Activist and convener of the Niger Delta Self-Determination Movement, Annkio Briggs has blamed the Federal Government and the oil companies working in the Niger Delta for the devastation of the region.
She has therefore asked for compensation for their actions, although she said the region would still continue to demand self-determination and the control of its resources.
“In our requesting for self-determination, ownership of our land and resources is a basic right. We have been demanding for it for years now,” Briggs told Vanguard in an interview.
According to her, the issue of compensation and self-determination are extremely important such that one cannot override the other.
“This self-determination struggle will give us the opportunity to exercise our right to autonomy or self-government in matters relating to our local affairs, including determination of membership, culture, language, religion, education, information, media, health, housing, employment, social welfare, maintenance of community safety, family relations, economic activities, lands and other natural resources management (onshore and offshore), our environment and entry by non-members, as well as ways of financing our autonomous activities, as this will enable us develop and grow at our own pace without any further interference, under any form, style or guise,” she said.
She described President Muhammadu Buhari’s call for self-determination for the Palestinian people and those of the Western Sahara, on behalf of Nigerians, as antithetical, when he opposes similar demand by the indigenous people of the Niger Delta.
Asked how agitations by different groups may affect the future of the country, Briggs said: “I do not know what the future of the country is. But I know what I expect this country should be. I wish all of us, the different ethnic groups that make up Nigeria, will realise that this nation belongs to us and that we should make the changes we want, just as Buhari said we should be the change we want to see. So, we should stop listening to people who say they are bringing change for us. We should determine the change we want. The future I want for Nigeria is the one that ensures we stay together as a country and the different ethnic groups will find space in the country to operate, no matter how small or big they might be.”
The activist noted that the implementation of the National Conference recommendations can address some of the pending national issues including her group’s demand.
“The only thing we didn’t discussed at the conference was whether we wanted to stay united or not. For instance, when you take the issue of local government, it was suggested that it should be autonomous to the state so that you can have 10 or 50 local government areas in your state but your state must fund it, the funding should not be from the Federal Allocation. If the funding for Kano, which has 44 local governments, is coming from state, we know they won’t be able to afford it, but it is done like that because Kano LGs are funded from the federal allocation.”
Briggs however clarified that there is a difference between her group and the Indegenous Peoples of Biafra.
“From what I gathered, the Biafra people want secession. They want a different country. But we are saying we want self-determination so that we can control our land and take responsibility for whatever comes from there. We can then be paying tax to the Federal Government; we are not breaking up Nigeria, we just want to do for ourselves what nobody will do for us,” she said.