from Operation Delta Safe in the name of looking for NDA are harassing innocent villagers in Warri South West and Burutu LGAs of Delta State. We acknowledged that the military is constitutionally bound to checkmate criminal activities in the creeks or anywhere in Nigeria. However, the discharge of its responsibilities are not without limits. The military must draw a line between discharging its functions and breaching human rights. It is unheard of for the military to be terrorising innocent communities under the guise of looking for Avengers whose whereabouts remains a misery to the ordinary man.

The people of Beneth Island in Ogbe-Ijoh Kingdom, Ogulagha Community and Gbaramatu Kingdom to the best of our knowledge did not harbour the so-called Avengers. Disrupting the peace of these innocent communities while claiming on the pages of newspapers that the military chased Avengers in Delta creeks is to say the least an unprofessional propaganda. If there is any criminal in those communities, let the military get the person arrested but we cannot accept calling the people in Ogbe-Ijoh, Ogulagha and Gbaramatu Kingdoms as Avengers. Don't subject Ijaw people as the sacrificial lamb for the purpose of prosecuting the war against criminal in the Niger Delta. IYC is ready to partner with security agencies for the onerous task of securing lives and property in region but that can only happen if the military adhere to the rules of engagement.

For the up tent time, the Ijaw nation is appealing to the laptop fraudsters masquerading as militants in the region to leave High Chief Government Ekpemupolo alone. They can engage in whatsoever business they so desire for the perpetration of their criminal agenda but Tompolo's name should not be dragged in. The Ijaw nation is standing behind him. We cannot sacrifice Tompolo this time around unlike the way our forefathers unknowingly sacrificed Maj. Jasper Isaac Adaka Boro to the oppressive Federal Government which had led to his untimely death in 1968 in the cause of fighting for the survival of the Ijaw nation in Nigeria. Tompolo has not done anything bad to be facing the travails he is going through. His only sin we know is because of his resolve to fight for the survival of the oppressed, dejected and criminally marginalised/colonised Niger Delta people in Nigeria. The Ijaw nation in particular should be grateful to have a son like him. A threat to Tompolo's life is a threat to the Ijaw nation.

Signed: Mr. Pereotubo Oweilaemi, Esq. President, IYC Worldwide.

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