"General” John Togo, the leader of a newly created militant group known as the Niger Delta Liberation Force (NDLF), spoke to SaharaReporters from what he described as his “Israel Barracks” location in Delta State. In the phone interview, Togo spoke about the activities of his group whose renewed insurgency has so far shut down three refineries and inflicted substantial damage on the Nigerian oil industry. Chevron, ExxonMobil and Shell have been hit with the renewed insurgency of this group of Niger Delta militants led by “General” Togo.
In the interview, a confident-sounding “General” Togo denied the claim by the Nigerian military that members of its Joint Task Force (JTF) had surrounded him. In addition to articulating his group’s demands, he also explained why he had abandoned the "amnesty" extended to Niger Delta militants by the Yar'adua government. In the interview, “General” Togo gave fresh conditions for peace in the region.
Transcription of AUDIO: "General" John Togo, The New Face Of The Niger Delta Insurgency, Speaks To SaharaReporters
Posted: December 29, 2010 - 05:46
Transription by Victor Manfredi (African Studies Center, Boston University)
Notes: (i) for some idiomatic phrases, a standard English gloss is given in square brackets after the "=" sign, or else implicit words are added in angle brackets. Otherwise, if the original, nonstandard form of expression is readily intelligible, it is left intact and uncorrected with respect to interlanguage issues like subject agreement, participle inflection &c. (ii) The orthographic subdot is indicated after the vowel to which it applies, e.g. "O.basanjo.". (iii) Phonetically unclear or distorted material is marked with [?]. Corrections occurring to any more fluent listeners can kindly be noted in the comments for the sake of the record.
JT: What I want is that... the disarmament. The disarmament, I have told Nigerian government to withdraw all soldiers that is in the villages. The villages I'm talking about, these, the ones in Ayanko.ro.mo., Amaso.mo., O.bo.ki.ri., I.gbo.o. [?spelling], the villages that is around me, they have put all soldiers [= they have put soldiers in all of them]. And now, most of the old men, some of them, them they don't even has access to go and buy food. People are been dying for hungry.
SR: There is a newspaper report today that they have, the Nigerian government soldiers, JTF, have surrounded you, thay they have cut off your supply.
JT: That is a lie. <It is> the innocent people that they are suffering [= causing to suffer]. I am agitating for the innocents. I think we are they [= I think that we are also innocent, we are part of the innocent ones]. I am an illiterate [= non-elite] person. The problem... I am agitating for the innocent. For the permanent disarmament to take place, they have to withdraw all the soldiers in Ayanko.ro.mo., because I cannot pass the lion's mouth to go and drop my guns. It is impossible, that is just the only thing. If they need [= want, require] a permanent peace, <they should> one: withdraw the one in Ayanko.ro.mo., the one in O.bo.ki.ri., the one in Amaso.mo., because innocent soul are dying. Why would you expect me to go and drop gun in the presence of my enemy?
SR: You were part of the amnesty before. Where did things fall apart between you and the government?
JT: I am not seeking to take another amnesty. Because of one, I have already took amnesty, and the amnesty is not sincere. The management of the amnesty is very poor. The post-amnesty conference, they have to call them where other issues has been resigned [?], and we want things to be dialogue.
SR: What do you see as the solution next, since you say the amnesty has failed?
JT: Why I have say that amnesty has failed, because the management of the amnesty was very poor. NDLF demand is, eenh... for the post-amnesty to be hold, where other following issue will be going to be discussed. The issue: one, post-amnesty conference, then two, state creation...
JT: Equal sharing of formula of oil and gas. Abolition of Land Use Acts [= 1978 Land Use Decree by General O.basanjo.]. And make sure of rapid development in Niger Delta. NDDC alone cannot do that. Those are the issues. I keep on telling them and I keep on exercising my feeling and say why the post-amnesty conference has not YET hold? And if they cannot hold the post-amnesty conference, it will [...GAP IN AUDIO...]. And most of the top leaders which who can't, as our leaders, we went to kneeled [? = pay respect] and told them and say how, the post-amnesty conference, when are they going to held the meeting, so that each and every one of us will has faith. Most of them they are be lobby [= were influenced with surreptitious cash], so therefore they are keep it aside [= postpone it]. And I said, if that is the case, even in the MEND organization, MEND has already pollute [= become dirtied or corrupted] and I don't want to do anything in the name of MEND. And another, that is why I form my own thing which is called NDLF, Niger Delta Liberation Force.
SR: This is Niger Delta Liberation Force, NDLF.
JT: Yes, NDLF, Niger Delta Liberation Force.
SR: How many soldiers do you have?
JT: Aah! That is a, that is a war strategies, I cannot openly...
SR: You can't disclose that, OK, so... but, OK let's talk about strategy, you know, the war, what you have been fighting. Now about three refineries have been shut down. Nobody is saying where it came from. But the feeling we are getting is that it is your guys who have cut off all these pipelines.
JT: Yeah. Why all the three refineries are been shut down is because of their evil acts. We, eeh... decided to surrender in a peaceful way but these people they were, they are having something in mind and they keep on killing, harrassing [?], destroying villages and here and there. So that one move us too to destroy some of the economic of the country.
SR: Are you going to continue to sabotage more pipelines?
JT: Aah! If they are, if they did not sense [= come to their senses], if the Nigeria did not sense from their evil deed, how will people no do sabotage them? If they did not sense? And if [= conversely] they are saying to hold post-amnesty conference, how will people sabotage it?
SR: How many pipelines are we looking at that you can say by estimate, that has been sabotaged?
JT: That is the secret in between me and, eeh... "D-COM" [?]. We don't expose that.
SR: The claim that Nigerian government... that you are totally surrounded is not true.
JT: That is a lie. That is "ezajaposgadin" [?] work.
JT: Do I look like this, as being hostage or as being surrounded? So we are talking! When you, when you listen to my speech, do I look like someone that has been surrounded, or the hostage?
SR: How do you react to what they did to peace, that they have started negotiating with you, that you should surrender in a dramatic fashion, so that they will act like, eeh... they overpowered you and then they will take you to Abuja and put you in some kind of detention until after the election? Is that... are you part of that plan?
JT: I am not part and parcel! I can't be! That is a foolish one. I was told. There was a phone call and... and the person... the person calling on unknown number said this is the new development that, they wanted to... they wanted me to be hostage and after the election they will now release me and everything will be... and I said no, I don't accept that. I won't [?] endorse all my things in the white paper, and if I surrender I am not begging to collected amnesty, because I have already collected amnesty. This is just a thrice- and a mis-told[?] mistake, that what the Federal Government sponsor connect [?] to things... because one person come out to be saying I don't worth [?]... Lies! You make all these things available for each and every one of us. I don't know why the circumstances that surround "Senatap" [?] was misleading him, and that is the problem.
SR: Have you ever been to Abuja before, to meet Yar'Adua during the first amnesty meetings?
JT: Yes, yes, of course I did. I went to asset [?] of "Mejetajiya" [?] and discussed it, eeh... literally in the mosque with Yar'Adua. But when this man, when "my brother" [= President GEJ] was [= came] on board I don't have any access... for the Villa [= 9ja presidential palace] again.
SR: Part of the reason why you are angry is because you don't have access to the Villa again?
JT: Because, WHY? Yes, I don't have any access to the Villa! And do you know... you know I don't have access to the Villa. The post-amnesty conference must be hold where other issues will fight in the amnesty. The post-amnesty conference, that is the only... because we... before we took amnesty, one or two things was agreed, this is how we would do, that we must lay our arms down, and the federal government was going to meet us in respect of all our needs, and here and there, [unintelligible], all promises are failed, and those are the angries. So we are angry about that.
SR: They went to Ayako.ro.mo. and demolished the place. Were you not near the place at the time they were attacking? What happened?
JT: I can say, eeh... three kilometer away from Ayako.ro.mo., and Ayako.ro.mo. was massacre. The people just came there and, eeh... and even to my place, that's a... that was just a... it's an evil act that the Nigerian government act.
SR: What you are saying is that they know where you are, but they did not attack you, they went and attacked a village. Is that what you are saying?
JT: Yes! They know where I are, three kilometers away from Ayako.ro.mo., they know where I are, but they did... they not even attack me. They <went> straight to Ayako.ro.mo., people that are being peace<ful> on their own... innocently. They attacked them. I have pass an officer who "estimo" [? estimated the number who] were killed, and everybody [= who were killed] was 64 people. Usi Usi [?spelling] is my village.
SR: Did you lose any of your men to JTF when they attacked Ayako.ro.mo.?
JT: No, even at the beginning of the fighting I never even lose any of my soldier, and I will not lose any of my soldier!
SR: You are the new face of the Niger Delta insurgency. What is your message to the world?
JT: My message is this. Normally [= according to Yar'Adua's amnesty agreement] a post-amnesty conference must be HELD... immediately... where other issues will got to be discuss! Two, state creation.
SR: How many states do you want created... in Niger Delta?
JT: [unintelligible]. Any one, I can't predict, any one they are create... they already we have... that one will good to leave that one to "ezifs" [?executives] or... our allotment. Three, equal sharing formula oil and gas wealth.
SR: You want the government to share the... the oil and gas wealth equally with the people of the Niger Delta.
JT: Yes! That is the people that has it yes, that is the percentage that they want. The number four: abolition of Land Use Acts [= 1978 Land Use Decree by General O.basanjo.]. Those are the things. And NDDC alone cannot, eeh... develop Niger Delta. The 9ja... the Nigerian government should [unintelligible]... the one they create the one that make Abuja as a city, as a beautiful city. NDDC alone cannot do that. So they have to assist.
SR: Did the Niger Delta region has governors, local government chairmen, public officials who are themselves stealing the wealth of the Niger Delta, the little wealth that is there? And they don't seem... you don't seem to do anything about them. In fact people say, you know, they work with the militants, they are the ones funding the insurgency. What do you have to say to this?
JT: That is a lie. Behave themself there! [?] That is a lie. Governor does not work with any militant in the Niger Delta.
SR: They are stealing the wealth. Why don't you do anything about governors who are stealing your money, who are stealing... who do not build resources, who steal, you know... you know that a lot of governors have been involved in corruption that denies the average Niger Delta people their fundamental rights to, say, clean water, health, education and things that the states can provide.
JT: And that is why we, we want the foreigners to enter in fire [? = to become directly involved] in the cases like this. Our leaders they are the problem of Niger Delta, not even the government. The Niger Delta leaders they are the PROBLEM in Niger Delta. And also the governors and local government chairmen. They represent themselves not the masses.
SR: So what are you going to do about THEM?
JT: Aah! I no be follow center hair [?]! I no be falling a center [?]. But the perma<nent> peace will reign in Niger Delta.
SR: What you are calling for is that, for the International community to come and broker peace in the Niger Delta.
JT: YES! Yes.
JT: I need your support.
SR: Your are looking for some kind of an international intervention that would... so that the peace in the Niger Delta would be brokered by international community.
JT: Permanent! Yes. When we see, you know, there is a mocks [= slander] tarnish my image that I am a criminal, pirates, and people have been parading my posters, John Togo is a wanted man and a criminal. Thay is not my... Those people, such people they are foolish, they are blind , they don't know what they are doing.