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WELCOME ADDRESS: Presented by Dr. Matthew O. Sikpi at the 2004 “BORODAY OBSERVANCE” & 6th Annual INAA “Service & Devotion Award”.
Our distinguished honoree, Chief Edwin Kiagbodo Clark; Ambassador (Mrs.) Nne Kurubo; Consul-General of Nigeria, New York City; distinguished panelists; delegates of Ijaw and Nigerian organizations; and ladies and gentlemen. On behalf of the Ijaw National Alliance of the Americas (INAA), I welcome you all to the 2004 Boro-Day and 6th Annual “INAA Service and Devotion Award” Ceremony.
This month of May, we join thousands of Ijaws, and others in Nigeria and abroad to observe this year’s Boro-Day Celebration; to honor the life and legacy of an illustrious and courageous Ijaw son Isaac Adaka Boro.
In February 1966, Isaac Adaka Boro, along with Samuel Owonaru and Nothingham Dick, led a group of young men to revolt against the Nigerian government in protest against the negative impact of oil exploration and exploitation activities on the socio-economic and environmental conditions of the Niger Delta. By 1966, the activities of Shell B.P and other multinationals for oil production, which began in the 1950s, had started to negatively impact the ecology of the Niger Delta; certain staple fish and crops of the people had started to disappear. And, although enormous revenues accrued to the multinational companies and the Nigerian government, the people of the Niger Delta from whose soil the wealth was derived, were largely neglected. It was under these circumstances that, Isaac Adaka Boro carried out his revolution to demand just and fair treatment of the people of the Niger Delta.
To us in the INAA, Isaac Adaka Boro symbolizes the struggle of the people of the Niger Delta for justice and fairness. INAA has, therefore, organized and sponsored the Boro-Day Celebrations annually since 1998 to honor this courageous man. Today, we honour not only Isaac
Adaka Boro, but also Samuel Owonaru, Nothingham Dick, and the other young men that fought along with them, for their courage and their sacrifice for the people of the Niger Delta. We also honor Chief Harold Dappa Biriye, Mr. Ken Saro Wiwa, the architects of the “Kaiama Declaration”; we appreciate your sacrifices for the people of the Niger Delta.
Today, we shall also present the 6th Annual “INAA Service & Devotion Award”. This prestigious award recognizes individual(s) that have made personal and selfless sacrifice(s) to advance the people of the Niger Delta. The award is presented during the Boro-Day Observaance every year, in recognition of the sacrifice by Isaac Adaka Boro. This year’s recipient of this prestigious award is Chief Edwin Kiagbodo Clark. We are honored to have both Chief E. K. Clark and his wife with us today.
Despite significant socio-political gains since Boro’s revolution, the core issues of environmental degradation and socio-economic exploitation that Isaac Adaka Boro sought to end, still continues. INAA, therefore, conducts a symposium during the BoroDay ceremony each year, as another way to find solutions to the socio-economic and other problems that beset the Niger Delta. This year’s symposium is entitled, “The Ijaw, the Niger Delta: Wealth, Woes, and Worries”. I must say, we are fortunate to have, as panelists, three very competent Niger Deltans- Ms. Ibiba Don-Pedro, Professor Scott-Emuakpor, and INAA’s own Dr. Tonyo Poweigha.
In declaring the Niger Delta republic in 1966, Isaac Adaka Boro aimed to improve the quality of life of our people, and not to create political boundaries as some may have thought. And Boro’s vision of a better quality of life for the Niger Delta people remains just a dream; today, majority of indigenes of the Niger Delta do not have access to good drinking water, hospitals, or schools, and most cannot afford to eat two good meals a day.
Since oil is the primary source of revenue to all governments in Nigeria and its critical role in the nation’s economy, Nigeria cannot afford to ignore the plight of the people of the Niger Delta while depending on the resources produced from our soil. Obviously, disturbances in the Niger Delta in recent years are a manifestation of the years of neglect of the people of the Niger Delta. And, for peace to return to the region, the federal government and the oil companies must demonstrate a greater commitment to developing the Niger Delta while at the same time demanding accountability.
In closing, I like to thank Governor Alamieyeseigha and the Bayelsa state government for the recent establishment of the Isaac Boro Foundation. I remember, when Governor Alamieyeseigha, as the keynote speaker of the conference sponsored by INAA in the 2000 Boro-Day Celebration at Yenagoa, announced establishing the foundation for the first time. We in the INAA are elated that the Boro-Day foundation has become a reality. Considering Boro’s broad vision for the entire Niger Delta, I hope that other state governments of the Niger Delta support the new foundation. Further, I sincerely hope that the foundation serves as a think-tank to support state and local governments of the region to develop the Niger Delta.
Again, I would like to thank you all, particularly those of you from Nigeria and England, for making out the time to come out today to celebrate with the INAA family. We are truly grateful for your support and solidarity. We have several events planned for the day, and hope that we will make your journey worthwhile.
God Bless the people of the Niger Delta. God Bless Nigeria.
God Bless the United States of America.
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