Oil exploration firms operating in Nigeria’s Niger Delta region have been called upon to demonstrate sincerity in dealing with environmental issues arising from their activities in the area.
Akwa Ibom State Governor, Udom Emmanuel made the call in Uyo while addressing stakeholders of the Niger Delta at a one day meeting to seek solutions to the problem of militancy in the region.
The governor, who was represented by the Chairman of Akwa Ibom State Council of Chiefs,His Royal Majesty Owong Effiong Achanga, frowned at the attitude of oil exploration firms to the plight of their host communities who bear the brunt of environmental and health hazards resulting from exploration activities in the area.
He further called on companies and the federal government to show more commitment to addressing environmental concerns in the region.
Other speakers also expressed the need for regular dialogue to examine the problem and seek a permanent solution to militancy in the Niger Delta.They also identified the absence of basic infrastructure as one of the major causes the problem in the region.
The Head of EU delegation to Nigeria and ECOWAS Ambassador, Michele Arrion, warned against depending on military approach as the only solution to the problem.
Mr Tony Uranta, representing the Amnesty Office, assured of the federal government’s commitment to finding a permanent solution to the issues in the Niger Delta.
The meeting was attended by stakeholders from states of the Niger Delta region, the traditional institution, civil society groups and the diplomatic community.
Since 2009, when Boko Haram launched its terror campaign, thousands of Nigerians have either been killed or maimed, while the economic and social activities in a whole section of the country have been paralyzed.
Since January 2014, Boko Haram has killed over 1,500 people, mostly civilians, and that figure does not include the 95 people who died in the two bombings in as many weeks at Nyanya in Abuja and the over 150 killed in Gamboru, Borno State, last week.
Though President Goodluck Jonathan identified persistent violence and crime as a major problem confronting the country when he assumed office in 2011 and promised to “confront this threat against our collective peace and security, and bring the perpetrators to justice”, 200 school girls were abducted in a secondary school in Chibok, Borno State.
On this segment of Sunrise, legal practitioner, Bisi Adegbuyi is joined by the Secretary of United Niger Delta Energy Development Security Strategy (UNDESS), Tony Uranta and a social commentator, Kalu Onuma, to discuss the present state of Nigeria.
Mr Uranta, who reiterated his enthusiasm in the #BringBackOurGirls movement, noted that the question has been directed to the wrong quarters insisting that the protesters should have been talking to Boko Haram and not President Goodluck Jonathan.
He further added that the government (previous and present) have “failed in a lot of ways; not just this one, because the very structure that they are built upon is designed to fail”.
In a swift response, Mr Adegbuyi, disagreed with Mr Uranta that the question is been channeled to the wrong quarters.
Mr Adegbuyi, who boasted about his knowledge of the jurisprudential underpinning of governance, insisted that “Mr. President represents our collective will adding that we have mandated him to act on our behalf and represents the management of Nigeria; he is the Commander in Chief of the armed forces of Nigeria and therefore he has the responsibility to bring back our girls”.
He urged the president to rise up to the occasion since he held himself out and asked to be voted into office.
He also stated that though the president can’t go out and bring back the girls himself, “the strong influence of power and office he wields should be put to proper use in ensuring the girls are rescued immediately”.
Speaking via telephone on the programme, former Minister of Education, Obiageli Ezekwesili expressed “profound sadness” at the incident but assured of her “resolve to stand by the girls and their families.
“I think that anything that has to do with the Chibok girls really makes a statement as to the values that we subscribe to individually and collectively” she said.
She expressed “shock at the depth of corrosion of values that we subscribe to while growing up as a nation” and insisted that “our government, which has the responsibility constitutionally for the security of lives and property of citizens, should give us the accountability of the girls who answered the noble call to acquire education” and were abducted by Boko Haram insurgents.
The former minister, who led a protest to the Presidency but was received by a presidential delegation, expressed disappointment over the response the President gave through the Minister of State for FCT, Jumoke Akinjide.
On his part, Mr Onuma blamed the Nigerian security forces for not living up to the expected level, insisting that “the army and security apparatus has completely failed Nigerians.
“They have been given so much money, so much funds, so much support but at the end of the day, no one takes accountability, nobody answers to us; nobody tells us what is going on”.
The fireworks have begun as delegates for the National Conference assembled in Abuja to discuss the future of the country.
The National Conference appears to be a fresh opportunity for Nigerians to take ownership of the governance structures and indeed, the nation.
Several groups have, however, raised contentious issues and on this edition of Dateline Abuja, we had a discussion with a member of the presidential advisory council on national dialogue, Mr Tony Uranta, who spoke about some of the initial issues that have emerged from the conference.
Many Nigerians have also continued to react to the composition of the National Conference, with some insisting that it’s unfairly weighed against the young people of Nigeria. Former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Odien Ajumogbobia, shares his views in this regard.
There is also a report from our trip to Jankanwa community in Karu Local Government Area in Nasarawa State, where they had an election for the local government chairmen and councillors. We went to find out what expectations the people hold for those they were electing and would elect.
The needs of the people in this local government are numerous and they say that there is enough revenue generated to work the talk of anyone in charge that is besides the allocation that should come from government monthly.
They also say that good works just like success has many friends and their weight would be thrown behind anyone that gives the people what they need.
A member of the Presidential Advisory Committee on National Dialogue, Tony Uranta has asked Nigerians to give the upcoming National Conference a chance to start before criticizing its chances of serving the purpose for which it was convened.
He was speaking on Channels Television weekend programme, Sunrise, where he stated that the composition of the delegates to the conference had only 72 nominated by the Federal Government, which is less than 15% of the total number of the delegates and nullifies the chances of manipulation by the Government.
The programme focussed on the activities preceding the conference and the issue of older people making up majority of the delegates came to the fore, as many Nigerians have pointed out. A member of the Editorial Board of National Newspaper, Sanya Oni, agreed with the sentiments but believed that the issue showed the level of capacity of the Nigerian youth.
He added that the youths were doing well in business and in the corporate world on their own “so why is it in politics that they want to be helped?” He said that he didn’t believe things like leadership would fall on the laps of the youths as it was their responsibility to seize the initiative.
Uranta added that the Nigerian youth today was more knowledgeable especially in the digital age, and they have the responsibility to make themselves relevant in the politics of Nigeria.
Legal Practitioner, Malachy Ugwummadu also said that the youths lacked the kinds of robust activities that would position them for leadership. He refused to accept the claim that the present political configuration of the country shuts out the youth.
He cited the National Association of Nigerian Students as an example. He spoke about times in the country when serious national issues were mainly driven by the Students’ body; a situation which he said had degenerated into quest for self-gratification from the current young people.
Northern Elders’ Declaration
The Northern elders have expressed negatives views on the conference, claiming that the delegates were not representing the North, and Sanya feels that this was an unfortunate situation.
He preached that Nigerians really need to understand that there was dire need for the country to talk. He berated what he termed the off-the-curve discussions, the manner in which they dismissed the National Conference, and the provocative statements made during the Northern Elders’ Forum.
He singled out the claims of ownership of the Nigerian oil by the North as highly provocative.
Mr. Uranta, shared the view that the declaration of the Northern Elders’ Forum was a reaction to being left out of the main activities of the National Conference. He argued that they are just a faction of elders as the main elders of the North had warmly embraced the idea and also have delegates attending.
Mr. Ugwummad, however, believed that the Northern Elders’ reservations should not be totally condemned as many Nigerians including himself were also hard critics of the whole idea.
He asserted that the issues have moved on from agreeing with the idea into the issues of implementation of the resolutions, the large budgets being earmarked for the talks, and the controversies surrounding the subjection of the issues being discussed at the conference to the National Assembly.
Mr Sanya also added that there were too many problems in the country and accepting that reality was the best way forward for Nigerians. He asserted that the need to decentralise power and empower traditional authority were among the issues that needed to be addressed.
Finance And National Security
While explaining the importance restructuring the leadership of the country, Mr. Uranta said “You cannot but have federalism such that the different federating units will have coordinate powers.”
He added as an example that primary education should not be part of the job of a Federal Government as the primary education structures in Nigeria are different in different regions.
He said that the claims by some Nigerians that the groundnut pyramids in the North funded Nigeria would be among matters to sort out, as he argued that in the early 1960s and according to the constitution, each region in the country funded itself and had its own economy, its own flag, anthem, and ran its own affairs.
He stated that discussing such structural issues would determine how well the other matters like fiscal federalism and national security would be treated. He added, “Let that be decided by the people.”
Why Should Anybody Get Paid?
Sanya had to contend with the question asked via social media by a Channels Television viewer. Although he admitted that there was need to cater to the needs of the delegates as they were not expected to be exposed to risks in Abuja, but added that the figures being mentioned as the delegates’ allowances and the total budget of the project were indeed outrageous.
Mr. Uranta, however, shared the view that the budget could be justifiable.
He explained “You don’t expect a Chief Olu Falae to come to Abuja and stay in a Motel or a drive by hotel”
He said “I stay in the Hilton and a room can go for like 58,000 Naira” and Nigerians have to think of all these things as many of the delegates are also retired and old; while some of them would have to come with their wives for the 3 months exercise. He added, “We cannot deny them their conjugal rights”
Mr Ugwummadu added that he hoped that the conference would not ending looking like nothing had been done.
A member of the Presidential Committee on National Conference, Tony Uranta has refuted claims of a minority report, noting that every member of the committee was present when the Chairman of the Committee, Senator Femi Okorounmu presented the committee’s report to the president.
He noted that “our chairman, Sen. Femi Okurounmu emphatically ensured that there is no minority report” adding that the committee members noticed that “he (chairman) paused for a minute and gave room for any member to get up and say no I have a minority report” but “nobody did”.
He said that the committee made a “very comprehensive presentation of 16 Volumes, and more than 4, 000 pages in our report” after going round the six geo-political zones of the country and discussing amongst the committee members.
He said that it would be improper for any of the committee members to “reveal what we recommended until the Presidency so decides” adding that “it is public knowledge that the President has announced that it (the conference) is going to begin early next year (2014)”.
He further revealed that the President has “instructed the minister for the economy and finance to make available, funds for the conference to be facilitated by”.
On the commencement and end date of the conference, he said “we too have heard rumours that the conference may begin in February next year” but he could not give a specific end date because of “a range of options” that the committee recommended to the President.
He however noted that going by the popular demands of the people of Nigeria, it requires a range of three to six months for the whole process to be accomplished.
He further noted that the committee employed the services of experts from different fields to complement the ones they had on the team, to make a wide range of options on the recommendations made by the committee to the President.
Four Zones out of six in Nigeria have declared their support for a National conference, the Presidential Advisory Committee on proposed National Dialogue has said.
A member of the committee, Mr Tony Uranta, told Channels Television on Sunday that the response the committee had received from people within the regions visited – North-central, south-west, south-east and south-south – showed that majority of Nigerians would want the proposed conference to hold.
Mr Uranta said that the committee’s meetings in the zones visited had been successful so far with the committee giving every individual an opportunity to speak.
“We have been instructed by the Nigerian President that there are no ‘No Go Areas’ as we dialogue with the people from the different zones and we have kept to that. Our duty is just to listen and not talk at all. We allow everybody to have a say as we tour the zones,” he said.
He decried the heckling down of the Edo State governor, Adams Oshiomhole, during the dialogue session held in the South-south zone and stressed that the committee had apologised to the governor over the involvement of one of its members in the ‘undemocratic incident’.
“The committee sent a written apology to the governor. We are not supportive of anything that is undemocratic,” he stated.
Since the incident in Edo State, the committee member, Col Tony Nyiam, has not been seen with the committee, a development that has left people asking if he had resigned.
Mr Uranta described as political the positions of those who had once clamoured for a National Conference but turned around to kick against it when President Goodluck Jonathan constituted the committee.
He said that the Nigerian Senate showed their readiness to ensure that sovereignty was reposed on the people by debating on a bill that would put the outcome of the National Conference when it is held to the people through a referendum.
Questions Begging Attention
“The bill has been sent to the House of Representatives for harmonization,” he said.
Some Nigerians have expressed fears that the setting up of a committee on National Dialogue was a tactic to divert attention away from the issues and national questions begging attention now.
Responding to such claims, Mr Uranta said: “I do not know how a National Conference is going to stop governance.
“The points that have been troubling the Nigerian common man’s mind are; how does he get food? How does he get water? How does he get transport? And more than these, how does he get security?
“These are issues that the National Conference can answer and these are issues that any and every government should be supportive of.
“This nation can survive as a nation if we allow the opportunities for different shades of opinion to be thrown down. We will all smile at the end of the day.”
The committee is continuing its tour of the nation with a visit to Sokoto and other Northern states on Monday.
An ally of the President Goodluck Jonathan, Mr Tony Uranta has criticized the President for his team of cabinet, calling on him to reshuffle the cabinet as soon as possible, because there are lots of dead woods in the cabinet.
He made the declaration on Channels TV live programme; Politics Today on Sunday evening while discussing the need for the Jonathan administration to improve on its performance.
According to Mr Uranta, “He (President Jonathan) has to do a lot of things more visibly, accountably and transparently. He must reshuffle his cabinet. There are lots of dead woods in there.”
He cited the example of the presidential assistant on Millennium Develpoment Goals, Precious Gbenol, saying she had been completely anonymous, creating the impression she had not been working.
He urged the President to carry out the reshuffling the President wants to get better at his performance and meet the yearnings and demands of Nigerians, saying “he must reshuffle his cabinet if he wants to get better results.”
Tony Uranta, a public affairs analyst, today confirmed that two different patrol teams were on hand at the scene where the boys were murdered and the location where the incident took place was within five different outposts of police and JTF.
He further said that the Police did not attempt to disperse the crowd before the boys were killed and left to him the DPO and others should be charged to court.
According to Mr. Uranta, who was a guest on Sunrise Daily, “the problem we have in this country is that no government official can be charged to court and if the issue is not properly taken up he will go on a one-man protest”.
Mr. Uranta said he was not pleased with President Goodluck Jonathan for not making a mention of the Mubi or Port Harcourt killings in his address yesterday and he felt the president lacked empathy as the issue of flood was not the biting issue as of the time he addressed the nation and he is sure the so-called fund being disbursed for flood disaster has been penned down for embezzlement.
The Executive Secretary of the National Summit Group;Mr.Tony Uranta was also with the Sunrise Daily crew to further look into the issue of the revenue allocation formular which has been a bone of contention.
Mr.Uranta said the revenue allocation issue is not as simple as the approach it is getting as it is based on derivation.
Human Rights activist Mr. Tony Uranta recently clocked 50 years old and what better way to celebrate his decades on earth than to throw a lavish party for him and some of his closest friends… and Metrofile, of course. Watch the video above.