Nigeria's Oil Communities Insist New Constitution
By Akanimo Sampson
OIL BEARING COMMUNITIES of Nigeria's Niger Delta, currently being galvanised by some social movements and non-governmental organisation operating in the region, are allegedly not comfortable with the 2007 presidential project of the South South Peoples Assembly (SSPA)., a political pressure group in the oil region.
SCOOP gathered in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, that the oil communities are seeing the SSPA as a body of self-centred leaders in the South South geopolitical zone.
Princewill Adokiye, Fuamakiri Community leader in Okrika Local Government Area of Rivers State, said doing away with the 1999 Constitution was of paramount importance to the peoples of the Niger Delta than the 2007 presidency.
According to him, “the 1999 Constitution is antagonistic to the aspirations of the peoples of the Niger Delta for self-determination and sustainable development.”
For the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) led by Lidum Mitee, the constitution has also failed the requirement of plural democracy, true federalism and fiscal federalism.
MOSOP is claiming that what the peoples of the oil region want is an entirely new constitution to be produced through the instrumentality of a Sovereign National Conference. According to the Ogoni group, “any attempt to amend the fraudulent constitution would be like mending an old and shredded clothing.”
Foremost environmental rights group, Environmental Rights Action (ERA), says the oil communities of the Niger Delta have never accepted moves to review the 1999 constitution based on panels or the “questionable” legislature.
ERA’s Executive Director, Nnimmo Bassey, claimed that the 1999 constitution is not popular with the oil communities because “out of over 100 articles, 68 are devoted to exclusive federal list and only 30 to the concurrent, with no provision for a residual list which could be legislated upon exclusively by the states and local governments”
Adding, Era said, “the 30 articles of the concurrent list according to the constitution could always be counter-mended by federal superiority should there be conflict”.
Charles Harry, Secretary-General of Ijaw Republican Assembly (IRA), claimed that the Niger Delta communities were not comfortable with the SSPA because their political agenda was not all-embracing.
In the alternative, he said the oil-bearing communities want a Niger Delta Consultative Assembly (NDCA) to be established with a view to actualising the need of the peoples of the oil region.
Harry, who is also one of the principal figures in the Rivers Democratic Movement (RDM), a key opposition platform in Rivers State, said the oil communities always feel left out whenever major decisions concerning the region are taken.
In a bid to change the tide, he claimed that community leaders were pushing for a total mobilisation to be carried in the region down to the grassroots level to familiarise the local people with the tactics of the new struggle of the Niger Delta for survival.
“Niger Delta communities are of the view that in the region’s struggle for justice, women should not be allowed to trail behind and as such, they want all community based organisations and social movements to evolve an articulate policy of gender parity”, the IRA scribe said.
Meanwhile, the SSPA is said to be making efforts to co-opt some key figures into their 2007 political agenda. At the movement, the security circles are awash with reports that the assembly is the main plank some leaders in the zone want to use in drafting Governor Peter Odili of Rivers State into the presidential race.
The SSPA also has an alternative plan of presenting Odili as a running mate in the event a Northerner emerges as the presidential flag-bearer of the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP).