Three organizations in the Niger-Delta area have advised the Federal Government to thread with caution concerning the prosecution of former General Officer Commanding, GOC, of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, MEND, Chief Government Ekpemupolo, also known as Tompolo.
The Centre for Peace and Environmental Justice, CEPEJ, the Foundation for Human Rights and Anti-Corruption Crusade, FHRACC, and the Ijaw People Development Initiative, IPDI, warned that should government succeed in destroying Tompolo, others like him will emerge.
Comrades Sheriff Mulade, Alaowei Cleric and Austin Ozobo, Leaders of CEPEJ, FHRACC and IPDI respectively spoke against the backdrop of Friday’s ruling of a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos that properties, save one, of the embattled Tompolo be confiscated in response to his failure to honour court summon.
Comrade Mulade said since it was obvious that the government was hell-bent in humiliating and breaking the Gbaramatu chief, it should be reminded that “If you destroy Tompolo, many more Tompolos will arise.”
“We are, however, skeptical in the Gbaramatu kingdom why EFCC and the courts are after Tompolo as a person. It connotes a lot to us as Ijaws. The claims of the court is that there are illegal transactions. But they should follow due process while they go after Tompolo.”
“Their fear is that Tompolo is becoming too powerful to some political elites in the Niger Delta. With his influence, it will be difficult for some of them to have full support of Niger Deltans to actualise their political dreams”.
“But Nigerian politicians should be more afraid of corruption and it’s go sequences than Tompolo. Tompolo is not a warlord, he is a simple man, very approachable”.
“He fought for the liberation of Niger Delta. Those persecuting him should have a rethink. He brought development to the Niger Delta and any development in any region is a development in Nigeria”.
Mulade further stated that the former militant leader was ready to appear in court as far as it is devoid of humiliation and persecution, adding that the wanted former militant and Gbaramatu kingdom should not be perceived as confronting the Federal Government.
While commending President Muhammadu Buhari on his success so far in his anti-corruption crusade, he warned him against allowing the Niger Delta region boil again by following the rule of law in its prosecution business.
Comrade Ozobo expressed disappointment at the way the FG is going about prosecuting Tompolo, saying the recent seizure of his assets was an order taken too far.
“We are apprehensive and it is a total disappointment to seize his properties, it will only escalate the matter as the fragile peace in the region is being threatened.
“The order to confiscate Tompolo’s properties is ill-conceived. He has engaged the services of a lawyer to do the needful, noting that he would eventually appear in court. Nobody sees fire and jump into it.
“The order to seize his assets is barbaric, obnoxious and vindictive. It is also highly provocative and will be seen as declaration of war against the Ijaw people.
“We know Buhari is not happy with the Ijaws and some Deltans because of their roles in his election,” Ozobo stated.
On his part, Comrade Cleric, who described the seizure order as having exposed the EFCC’s plans to persecute Tompolo rather than prosecuting him, said: “It’s now clear to us that the anti-corruption agency is only prosecuting political vendetta against Tompolo. There is no law empowering the EFCC to attach another person’s property. This is a backdoor approach sought by the Commission to force the judicial pendulum against its assailants without recourse to the due process of law.
“The Court, as the last hope of the common man, ought not to have granted such unpopular application which end product is calculated to perverse the cause of justice.
“We hold in high esteem the Nigerian judicial system and it is our resolve that the judicial sanctity must always be honoured. However, we are forced to vent our anger on the Court for granting this baseless application which is not only lacking merit but also devoid of legal foundation. This is the height of judicial recklessness,” he added.