EndSARS Protest: Itsekiri National Youth Council Calls for Referendum
The President of the Itsekiri National Youth Council (INYC), Comr. Weyinmi Agbateyiniro in this exclusive interview with the Editor of Warri Voice Newspaper, Miss Tetsoma Neyin, gave strong reasons why they are fully in support of the ongoing EndSARS protest and other issues affecting the Itsekiri ethnic Nationality.
What is your take about the ENDSARS protest?
As you can see, the protest is not only phenomenal but also spontaneous, when an injustice is bottled up for a very long time without being properly addressed especially if there is the suspicion that it will not genuinely be attended to,the result is what we all have seen. There is hardly any segment of this country that has not collapsed woefully. Hence, we as a youth body see this ENDSARS protest as a metaphor for injustices meted on the Nigerian populace by her own government. Nigerian youths from generation to generation in the hope for a better tomorrow and our characteristic resilience were asked to be patient. from patience, we were told to endure,and; from endurance, we were further told to persevere even in the midst of all these injustices. Now that the centre can no longer hold because the purported hope for a better tomorrow has become a mirage, we have yielded to the protest.
What does ENDSARS protest mean to Itsekiri youths?
As you have seen, EndSARS protest means different things to different people. But in all, it is a reflection of the degree of pathological injustice, oppression, suppression, deprivation and suffocation that Nigerians baske in on daily basis.
John F. Kenedy was right when he said that a society that cannot guarantee the survival of the many that are poor, can also not guarantee the safety of the few that are rich.
To, Isaac Newton in his third law of motion :, “to every action, there must be equal and opposite reaction”. You cannot continue to slap a child and expect as a father, that the child will not cry.
It will interest you to know that when Nigeria was to be given birth to through the now infamous amalgamation of 1914, the Itsekiri ethnic nationality represented by Chief Dore-Numa of blessed memory was among the five ethnic nationalities that signed the instrument of the amalgamation into existence.
Like every child will want to survive after delivery, the itsekiri ethnic nationality, again with very few other ethnic nationalities out of the over 250 ethnic nationalities in Nigeria have been the ones responsible for the economic survival of the Nigeria State till date. Yet, back home, we have nothing to show for this huge burden that we carry on behalf of the entire nation.
Statistics from the department of Petroleum Resources show that Itsekiri is the largest producer of crude oil and gas both in Delta State and Edo State and the second largest in the entire nation. Another way of restating this is that the payment of the salaries and wages of all categories of civil servants, public servants, elected or appointed political office holders -whether locally here in Nigeria or elsewhere are heavily dependent on revenue generated from the Itsekiri ethnic nationality.
Furthermore, the annual budgetary provisions of all tiers of government in Nigeria that have translated into roads, health facilities, higher institutions, skyscrapers and infrastructural beauties you see in all parts of this country are all products of the uninterrupted revenue generated from the Itsekiri homeland.
To put this axiom to text is to ask that oil and gas production from all Itsekiri oil and gas producing communities be stopped for just two months and the result will be there for everyone to see.
The economic disaster that will occasioned by this stoppage will dwarf the economic disaster that visited Nigeria recently during the corona virus pandemic economic lockdown.
It is therefore the lack of reciprocity from the Nigerian government to the Itsekiri people for this huge burden that we shoulder for the economic survival of the whole nation that essentially provoked the spontaneity with which the Itsekiris youths mobilize themselves massively in our various urban centres of Warri, koko, Sapele, etc and in all our communities in the creeks of the riverine parts of this country to protest and register our displeasure on how we have been grossly marginalised in the Nigeria equation.
Interestingly, those in diaspora, US, UK, Canada, etc in solidarity with us here back home were not left out.
Whereas Itsekiri Youths in the Ugborodo axis came out massively to demand for the speedy execution of the Ogidigben Gas Revolution Industrial Park that has the potential of engaging over 15000 youths in terms of both direct and indirect jobs, sand-filling and reclamation of their communities from ocean surge occasioned by the uninterrupted exploitation of crude oil and gas from their communities by the IOCs, proliferation of abandoned NDDC projects in their communities that are now death traps,the proposed redundancy policy of Chevron Nigeria Ltd to sack Itsekiri workers from their payroll and the daily exposure of our people to regular gas flaring.
The Itsekiri youths in the Koko, Olero, Bobi, Bateren and Ogheye axis protested against the abandoned Koko Ogheye Lagos road and the deliberate policy of the Federal Government to suffocate us economically by not dredging the relevant channels leading to the sea port in Koko to open economic activities for our teeming youths in Koko and its environs.
For those in Warri metropolis, their protest was against the unwillingness of the Federal Government to open Warri sea port by dredging the Warri Escravos Channel and ofcouse, police brutality.
For the youths in Ubeji, Ifiekporo, Aja-Etan, and Ikeren who are host to the headquarters of Nigeria gas Company, WRPC, PPMC, NPDC and other Subsidiaries of NNPC on their land, their protest was essentially against the recent nationwide recruitment of NNPC into their subsidiaries without considering the interest of graduates from those host communities and the sacking of not less than 200 Itsekiri casual staff of WRPC with the sole aim of substituting them with the newly recruited NNPC staff, even against a subsisting National Assembly Resolution against such.
For the youths in the Omadino axis,theirs is about their federated Omadino communities and the non enforcement of Okerenghigho and Ubakokodia supreme court judgements delivered in their favour. It is also about them being host to the largest oil field in Africa yet have nothing on ground in terms of infrastructural development to show for it.
To us as a National Youth Council, the End Sars protest means opposing the arbitrariness, selective enforcement and application of justice and outright sale and purchase of justice in the Nigerian system. Why will the Federal Government of Nigeria not deploy the same speed and tenacity with which the Bayelsa, Imo, Zamfara and Bauchi Supreme Court Governorship elections in all our known judicial pronouncement?
Our EndSARS protest is also about devolution of power and true Federalism. The Federal Government gave exclusive rights to Zamfara State to mine their gold, why can’t we also take absolute control of our crude oil, gas and other natural resources in our homeland in line with the principle of true Federalism?
Over 70% of all the items listed in the exclusive list that has no business been there.They should be devolved to the residual LEGISLATIVE list because the Federal Government of Nigeria has no business in determining the quantity and quality of health and educational centres as well as security requirement of our local environment.
For, if power is devolved and true Federalism is well enforced, our state governors can conveniently address all such issues. Our protest is also about the protection of minority right as it was clearly defined in the 1963 Constitution.
What is now the way forward for Nigeria?
The way forward is about devolution of power, practice of true and fiscal Federalism, protection of minority right, stoppage of gas flaring in all our oil and gas producing communities and payment of compensation of all affected communities, the immediate funding of all abandoned NDDC projects in our communities, the commencement of work at the GRIP site in Ogidigben, the dredging of all channels leading to Koko and Warri Sea Ports in order to unlock the enormous economic activities in those Ports for the benefits of the youths.
Also, Chevron Nigeria LTD should stop its proposed sacking of Itsekiri workers from their payroll and WRPC should honour the National Assembly’s resolution barring it from sacking casual staff.
The Federal Government should put machineries in place to stop the issue of selective application of justice and strengthen all principles of rule of law as obtainable in a constitutional democracy because what we have in Nigeria is constitutional democracy and in a constitutional democracy, what is held sacrosanct is the rule of law; not rule of might.
The fraudulent 1999 Constitution should be jettisoned and in its place, a referendum should be conducted to give room for all citizens of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and nationalities to determine how they want to be governed.
What is your final words?
This interview will be inconclusive if I fail to pay glowing tribute to all martyrs of the struggle.They have all written their names on gold and they will forever be remembered on the good side of history. Payment of compensation to their respective families is not adequate. All those responsible for their untimely death must be Fitch out and dealt with in accordance with the law. and to all heroes and heroines of the struggle who defied the heavy intensity of the sun, rain, military intimidation both locally and in diaspora, it is commendation galore. With you there is hope for greater Nigeria.