Published On: Sat, Jan 21st, 2017

Osinbajo’s Visit Has Built The Confidence Of Niger Delta People -Cleric

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Alaowei Cleric pixBarrister Alaowei Ebikonbowei Cleric is the National President of the Foundation For Human Rights and Anti-Corruption Crusade (FHRACC), one of the major Niger Delta-based rights groups. He spoke to EJIKEME OMENAZU on the recent visit of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to the region.


How do you see Vice President Yemi Osinbajo’s recent visit to Gbaramatu Kingdom and other places in the Niger Delta?

The historic visit to the Gbaramatu Kingdom in Warri South West Local Government Area of Delta State by the Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, His Excellency, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo has exposed the tissue of lies being peddled by political buccaneers to deceive the government of President Muhammadu Buhari. In fact, his visit has vindicated my earlier position that people were only trying to score cheap political points by snitching on their perceived enemies just to build political capital. I am happy that the world has come to see the travails of the Niger Delta people who suffered the wrongs of these evil machineries that live in our midst. I must commend President Muhammadu Buhari, his Vice, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, and the Minister of State for Petroleum, Mr. Ibe Kachukwu, for taking this bold step to address the crisis. With this step, Niger Delta people can now believe that the government is ready to dialogue with the people.

Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, His Excellency, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo

  His Excellency, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,


What would you say were the major issues of discourse during the visit and his meetings with the Niger Delta leaders?

The position of the Niger Delta people has been conveyed to the Federal government in several fora. What we are asking for is resource control, true federalism and self-determination, in addition to other sundry issues. These positions were well captured by the various speakers at the Gbaramatu Kingdom. The people for once told the Federal Government that the region is not at war with it. What we want is to have a fair share of the resources from our land. Let the government treat the Niger Delta people as equal partners in the Nigerian project. The government should order the immediate release of all arrested youths in the region who have been kept as prisoners of war in its custody across the country, de-militarise the region as well as halting the ongoing persecution of Niger Delta people in the name of the anti-corruption war. I don’t think there are more things they discussed other than these biting issues.


 Would you say the visit is a major step towards resolving the Niger Delta crisis and a breakthrough in the proposed dialogue between the government and the Niger Delta leaders?

To a large extent, the visit has helped to build the confidence among the people. Although the government used the visit as a talk show, we believe that it has taken steps to engage the stakeholders of the region in a meaningful dialogue. What that means is that there is a positive sign that crisis in the region will be resolution of the crisis. If the government can make good its promise to address the issues with openness, I strongly believe that the end to the crisis is near.


How would the visit impact on Gbaramatu people, especially as it affects the Nigerian Maritime University which will be established there?

The visit did not only lend credence to the demands for the immediate commencement of academic session at the Maritime University having seen the facilities on ground at the temporary site at Kurutie in the Gbaramatu Kingdom, it also laid bare the truth behind the atrocities of the security agencies against the peace-loving people in the Kingdom. In other words, the Vice President’s visit to the controversial Maritime University at Okerenkoko in the Gbaramatu Kingdom has also vindicated High Chief Government Ekpemupolo (a.k.a Tompolo) of the mischievous allegations of corruption against him. Mr. President should now know that Tompolo is a victim of the Machiavellian propaganda of political vultures masquerading as APC stalwarts in the region, some of who are in his government. They made him the scapegoat with their incisive allegations of defrauding the Federal Government of N13billion for just an acquisition of land, while in the real sense; the so-called N13billion would not have been enough to acquire those magnificent facilities at the temporary site of the University at Kurutie in the Gbaramatu kingdom. I believe that the Vice President, as a Pastor and an Attorney in the temple of justice, will tell the true story to Mr. President. Let the world know that the persecuted Tompolo is only suffering from the vengeful mission of his political enemies who are using their connections in the government to bring down perceived enemies across party lines apparently to carve a niche in the ruling government. All these point to the fact that Tompolo is a victim of the propaganda machineries of his traducers.


With the visit of the vice president, would you say that President Buhari administration is now determined to ensure that peace is restored in the Niger Delta?

That I cannot tell. Until the government makes good its promises to the region at Oporoza town in the Gbaramatu Kingdom during the Vice President’s visit, the President’s determination to resolve the crisis remains a mirage. There is a comment the Vice President made at Oporoza town that I chose to disagree. He said they are awaiting the National Assembly to pass the Maritime University Bill into law for the school to commence academic session. That is a misapplication of fact. The school can function while the Bill is pending in the NASS. All the Universities former President Jonathan administration established, I don’t think there are enabling Acts establishing them. The Maritime University cannot be treated in isolation. These are issues that can still create doubt in the minds of the people


Would you say the visit would impress the militants and encourage them to stop or suspend their attacks on oil installations?

I am not a militant, neither am I their spokesperson. So, I cannot speak for them. I don’t know their views towards the visit. I can only comment as a stakeholder in the region, to air the popular views of the people. Since the militants are not different people, I am sure they will accept the government’s olive branch in principle, the same way we have agreed to give the government the benefit of doubt. If the government can match its words with action with immediate effect, I believe that the militants will suspend their attacks on oil facilities.


What was your impression on the inputs of the Niger Delta leaders so far as far as the proposed dialogue is concerned?

I am particularly happy with the way Niger Delta people speak in one voice. For the first time the people are coming together under one umbrella to confront our common enemy. I am more than impressed with the way the people speak in defence of our socio-political existence in Nigeria. Assuming we were united in time past the way we are today, Niger Delta would have attained its pride of place. However, the opinion expressed by some self-seeking groups or persons in the region is not only condemnable, it is also mischievous as the authors of those retrogressive groups only sought to achieve clannish interests. I must condemn the invective of the Movement for the Protection of Iwere Homeland and the Itsekiri Leaders of Thought (ILOT) against their Ijaw neighbours in the Gbaramatu Kingdom. I do not see any sense behind calling your neighbour slave in this modern world. For them to denounce PANDEF, which their revered king is also a member, and at the same time dispute the location of the Maritime University at this critical period, show that they are just mischievously instigating ethnic crisis in the region at a time the Niger Delta people need to be united to confront our common enemy. Instead of these groups to present confusing demands to the Vice President over the acquisition of land at the Maritime University at Okerenkoko, they would have channeled their energies to the near-abandoned EPZ Project at Ogidigben. Even the revered Olu of Warri should not have joined his subjects to make issue out of the Maritime University. That is an aberration considering his position as a member of PANDEF.


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