On this day, Kaiama Declaration was issued by the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) of Nigeria to attribute the political crisis in Nigeria to the struggle for the control of oil mineral resources, while asserting that the degradation of the environment of Ijawland by transnational oil companies and the Nigerian State arose mainly because the Ijaw people have been robbed of their natural rights to ownership and control of their land and resources. The council was found in the town of Kaiama after 5,000 Ijaw people representing over 40 Ijaw clans, chose to articulate their aspirations for the Ijaw people, and to demand an end to 40 years of environmental damage and underdevelopment in the region.
Kaiama is small town in Western Ijaw, about half an hour’s drive from Yenagoa, the capital of Bayelsa State. Historically, Kaiama is famous for being the birth place of Major Isaac Adaka Boro, an Ijaw nationalist who, in 1966, proclaimed the “Niger Delta People’s Republic.”
The Declaration was presented as follows:
Introduction: We, Ijaw youths, drawn from over five hundred communities from over 40 clans that make up the Ijaw nation and representing 25 representative organizations met, today, in Kaiama, to deliberate on the best way to ensure the continuous survival of the indigenous peoples of the Ijaw ethnic nationality of the Niger Delta within the Nigerian State. ……….. we, the youths of Ijawland, hereby make the following resolutions to be known as the Kaiama Declaration:
- All land and natural resources (including mineral resources within the Ijaw territory belong to Ijaw communities and are the basis of our survival.
- We cease to recognize all undemocratic decrees that rob our peoples/communities of the right to ownership and control of our lives and resources which were enacted without our participation and consent. These include the Land Use Decree, the Petroleum Decree, etc.
- We demand the immediate withdrawal from Ijawland of all military forces of occupation and repression by the Nigerian State. Any oil company that employs the services of the armed forces of the Nigerian State to “protect” its operations will be viewed as an enemy of the Ijaw people. Family members of military personnel stationed in Ijawland should appeal to their people to leave the Ijaw area alone.
- Ijaw youths in all the communities in Ijaw clans in the Niger Delta will take steps to implement these resolutions beginning from 30, December 1998, as a step towards reclaiming the control of our lives. We, therefore, demand that oil companies stop all exporation and exploitation activities in the Ijaw area. We are tired of gas flaring, oil spillages, blowouts and being labeled saboteurs and terrorists. It is a case of preparing the noose for our hanging. We reject this labeling. Hence, we advise all oil companies staff and contractors to withdraw from Ijaw territories by 30 December 1998 pending the resolution of the issue of resource ownership and control in the Ijaw area of Niger Delta.
- Ijaw youths and peoples will promote the principle of peaceful coexistence between all Ijaw communities and with our immediate neighbours, despite the proactive and divisive actions of the Nigerian State, transnational oil companies and their contractors. We offer a hand of friendship and comradeship to our neighbours: the Itsekiri, Ilaje, Urhobo, Isoko, Edo, Ibibio, Ogoni, Ekpeye, Ikwerre, etc. We affirm our commitment to joint struggle with the other ethnic nationalities in the Niger Delta area for self-determination.
- We express our solidarity with all peoples organizations and ethnic nationalities in Nigeria and elsewhere who are struggling for self-determination and justice. In particular, we note the struggle of the Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC), the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), Egi Women’s Movement, etc.
- We extend our hand of solidarity to the Nigerian oil workers (NUPENG and PENGASSAN) and expect that they will see this struggle for freedom as a struggle for humanity.
- We reject the present transition to civil rule programme of the Abubakar regime, as it is not preceded by restructuring of the Nigerian federation. The way forward is a Sovereign National Conference of equally represented ethnic nationalities to discuss the nature of a democratic federation of Nigerian ethnic nationalities. Conference noted the violence and killings that characterized the last local government elections in most parts of the Niger Delta. Conference pointed out that these electoral conflicts are a manifestation of the undemocratic and unjust nature of the military transition programme. Conference affirmed therefore, that the military are incapable of enthroning true democracy in Nigeria.
- We call on all Ijaws to remain true to their Ijawness and to work for the total liberation of our people. You have no other true home but that which is in Ijawland.
- We agreed to remain within Nigeria but to demand and work for Self Government and resource control for the Ijaw people. Conference approved that the best way for Nigeria is a freedom of ethnic nationalities. The federation should be run on the basis of equality and social justice.
Finally, Ijaw youths resolved to set up the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) to coordinate the struggle of Ijaw peoples for self-determination and justice.
The Declaration was signed for the entire participants by Felix Tuodolo and Ogoriba, Timi Kaiser-Wilhelm.