Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Annkio on Amnesty: a Niger Delta activist speaks out.

On 16 October, the day a group loyal to Henry Okah broke from an amnesty and vowed to keep fighting in the creeks, another key figure in the armed struggle held forth in more rarefied settings. At Chatham House, the London-based think tank, in the room from which Pitt the Elder ran the affairs of England three and a half centuries ago, Niger delta activist Annkio Briggs held sway for an hour.

Reading from a prepared statement, she gave her views on what she termed an ‘amnesty post- mortem’. She said the amnesty was faulty as in her view the government was not going to follow DDRR (Disarmament, Demobilization, Rehabilitation and Reintegration) protocol. And that the success of the amnesty was due not to the government as was being claimed, but to stakeholders such as herself who intervened to convince militants the armed struggle was spent.

She spoke of a vacuum evident when Boyloaf, a militant leader joined the amnesty in Bayelsa. She said there had been little provision made for him or his men. No orientation or rehabilitation programmes, and that money allocated to surrendering militants was not paid. Poorly housed and poorly fed, they staged a mini-protest attacking motorists.

‘I see Nigeria as the prodigal son and the Niger Delta as the father willing to forgive the son. Nigeria owes the Niger Delta people a responsibility to stop treating [them]as a conquered people.’

On oil companies she said, 'If they practice 100 per cent corporate social responsibility we will support them to come to the Niger Delta. Only Niger Delta people can give them the security to operate in the Niger Delta.' She went on, 'The oil companies are not politicians, neither are they development agencies. We see them as investors and see ourselves as the owners. We do not want them to tell us any more they are giving developmental money to traditional rulers, youth organisations and women's organisations.'

She ended with a scathing rebuke of Rotimi Amaechi, Rivers State Governor. ‘We are disappointed by his attitude to governance and the people of Rivers State. He has demonstrated a low tolerance for peace and the process of amnesty by what he did at the waterfront. It is a sensitive issue because the people that live on the waterfront are Ijaws and he is an Ikwerre.’ Slum structures along the waterfront were demolished as part of the governor's urban renewal campaign.

She said there had been threats on her life. Members of her family had been called by people claiming to be in government warning her to be silent concerning goings on in Rivers State. To this she responded, 'I have every right to express myself. If it puts my life at risk, it is not something I want or expect but I must live with it. I call upon the Federal Government of Nigeria to take note that I feel my life is in danger.'

To questions from Africa Confidential editor Patrick Smith about the earlier declaration by the presumed Okah affiliated group, and on a Chinese move on six billion barrels of Nigerian oil, Briggs sought to distance Okah from the announcement saying he had renounced armed struggle as a condition of his release.

As for China, Briggs was succinct: 'The Nigerian government is selling off part of its national share in the joint venture to China. We are fighting for our survival, our very existence. It is the responsibility of the United States and United Kingdom and other countries that want the crude oil and the gas to protect it and (their) access to it. We are fighting on behalf of our people. We are not interested in fighting for the US. They should fight for themselves.'

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