The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) has appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari to suspend legal action against the wanted former militant, High Chief Government Ekpemupolo (aka Tompolo), to enable him to serve as a member of its Aaron Team to seek sustainable solutions to the Niger Delta crisis.
It also asked the Nigeria leader to release the Okah brothers, Henry and Charles, who are in prison in Nigeria and South Africa, to participate productively in the process.
The appeal is contained in a letter on Sunday in which MEND announced members of what it called the apolitical dialogue, peace and development initiative it inaugurated last month, to be led by former Foreign Minister Henry Odein Ajumogobia.
The letter said Tompolo’s inclusion in the final list was “principally because of the key role he continues to play in the Niger Delta as a notable ex-militant leader; philanthropist; traditional title holder and mobilizer of amazing capacity,” adding: “It will, therefore, be counter-productive if the Federal Government ignored such an individual who may be capable of talking to the militants in the creeks to ceasefire.”
As announced by MEND, other members of the “Aaron Team 2 are:
HRH King Alfred Papapreye Diette-Spiff, Amayanabo of Twon-Brass (Bayelsa - Deputy Team Leader & Representative of the Niger Delta Dialogue and Contact Group - NDDCG);
Senator Florence Ita-Giwa (Cross River - Representative of all aggrieved militant groups and communities from the Bakassi axis);
Mr. Ledum Mitee, Esq. (Rivers);
Senator Adolphus Wabara (Abia - representative of oil-bearing communities in Abia and Imo states).
Mr. Ibanga Isine (Akwa Ibom); and
Mr. Alfred Isename (Edo); and
Mr. Timipa Jenkins Okponipere, Esq. (Bayelsa - Team Secretary).
“The Leader of the Team, Mr. Henry Odein Ajumogobia is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria and former Attorney General of Rivers state,” MEND said. “He is also a Chartered Arbitrator, former Minister of State for Petroleum and former Minister of Foreign Affairs. Mr. Ajumogobia, a man of unblemished proven record, character and integrity is widely respected throughout the entire Niger Delta region and he appreciates the problems and challenges facing the region. He is therefore our Chief Negotiator in the proposed dialogue with the Federal Government.”
It recalled that Diette-Spiff was the first military governor of the old Rivers State, saying he is currently, a 1st class traditional ruler in Bayelsa State. “He is the Deputy Leader of the Aaron Team as well as the representative of the Niger Delta Dialogue and Contact Group (NDDCG). King Alfred's immense popularity and wide acceptance across the Niger Delta region is an asset as Government seeks to tackle the current crisis in the region.”
It said the NDDCG would serve as the contact and clearinghouse for all mushroom and internet-based militant groups in the region; all aggrieved oil-bearing and coastal communities affected by the menace of oil spillage and related environmental challenges.
“The NDDCG shall also accommodate all repentant Niger Delta activists, elders and tribal assemblies who actively supported the neglect and corruption perpetrated during the era of former President Goodluck Jonathan but who are now ready to join hands with your Government to bring peace and development to the region.”
Senator Florence Ita-Giwa from Cross River state shall be representing all Bakassi militant groups and aggrieved communities from that axis of the Niger Delta who see her as their mother, the announcement said.
Similarly, it said former Senate President Adolphus Wabara would represent Abia and Imo states in the team.
According to the statement, Wabara, who fell in a bribery scam in the Senate in 2005, “is widely respected across both states and shall deploy his vast wealth of experience for the benefit of the dialogue, peace and development initiative.”
With reference to Tomopolo, MEND said it was well aware of the charges filed against him by the EFCC, but strongly advised that they be suspended until after the conclusion of the Aaron Team assignment.
“This is to ensure that Mr. Ekpemupolo devotes his time, energy and resources towards the resolution of the current Niger Delta crisis without any fear of arrest, intimidation or harassment,” the statement said.
It said the MEND Aaron Team 2 dialogue and peace initiative would not have materialized but for the “tireless work and support of Henry and Charles Okah, respectively.
“It is our humble submission that the release of the Okah brothers is a crucial factor in the peaceful resolution of the Niger Delta crisis. If Senator Ali Ndume who is still facing a terror charge of sponsoring Boko Haram can be granted bail by the Judiciary and thereby, permitted to participate in nation-building at one of the highest levels as Majority Leader of the Senate; then we see no reason why the Okah brothers who have enormous capacity to help Government bring the Niger Delta crisis to an end are still held in prison.”
To that end, it noted that cases abound in history where prisoners were released from prison to help save the nation in times of crises, citing the Hebrew slave Joseph, who was released from prison to help save ancient Egypt from famine; and Nelson Mandela was also released from prison in 1990 to help restore multi-racial democracy in South Africa in 1994.
“We therefore urge the release of Messrs Henry and Charles Okah similarly as former President Olusegun Obasanjo was released from prison to become President and help to nurture the then nascent democracy in 1999,” the statement said, adding that the Aaron Team was fully ready to partner with the government to bring peace and development to the Niger Delta region.