Numerous ethnic groups in the Niger Delta have rejected the core ideas recommended by President Goodluck Jonathan’s advisory committee
for the convocation of the forthcoming national conference being planned by the Federal Government. The disaffected groups insist that Mr. Jonathan should, instead, rely on the submissions of various ethnic nationalities in convening the national conference. In addition, the groups described the advisory committee’s recommendation that the National Assembly approve the conference’s outcome and that representation at the conference be based on the 360 federal constituencies as ploys to marginalize the Niger Delta people.
The groups’ positions emerged on Tuesday at the Pan-Niger Delta Conference held in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital. The Conference was a civil society forum organized by Social Action in conjunction with other civil society groups to consolidate the positions of the Niger Delta ahead of the national conference.
The Niger Delta groups proposed that the ethnic nationalities of Nigeria should be the basis of representation at the national conference, adding that the outcome of the conference should be approved by a referendum. They argued that the use of the geopolitical units as the basis for representation would minimize the voice of the Niger Delta, which consists of several distinct ethnic nationalities.
The groups also want the conference to culminate in the emergence of a brand new constitution for Nigeria rather than the amendment of the 1999 Constitution.
Participants at the PNDC included academics, representatives of community organizations, social movements, non-governmental organizations, and ethnic groups. Keynote addresses were delivered by Kimse Okoko, a former president of the Ijaw National Congress and chairman of the Committee of Pro-Chancellors of Nigeria, Ben Naanen, the founding secretary of the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People and a professor of History and Diplomatic Studies at the University of Port Harcourt, Nnimmo Bassey, a former chair of Friends of the Earth International and director of the Home of Mother Earth Foundation, Ledum Mitee, a former MOSOP president, Ankio Briggs, a Niger Delta activist, Andrew Efemini, who is a professor, and Mofia Akobo.
The Port Harcourt conference was chaired by Ebiegberi Alagoa, an eminent historian. Mr. Naanen served as co-chair.
On October 1, 2013, President Jonathan had announced the establishment of a 13-member Presidential Advisory Committee on National Dialogue during his Independence Day speech. The advisory body was headed by Femi Okurounmu, with Akilu Indabawa as its secretary. The committee submitted its report on December 18 last year.