By Emma Amaize & Ise-Oluwa Ige
ABUJA â€” A TOTAL 232 members of the Asari Dokubo-led Niger Delta Peoples Volunteer Force (NDPVF), yesterday, filed a class action before the Abuja Federal High Court to void the amnesty granted by President Umaru Yarâ€™Adua to militants in the creeks of Niger Delta region.
Meanwhile, repentant militant leader, High Chief Government Ekpemupolo, better known as Tompolo, who embraced the Federal Governmentâ€™s amnesty and surrendered 157 assorted weapons and large quantity of dynamites, Sunday, to the Government at Oporoza community in Warri South-West Local Government Area of Delta State has returned to Abuja in his bid toÂ tidy up some loose ends with President Umaru Yarâ€™Adua.
The plaintiffs are contending that the President lacked the legal powers to invoke Section 175 to grant pardon to the militants who were never charged nor convicted of any criminal offence.
They argued that President Umaru Yarâ€™Adua, though had the powers to grant amnesty to convicts, but that he could not exercise his powers under section 175 of the 1999 constitution except the said militants had been charged, tried and convicted for committing some criminal offences.
Some of the plaintiffs are Abaji Kom Bonimi, Obu Yellow, Daddy Mac-Harry, Asime Jenewari, Super Gayous and Alhaji Iburu.
They joined the Attorney-General of the Federation, Chief Michael Aondoakaa (SAN) as defendant in the case.
The case was filed less than 24 hours after the deadline given by the Federal Government to the militants to disarm expired.
It would be recalled that Asari Dokubo was sighted a couple of months ago on the premises of the Federal High Court, Abuja when he went to file the suit.
He had spoken with newsmen that he was having difficulty filing the suit and that he was waiting to see the Administrative Judge of the Abuja Federal High Court to find out why he would not be allowed to file the suit even if the issues he raised therein were unmeritorious.
Nothing was heard about the case until yesterday when it was eventually filed.
In the suit, the plaintiffs are seeking the declaration of the court that â€œthe 1st Defendant (that is, the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria), does not have the powers to grant pardon to a person under Section 175 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, without specifying the particular offence created by an Act of the National Assembly, which the person is concerned with or has been convicted of, and for which he is granting pardon.
Others prayers include:
â€¢A declaration that it is a gross violation of the right to fair hearing enshrined in Section 36 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria for the President (1st defendant) whilst exercising his powers to grant pardon under the same constitution, to unilaterally decide that a person is concerned with an offence, refuse to mention the Section of the law the person has breached and unilaterally grant pardon to such a person and as such be the accuser and the judge, all in one.
â€¢A declaration that the President (1st Defendant) cannot exercise his powers to grant pardon under Section 175 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria without the person concerned with or convicted of the said offence applying for pardon to the Presidentâ€.
Besides, they are asking the court for â€œan order nullifying the pardon purportedly granted to the Plaintiffs and other persons named and unnamed by the 1st Defendant for being unconstitutional, null and void and for such further orders as the court may deem fit in the circumstances of the case.
In a written address accompanying the writ, they traced the history of the Presidentâ€™s amnesty and why it should be voided.
According to them, they said President Yarâ€™Adua on June 26, 2009 made a proclamation wherein he offered amnesty to members of NDPVF as led by Mujahid Asari Dokubo whose name was said to have been included in those granted amnesty by the Federal Government.
The 13 paragraph affidavit quoted President Yarâ€™Adua as saying â€œNow therefore I as Umaru Musa Yarâ€™Adua, President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; after due consultation with the Council of State and in exercise of the powers conferred upon me by the provisions of Section 175 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, make the following proclamation:
I hereby grant amnesty and unconditional pardon to all persons who have directly or indirectly participated in the commission of offences associated with militant activities in the Niger Delta;
â€œThe pardon shall take effect upon the surrender and handing over of all equipment, weapons, arms and ammunition and execution of the renunciation of Militancy Forms specified in the schedule hereto, by the affected persons at the nearest collection centre established for the purpose of Government in each of the Niger Delta States; The unconditional pardon granted pursuant to this proclamation shall extend to all persons presently being prosecuted for offence associated with militant activities; and
This proclamation shall cease to have effect from Sunday, 4th October, 2009″
As at the time of filing this report no date has been fixed for the hearing of the suit.
Tompolo in Abuja to meet with Yar’Adua
A dependable source told Vanguard yesterday that â€œTompolo left for Abuja to fine-tune matters concerning his acceptance of amnesty with Mr. President. As I speak to you now (yesterday morning), he is in Abuja; he left with some of his key lieutenants after surrendering arms on Sunday, October 4â€.
Tompolo, who the Commander of the Joint Task Force (JTF) on the Niger-Delta, Major-General Sarkin Yarkin-Bello strongly believed with the information at his disposal is the leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger-Delta (MEND) had earlier met with the President, last Saturday, where he officially embraced amnesty and signed the Renunciation of Amnesty Form at a ceremony in the First Ladyâ€™s Conference Room in the State House.
Contrary to an earlier report that his meeting with President Yarâ€™Adua was facilitated by the Chairman of the Presidential Panel on Amnesty and Disarmament of Militants, Majorâ€“General Godwin Abbe (rtd), who is also the Minister of Defence, it was learnt that the Delta State Governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, actually facilitated the meeting and that he was the brain behind Tompoloâ€™s turn-around to accept amnesty.
A reliable source said Tompolo requested to have a private audience with President Yarâ€™Adua when they met last Saturday, but, because of time constraint and the need for him to return to Delta State the next day, October 4, to formally surrender his arms, the President said the meeting should hold after the expiration of the amnesty granted to militants on Sunday.
Why Tompolo wants another meeting President
As at press time last night, one of his aides with him in Abuja told Vanguard, â€œOga is yet to meet with Mr. President but we are in Abuja waiting for the crucial meetingâ€.
A Presidency source said, on the other hand, â€œAs long as Governor Uduaghan is in the picture, the meeting will hold because the President believes in him and his ability to handle such critical issuesâ€.
Information pieced together by Vanguard, however, indicated that Tompolo is very vital to the success of the post-amnesty programme of the Federal Government because of his general acceptance by other freedom fighters in the region as a leader.
Our source said Tompolo felt his position on the amnesty programme and how it would succeed, which he conveyed through theÂ emissaries sent to him by President Yarâ€™Adua at Oporoza were not made know to the President and he wants to do so personally.
â€œThere are many other things he cannot tell other people to tell Mr. President. Those things are better if he tells Mr. President himself so that he would not be misunderstood.
The pressure was on him to go back and surrender his weapons and now come back for the discussion, which he did. You know that he has thousands of boys under him, who were looking up to him for survival before now. Now that they have dropped their arms, the government has to properly rehabilitate and reintegrate them.
â€œForget about what the Amnesty Committee is saying about their post-amnesty programme, it is not feasible. Tompolo wants to tell Mr. President the real issues at stake and what he should do to make the amnesty to work.
He broke down at Oporoza when he was surrendering arms because he remembered those that died in the struggle and the vow that the fighters made to themselves, he does not want the boys to return to arms struggle because of some basic things the Federal Government ought to do but failed to do. That is the essence of the meetingâ€, the source added.