Buhari Has No Real Plans For Niger Delta –Otuaro | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Buhari Has No Real Plans For Niger Delta –Otuaro

Jerry Otuaro
Posted: May 7, 2016 at 3:14 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Comrade Jerry Otuaro, a legal practitioner and a human right activist, is currently the Coordinator (National and in Disapora) of the Foundation for Human Rights and Anti-Corruption Crusade (FHRACC). In this interview with EJIKEME OMENAZU, he speaks on the travails of Niger Delta activist and ex-militant, High Chief Government Ekpemupolo, alias Tompolo,as well as other issues concerning the region.


Your fellow Niger Delta activist and ex-militant, High Chief Government Ekpemupolo, alias Tompolo, is reportedly being tried in absentia by the Federal Government. Do you think he was involved in the recent destruction of crude oil and gas pipelines in Delta State?

It is not just cruel, but inhumane and atrocious to suppose that High Chief Government Ekpemupolo is involved in the recent explosions which destroyed crude oil and gas pipelines in Delta State without concrete evidence linking him to the crime. We are not unaware that Tompolo, before the explosions, cried out that some people wanted to paint him in a bad light by engaging in some nefarious activities. But the government paid deaf ears to him for reasons best known to it. But, some facts have exonerated Tompolo as recent arrests of some people by the military based on intelligence reports, echoed Tompolo’s innocence. While I am not here to defend Tompolo, it will be absurd to allege that Tompolo was the brain behind the three-day explosion that destroyed oil pipelines in Delta State. In the absence of any concrete evidence, I am dissuaded to believe Tompolo’s involvement.

The, how would you see the reported on-going secret trial of Tompolo by the EFCC, which had earlier declared him wanted?

The EFCC’s invitation and subsequent harassment and persecution of Tompolo is politically motivated, ill-conceived and uncalled for. I cannot see what wrong Tompolo has done to deserve such harassment and persecution on the basis that he sold his property. How is selling one’s property now a crime in Nigeria? Was Tompolo occupying any government office to warrant such witch-hunting? Why is the government enjoy misinforming to misleading the general public on the supposed indictment of Tompolo? To the best of our knowledge, Tompolo is never a politician. Tompolo never sold any government land. He should be excused from such false and frivolous allegations aimed at tarnishing his image. What Tompolo sold was his diving school at Kurutie community in Gbaramatu Kingdom, earmarked to be a satellite campus of the Maritime University, Okerenkoko. If Tompolo, through his bargaining power outsmarts his clients, why is that wrong? How many government officials have been prosecuted and convicted for the supposed sale or transaction in relation to the Maritime University, Okerenkoko? The answer is NONE.

Don’t you think that the travails of Tompolo is more of a witch-hunt than a real drive against corruption?

It is as clear as daylight. But, I want to stress that while combating corruption is a must, hiding under its  cover to attack perceived political enemies is undemocratic and only depicts dictatorial tendencies. Yes, EFCC is saddled with the responsibility of curbing corruption. But, doing so outside what the law says and under the dictate and direction of the President show that the agency has become a tool for the presidency to witch-hunt perceived enemies.

I make bold to say that what we have now is far from what an anti-corruption crusade should be. This can be premised on corruption allegations filed before the EFCC and the modus operandi in handling the individual petitions. The petitions against APC chieftains such as Sylva, Babatunde Fashola, Rotimi Amaechi, all former governors, and others, have been swept under the carpet by the EFCC.

The EFCC’s pendulum finds pleasure in swinging towards the direction of the opposition party members and hitting hard on them to reduce them in the eyes of Nigerians by making them political caricatures so that they will be devoid of any political potency to challenge the ruling party in subsequent elections. In fact, I find no real drive against corruption, but a witch-hunt as evidenced in the Tompolo’s case, which everyone knows is because of his political affiliation. His refusal to ditch the PDP and join the APC is his undoing. Tompolo himself said so. If he had defected to the APC, he would have been a saint today and the EFCC would not be trying him today. No one would have thought of freezing his company’s account.

The fact remains that being APC member immunes anyone from corruption charges unless such a member failed to uphold the unholy oath of allegiance to remain perpetual slavery to the powers-that-be within the party. The case of Senate President, Busola Saraki, is clear. His trial because he defiled the party’s directives is instructive. The likes of Sylva, Fashola and co as well as other APC bigwigs and even the Halliburton’s scandal are swept under the carpet as such people are allegiance to the party and this gives them immunity from EFCC.

Would you say that this administration, which has been spreading the gospel of change has brought any real change to the Niger Delta since May 29, 2015 when it came to power?

I would not want to be seen as a pessimist. But, I do not see the Buhari administration ushering in real change in the Niger Delta. Though, the administration is just going one year, and it has ample time to make necessary impact in the region. Such happenings like the alleged recent scrapping of the Maritime University, Okerenkoko in Delta State by the Minister of transport, Chibuike Amaechi, with frivolous excuses does not show that there is much hope. Does it not sound funny that the project was cancelled because it was awarded by the opposition government? The Buhari administration which has no blueprint for the governance of the country cannot have any meaningful plan for the Niger-Delta. Look at the politics being played by the lawmakers and executive over the Lagos-Calabar rail. It is all politics. I can boldly say that the Niger Delta is the least in Buhari’s agenda.

How would you assess President Buhari’s leadership style?

I must confess that I do not have any confidence in Buhari’s leadership style. Look closely at the governors of this country. One will be tempted to conclude that the masses are enveloped in lies and propaganda. Even  the war against corruption is lopsided. Look at how the government treats court rulings and orders. You will see that the government has no respect for the rule of law. Look at what happened to the 2016 budget right from the time it was presented to the National Assembly till date.

This administration never prepared itself for governance. They only wanted power. Having got it, the do not know what to do with it.

What do you think are the greatest needs of Nigerians from this administration?

In my humble opinion, the greatest needs of this country are two-fold. Firstly, the country needs to be restructured so as to enthrone true fiscal federalism as against the partial federalism being practised today. This, I think, will place the component states of the federation in a position to harness their respective resources for the betterment of the state, in particular, and the country, at large. In doing so, Nigeria can then conveniently diversify her economy to engender simultaneous growth in their respective pace. Secondly, corruption must be fought to the barest minimum, with no sacred cow, as opposed to what is happening today. The war against corruption must be championed in pursuance to the rule of law.