I have Not Seen Any Change In Nigeria Yet-Cleric | Independent Newspapers Limited
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I have Not Seen Any Change In Nigeria Yet-Cleric

Posted: Mar 25, 2016 at 3:00 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Alaowei Cleric, a legal practitioner and human rights activist, is the Founder and National President of the Foundation for Human Rights and Anti-Corruption Crusade (FHRACC), a non-governmental organisation. In this interview with EJIKEME OMENAZU, he speaks on the situation in the Niger Delta region , trial of ex-militant leader, Government Ekpemupolo (aka Tompolo), and sundry issues. Excerpt:

Do you agree with the view that the implementation of the National Conference recommendations would address the challenges facing Nigeria as a nation?
I believed in the Nigerian project only to the extent that the country’s quasi-federal system is restructured to reflect its true position. You cannot practice Unitary-cum Federal system in a country with a diverse background. I therefore agree with those who insist that the implementation of the National Conference report is the panacea to the challenges facing the nation. There is no alternative to this report, except the ethnic nationalities agree to convene a sovereign national conference to determine the country’s future.
How do you see the President Muhammadu Buhari’s style of leadership so far?
It is too early to comment on President Buhari’s leadership style. I can only say the man should not be too rigid in dealing with Nigerians. He should also learn to understand the diverse nature of the country. Some of us are afraid of his leadership style, because of his narrow view as he sees the country from one particular section. We are all equal partners in the Nigerian Project. This is why the framers of the Constitution cleverly said the composition of the government of the federation must conform to the federal character of the country. President Buhari’s lopsided appointments and his opposition party-targeted anti-corruption war are reasons many Nigerians are losing confidence in his government.

In your view what are the greatest changes facing Nigerians?
The greatest change Nigerians need is for government to take a holistic approach in the fight against corruption, not minding whose ox is gored. Another great change Nigerians are yearning for is in the petroleum industry. There are so many cankerworms in the petroleum industry, many of whom form the bulk of cabals in this government. If the government can break their ranks by exposing the rots in the system, then Nigeria will be a better place. Nigerians also expect Buhari to face the real business of governance and do away with its party’s media propaganda. Nigerians are expecting real, practicable change and not the media illusory change. Our GDP growth under this administration is fast declining. Government’s plan to fund the 2016 budget with external borrowings will have dire consequences on the economy. Government should rather think of exploring ways of boosting our internal revenues as well as exploring other critical sectors particularly the agricultural sector to fund the budget.

So far, do you see a reflection of true change in President Muhammadu Buhari administration, especially as it relates to the development of the Niger Delta region?
I have not seen any change in Nigeria yet, not to talk of any in the Niger Delta. What we have today is a negative change, a clear distinction from what we were promised during the campaigns. I am disappointed to hear the President say that his campaign promises for which Nigerians have entrusted him with their mandate could have been edited. What could be more disappointing than this? There’s no true reflection of change as we were earlier promised by the government during the campaigns.
As for the Niger Delta, I am seeing the All Progressives Congress (APC) government initiating economic policies against the region. One of the worst decisions of the government is its plans to revoke the Maritime University project at Okerenkoko in Warri South West Local Government Area of Delta State. Those who are advising the government should do well to advise it that scraping the Maritime University project is tantamount to scraping the Presidential Amnesty Pact the late President Umaru Yar’Adua signed with the ex-militants. Apart from the training of the ex-militants, the only benefits the region can count from the Amnesty programme is the Maritime University. Nobody is praying for violence, but the action of government is provocative and may spark off violence in the region. To me, Mr. Chibuike Amaechi, the Transport Minister, is an enemy of the region for pulling down his own house just to satisfy his master’s urge.

As a Niger Delta activist, how do you see the travails of High Chief Government Tompolo (aka Tompolo) by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC)?
What Tompolo is facing is political persecution in the hands of the EFCC. This was orchestrated by some people in the Federal Government. This is because he stepped on some toes while trying to engender sanity in the oil industry when his company was handling the oil pipeline security contract. Tompolo was able to block many of the loopholes created by those cabals, many of who are now in the ruling party, used to drain the nation’s crude oil thereby decreasing the daily output of the product. They did all they could to bring him down through the then opposition press, but former President Goodluck Jonathan was smart enough to have understood their antics.
To them now, Tompolo is an enemy because he blocked the networks through which they carried out illegal bunkering without being checked. This is why they are using the EFCC to witch-hunt him. The court is only being used by these cabals as instrument of oppression in Tompolo’s case and not as a platform for justice. You can see why he shunned the court’s invitation.

How do you see his proposed trial in absentia as being proposed by the EFCC?
I do not agree with the EFCC that Tompolo should be tried in absentia. Such practice is not known in our jurisprudence. I earlier said that Tompolo has already been tried and convicted by his traducers. As a law officer in the temple of justice, I can never encourage anyone disobeying court order because court orders are made to be obeyed by everybody. It is my resolve to see that the judiciary as the third arm of the government should not be unduly usurped by the executive arm. I petitioned the Office of the United Nations Human Right Commission over President Muhamadu Buhari’s refusal to honour court judgments against his government. I just don’t want to be misconstrued over my stance on Tompolo’s case with the EFCC.
Do you subscribe to the view in some quarters that the EFCC is acting on illegality and playing a political script?
Like I said earlier, the EFCC is acting a script prepared by those cabals in this present government who have sworn to bring down Tompolo by any means. What the commission is doing to Tompolo is a perpetration of illegality. It is using unlawful means to prosecute lawful order. That’s not what our laws say. The commission has no legal justification for this notorious act. I don’t think it has taken any step to carry out a proper investigation into this matter before embarking on its brazen political witch-hunt.
Looking at the background to the whole setting, you will discover that it was not Tompolo that disobeyed court decision in the first instance. It was the EFCC that grossly refused to appear in the suit he filed against it. If the commission had appeared in the suit Tompolo had earlier filed against it over the same subject matter, all these issues would not have arise.

How do you see the recent military incursion in the Niger Delta? Would you agree with the view in some quarters that it is a possible invitation for full-scale return to militancy in the region?
I have said it before and I am repeating it here that what is going on in the creeks requires only political solution. The military’s belligerent attitude of intimidating and coercing the community leaders to take up the job of protecting the oil facilities can only aggravate the situation. I foresee full blown militancy in the Niger Delta region if the military makes good its threat to attack communities where pipelines were blown up by those yet-to-be-identified criminals.
There is no law that says somebody must pay for the crime of another. Why has it not appear to the military that these communities it is threatening to invade requires its protection? There are hoodlums who may want to take advantage of what is happening today to cause havoc in the entire region. It therefore behooves on the government to thread with care in order not to escalate violence in the creeks. I also want to say that the military has overstepped its bounds by threatening to hold the communities responsible for the attack on oil installations in their domains.