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Resource Control: Secession Looms In N/Delta

Foremost Niger Delta Oil Derivation Agitator and Establisher, Rev. Dr. Sokari Soberekon, has asked President Muhammadu Buhari to grant full resource control autonomy or 50%tax-free oil derivation to the Niger Delta, warning that failure to do so could result in the region pulling out of Nigeria like the Biafrans are yearning to do.

He made this demand in a recent chat with journalists in Port Harcourt. Rev. Soberekon, who said he had been recognized as the Senior Advocate of the Niger Delta (SAND) for long, with the likes of late Major Jasper Adaka Boro, Capt. Samuel Owunaro, late Capt. Nottingham Dick and others, expressed regret that the Niger Delta people are not enjoying the benefits of the oil and gas being produced in their land irrespective of the fact these resources are the main stay of the nation’s economy.

“Niger Delta will go if the oil finishes. We will depend on the fishes in our seas just as Norway depends on her stock fish.. .Niger Delta will go without gun; Biafra can also go, because after 100 years, nobody can force anybody to remain in Nigeria,” he barked.

He wondered why Niger Deltans should be paying so much for the petrol that is produced from their region, roaring: “Fuel price must go down in Niger Delta.”

Sokari recalled that former head of state, Gen. Yakubu Gowon (Rtd) made Rivers an autonomous state, adding that the state used to have its own flag and coat of arms.

He, however, regretted that Gowon’s successor, late Gen. Murtala Mohammed, took the autonomy away and started imposing non indigenous military governors to oppress the minority people of the Niger Delta, adding that none of those governors worked except Alfred Diete-Spiff, Chief Melford Okilo, Col. Zamani Lekwot, Police Commissioner Fidelis Oyakhilome and Capt. Ernest Adeleye.

Soberekon said then the Civic Centre was named after Murtala Mohammed, he protested and told ‘the governor then to name it after Alfred Diete-Spiff, adding that he did that in the people’s parliament where he is well known as the roving parliamentarian directing the mind and sight of the government to areas they may not see or think about, as part of the activities of Senior Advocate of the Niger Delta (SAND), adding that all the traditional rulers and military governors that ruled the state knew him as a roving parliamentarian.

He called on President Buhari to remove the picture of late Mohammed Murtala from the N20 note and replace it with either that of late Mallam Aminu Kano or late Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, saying that nowhere in the world is a picture of a military man placed on a currency.

Recalling how he single-handedly fought for the oil derivation, the Senior Advocate of Niger Delta and one of the living founding fathers of Rivers and Bayelsa States said he personally confronted former President, Aihaji Shehu Shagari, before he approved it, after the former governor of the Midwestern State, Prof Ambrose Ali, had sued the federal government over the matter which was struck out by the High Court, Appeal Court and Supreme Court.

He said he had embarked on a hunger strike in January 1981 in protest over the high fuel price in Rivers State and the federal government’s refusal to approve oil derivation allocation for oil producing States of the Niger Delta region.

However, he had to discontinue the hunger strike due to the pressure mounted on him by his mother and children who started begging him not to kill himself but remain alive and keep fighting.

After first confronting the management of the Nigeria National Petroleum Commission (NNPC) who told him that, it was the military government that fixed the fuel price, Soberekon finally met Shagari at the Civic Centre in Port Harcourt where he stormed with his protest placards.

He said while at the Civic Centre, in the presence of then Governor Melford Okilo, some traditional rulers, including the Oba of Ogba Land, HRH Chukumela Nnam Obi II, then Commissioner for Information and one-time manager of Radio Rivers Fm Stereo, Hon. Douglas, then SSG and one-time, governor of the state, Chief Rufus Ada-George, former director of Nigeria Security Organization, Chief Albert K. Horsfall and many others, he told Shagari: “Mr. President, I like to talk to you”, to which the president replied: “Yes?” Sokari then ordered Shagari: “Go away from Rivers State. We will not vote for you again!”

According to him, the astonished Shagari asked him: “why?” And he (Soberekon) retorted:

“Why can’t you give us oil derivation?”

Soberekon said it was at that point that Governor Okilo introduced him to Shagari by. telling the president: “This is Rivers strong man”

He said when Shagari heard that, he immediately promised: “I approve it (oil derivation).”

Soberekon, who said he believed that Shagari approved more than 1.3% as oil derivation, revealed that his encounter with Shagari was published in the Nigerian Tide of December 20, 1981, under the caption: “Why Strongman Sokari Didn’t Take His Life.”

He commended Governor Wike for his Zero-pot hole road policy but advised him to spread into all the LGAs.

Sokari who said that his own title of Senior Advocate of Niger Delta (SAND) is different from that of lawyers, which is Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), named the likes of Isaac Adaka Boro, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, Ken Saro Wiwa, Mahatma Ghandi, Nelson Mandela, Winston Churchill and Diepreye Alamieyeseigha as like-minds who foght for the interest of humanity.

He, however, expressed sadness that he has not been recognized and compensated for all the sacrifices he made for Rivers State and the Niger ‘Delta, regretting that three of his sons who, are graduates still have no job, wondering whether it was because he is not a member of any political party but has chosen to belong to the Jesus party that he is being neglected.

He called on all the state assemblies of Oil Derivation states to pass a bill to compensate him to enable him continue with his humanitarian work.

Sokari hailed Governor Nyesom Wike’s achievements in his first 100 days in office and advised him to continue with Chief Melford Okilo’s policy of decentralization for even development in the state.

“I met Governor Wike when he was inspecting ongoing projects in front of the Nigerian Tide Newspaper and shouted: “Governor Wike, more grease to your elbows!’ And he responded with a wave of the hand,’ he said.

Let there be an Airport named after Shehu Shagari or Niger Delta will name an Airport after Alhaji Shehu Shagari. ###

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