Constitution Amendment: What Ijaws Must Demand For

By Obiri Ebilade Esq
The Ijaws are the largest Ethnic Nationality in the Niger-Delta Region of Nigeria and undeniably the 4th largest in the Nigerian Federation as a whole. The Ijaw Nation has been firm from time immemorial in the agitation against her marginalisation in the Nigerian State.

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It is so appalling that the Constitution, which is the grund norm of all laws in Nigeria gives backing to the injustice meted upon the Ijaw people, hence the need for the Ijaw Nation to participate fully and push for the amendment of the following provisions;

1. Section 315(5)(d) of the 1999 Constitution as Ammended:
The above provision gives special recognition to the Land Use Act and makes its amendment or repeal cumbersome as it categorizes such amendment or repeal on the same pedestal with the Constitution as provided in Section 9(2) of the 1999 Constitution.

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The Land Use Act was enacted as Land Use Decree in 1978 by the military regime of Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo. By the provisions of Section 1 of the Act, all land comprised in the territory of each State in the Federation is vested in the Governor of that State. Since the government is the owner of the land, the oil mineral resources in the land automatically belongs to them in line with the legal principle of ‘quic quid plantatur solo solo cedit’.

The Land Use Act is a great enemy to the Oil Producing Communities of the Ijaws in the Niger-Delta Area, as it is schemed by the government to deprive us from our ancestral lands so full of oil resources, when we tend to pay a high price by constantly inhaling the gaseous flames of oil exploration and other attendant ecological challenges. Therefore, Section 315(5)(d) of the 1999 Constitution as Ammended, be totally expunged from the Constitution as it does not represent the will of the Ijaw People but an anti- people military decree that has cunningly found its way to the Nigerian Constitution.

2. Section 162(2) of the 1999 Constitution as Ammended:
The proviso to Section 162(2) of the 1999 Constitution states that “provided that the principle of derivation shall be constantly reflected in any approved formula as being not less than 13 percent of the revenue accruing to the Federation Account directly from any natural resources. This provision is intended to perpetually impoverish the Ijaw people of the Niger-Delta as 13 percent derivation constitutes 87 percent deprivation.

Therefore in the ongoing constitutional amendment we should push for a full resource control or alternatively as a more realistic short term goal push for an amendment that will reflect additional 37 percent derivation which should go directly to the coffers of the Oil Producing Communities to salvage them from their deplorable state.

This approach is very necessary because the Oil Producing Communities are yet to get tangible benefits from the 13 percent derivation funds over the years. With the exception of a few, States in the Niger-Delta have refused to set up Commissions to cater for the developmental needs of the Oil Producing Communities.

3. Part 1 of the First Schedule of the 1999 Constitution on State Creation:
The balkanization of the Western Ijaws into Delta, Edo and Ondo States and the Eastern Ijaws into Rivers and Akwa-Ibom States is a deliberate way to place the Ijaws who are the 4th largest Ethnic Nationality in Nigeria to political subjugation and force us to become minorities under the political cum economic control of other Ethnic Nationalities which ordinarily do not have as much population as the Ijaws.

The Ijaws in the coastal parts of Delta, Edo, Ondo, Rivers and Akwa-Ibom States are not carried along in terms of development. For instance, the Ijaws own the oil producing Communities in Edo State, how many of these communities can boast of basic social amenities?

Considering the huge economic contribution of the Ijaw Nation as the Ethnic Nationality which provides the largest economic resources to not just the Central Government but the funding of all the States that comprises the Federation, we clearly do not deserve this injustice.

Therefore, Part 1 of the First Schedule to the 1999 Constitution be ammended to reflect the creation of additional two States for the Ijaws; the Toru-ibe State to integrate the homogeneous Ijaws of Delta, Edo and Ondo States and the Oil Rivers State to integrate the coastal Ijaws of Rivers State and Akwa-Ibom State.

In conclusion, a Constitution is supposed to be the will and aspirations of a people. The Ijaws have suffered untold hardships in the hands of successive regimes in Nigeria both military and democratic.

The bane to the development of the Ijaw Ethnic Nationality is the current constitution of Nigeria as it is skewed to foster the marginalisation of Ijaw people. Therefore amendments to the constitution that will promote the wellbeing of the Ijaw people who are the economic bedrock of Nigeria as a Nation should be welcomed by all and sundry.

Comrade Obiri Ebilade Esq is the incumbent legal adviser to the Ijaw Youth Council Worldwide.

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