But the 1963 constitution married the suggestion of Sir Willink. In section 159 of that constitution “(1) there shall be a board for the Niger Delta which shall be styled the Niger Delta Development Board. (2) The members of the Board shall be- a person appointed by the President, who shall be chairman; a person appointed by the Governor of Eastern Nigeria; a person appointed by the Governor of Mid-Western Nigeria; and such other persons as may be appointed in such manner as may be prescribed by Parliament to represent the inhabitants of the Niger Delta… (4) The Board shall be responsible for advising the Government of the Federation and the Governments of Eastern Nigeria and Mid-Western Nigeria with respect to the physical development of the Niger Delta, and in order to discharge that responsibility the Board shall—-cause the Niger Delta to be surveyed in order to ascertain what measures are required to promote its physical development; prepare schemes designed to promote the physical development of the Niger Delta, together with estimates of the costs of putting the schemes into effect;… Parliament may make such provision as it considers expedient for enabling the Board to discharge its function under this section, In this section, ”the Niger Delta” means the area specified in the Proclamation relating to the Board which was made on the twenty-sixth day of August, 1959 and lastly this section shall cease to have effect on the first day of July, 1969, or such later date as may prescribed by Parliament.”
No region in Nigeria has so far been designated as “special areas” except the Niger Delta and no region also has suffered environmental calamity as Niger Delta now with no land and no water with heavy military presence.
It was the spirit of Willink report that gave birth to Decree 22 of 1992 which led to the creation of Oil Minerals Producing Commission (OMPADEC). Same to NDDC. Same to the Amnestyprogramme. Contrary to recommendations of Sir Willink, states have been created in the region as well as local governments, yet the problem persists. So when you read about oil fields being bombed in Niger Delta and other ugly incidents, one is bound to ask, ‘what do these people really want?’, We need to go beyond asking such a question. There seems to be a disconnect between them and us. We don’t seem to understand them and they don’t understand us. At times, they don’t understand themselves. The situation in the region is much more complex than imagined.
One of their leaders, Major Isaac Jasper Adaka Boro (1938-1968), while being sentenced to death by hanging for fighting the cause of Niger Delta as the leader of the Niger Delta Volunteer Force by Justice Phil Ebosie in Port Harcourt on March 27, 1966 under the regime of General Thomas Johnson Umanakwe Aguiyi Ironsi (1924-1966) said his people “had long sought to separate not because they loved power but because their conditions were peculiar and the authorities did not understand our problems. There is nothing wrong with Nigeria. What is wrong with us is the total lack of mercy in our activities”.
To the people of Niger Delta, I plead that violence has never solved and will never solve any problem. I have visited the Niger Delta area several times and with billions of naira poured into that region by the central, states and local governments and oil companies also for developments, it is still the same old story – misery, frustration, poverty, neglect, militancy, etc.