There is this trending report on the debate on a Motion moved by Representative Goodluck Opiah, Delta State, in the Nigerian House of Representatives the other day. The Motion was for the House of Representatives to formally support the well- informed agitations of the Niger Delta people for oil companies operating in the Niger Delta Region to relocate their administrative headquarters from Lagos to the Region. Goodluck Opiah moved his Motion quite ably, advancing copious reasons why his colleagues should support the Motion, urging in particular, that the envisaged relocations should help reduce the prevailing restiveness and restore lasting peace in the Region. Not unexpectedly, the Majority Leader of the House, Femi Gbajabiamilla, Lagos State, promptly opposed the Motion. He was strongly supported by Jide Jimoh, also from Lagos State.

Given the related well-known antecedents, I am, basically, not bothered about the position of Femi Gbajabiamilla and his colleague from Lagos, and even the South-West at large. It is their popular stance and tactic, to suppress the Niger Delta Region and people. I am, however, deeply worried about the comment of Yakubu Dogara, the Speaker of the House of Representatives. While making his contribution to the debate on Opiah’s Motion as he summarised and guided the House towards taking a decision, Mr Speaker is quoted to have said : …”as a businessman, I cannot be forced to site my business where I know it’s not safe “. Coming from a sitting national leader of the status of Rt Honourable Yakubu Dogara, the No. 4 citizen of the Federal Republic of Nigeria by constitutional order, I find (with due respect) Mr Speaker’s comment, not just reckless, but quite insensitive, provocative, callous, tactless, repulsive and thoroughly reprehensible.

What does Yakubu Dogara mean by this statement ? What is he, in essence, saying to the Niger Delta people, as Speaker of the House of Representatives, even in their long years of oppression, deprivation exploitation and agony ? Do statements like the one made by Mr Speaker here build or destroy? Do such statements heal wounds or do they open and deepen wounds? In inciting and lending misleading support to the oil companies to continue to ignore the justified agitations of the Niger Delta people, but take oil from their soil and waters, devastate their environments, and remain in Lagos, pay taxes to Lagos, generate massive employment / economic opportunities in Lagos, create wealth in Lagos and continue to exploit the Niger Delta Region and people, is Yakubu Dogara really seeking peace in the Region and Nigeria in general ?

As Speaker of the Nigerian House of Representatives, is Yakubu Dogara not aware of the fundamental issues that have brought about the current state of restiveness and relative sense of insecurity in parts of the Niger Delta Region ? Is Mr Speaker saying that the Niger Delta Region is safe and good enough for the oil companies to explore, exploit and extract oil from, but unsafe and bad for them to site their headquarters ? What an irony ! Is Mr Speaker fair to the Niger Delta people? As Goodluck Opiah argued during the debate on his Motion, is Yakubu Dogara really not aware that the relocation of relevant oil companies headquarters to the Niger Delta Region (which equity and social justice strongly demand), is a major panacea for the restoration of sustained peace, stability and progress in the Region and Nigeria ? Even though the US and the UK are not responsible for the relative insecurity in Nigeria ( as past Governments of Nigeria can, to a large extent, be held accountable for the restiveness in the Niger Delta Region ), by his statement, is Mr Speaker saying that, because there is some level of insecurity in Nigeria, Mobil Producing Nigeria (MPN) and Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) for instance, can, as well move their headquarters to Ghana, yet find “unsafe “ Nigeria safe enough to enter, explore, extract crude and devastate ?

I respectfully urge Mr Speaker to carefully reassess his position and statement on this issue. Even the Lagosians who opposed the Motion in their self interest were clearly, more tactful and refined in their approach. It was certainly, not for nothing that Yakubu Dogara’s colleagues from the South – South, the South – East, the North -West and even his own North -East staged a protest walkout on him over the manner he handled the matter. His statement amounts to a gross violation of the sensibilities of the people of the Niger Delta Region. This is quite unhelpful. Mr Speaker may wish to consider a tactical retraction.

I commend Goodluck Opiah for ably and courageously moving this all-important Motion. Let me also commend his colleagues from the South – East and South -South, but PARTICULARLY, those from the North -West and Dogara ‘s North -East, who supported the Motion. It is quite reassuring that the Lawmakers from these four Zones find the injustice being done to the Niger Delta Region and its people by the oil companies sufficiently repugnant, that they collectively staged a walkout from the House when Speaker Yakubu Dogara suffocated the Motion. For sure, the matter is not over. Indeed, it has just begun. Given the special case of Akwa Ibom State as it relates to MPN, may I appeal to the Representatives of the State in the National Assembly to please, find their voices to speak, and speak out on this matter. They just must speak, please.

Let me remind Mr Udom Emmanuel, Head of the Akwa Ibom State Government, Rt Honourable Onofiok Luke, Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Senator Godswill Akpabio, Leader of the State Caucus in the National Assembly and each of the current Representatives of Akwa Ibom people in the State and National Assemblies, of my recent letters to them on this matter, please. The directive of the Federal Government of Nigeria, handed down on March 2, 2017 in Uyo, by Professor Yemi Osinbajo, the Vice President, then, Acting President of Nigeria, is still fresh. The momentum of that Presidential Directive and the impetus of the recent development in the House of Representatives should not be lost. This is a struggle between the truth and falsehood, and the truth will certainly prevail.

Etok Ekanem
May 4, 2017

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