By Soni Daniel, Northern Region Editor
As the Federal Government intensifies effort to appease the restive Niger Delta region to stabilise oil production, President Muhammadu Buhari has ordered the immediate return of the golden sword seized by the Nigerian Army last year to Gbaramatu Kingdom in Warri South Local Government of Delta State.
The golden sword described as the symbol of authority of the Gbaramatu, was reportedly confiscated by soldiers from the 4th Brigade, Benin City, in May last year while searching for ex-militant leader, Government Ekpomukpolo, alias Tompolo, in the heat of oil facility bombings in the area.
In addition to the return of the sword, the Presidency has also resolved to mobilize funds for the immediate takeoff of the Maritime University of Nigeria, which has been marred by controversies and lack of funding.
A top Presidency source told Vanguard that President Buhari ordered the search, recovery and immediate return of the golden sword which is a symbol of the ‘Egbesu Shrine’, to Gbaramatu Kingdom with immediate effect.
The official, who pleaded anonymity, said the new move by the Presidency to appease the Niger Delta was in line with the resolve by the government to bring about lasting peace to the area and end the destruction of economic facilities that is currently hurting the nation.
The source confirmed that it was in a bid to appease the Niger Delta and forge ahead that President Buhari despatched his deputy, Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, to meet with key leaders of the Niger Delta in recent weeks, even in his absence on vacation and medical attention.
The official described Osinbajo’s ongoing visits to the Niger Delta as a ‘diplomatic offensive’ aimed at resolving the crisis in the region.
Vanguard learned that as part of the Niger Delta rapprochement, the Presidency has also decided to play down on the use of open military tactics against Niger Delta militants in favour of dialogue with identified groups, one of them being the Pan Niger Delta Elders Forum, PANDEF.
The official said: “President Buhari instructed the Vice President to go and work out details of series of tours and visits to all the states in the country that have oil-producing communities and ensure that all interests are brought to the table, regardless of parties or any other differing factors or cleavages.
“The meetings also resolved that the Amnesty Programme which the President had already instructed should be maintained with even greater budgetary funding and this must be clearly communicated to the communities by the Vice President during the meetings.
“Besides, the President also asked the Vice President to ensure that during the visits, the communities should be made to understand that the Federal Government is now interested in action and would do its own part. The Vice President was also asked to secure from the communities a buy-in of peace and collaboration from state governments and the oil companies in particular.
“To show his determination and commitment to create a new understanding and atmosphere between the government and the communities, the President in fact, gave an order after the Vice President’s visit to Gbaramatu that an investigation be conducted to determine what happened during an alleged military raid of Gbaramatu community where the kingdom’s Golden Sword was allegedly taken away.
“The presidential order also directed that a search for the golden sword of the kingdom, allegedly confisticated, if this is found to be so, should be recovered and once located, promptly released to the kingdom with an apology.”
It will be recalled that Chief Government Ekpemupolo had threatened to take steps to recover the missing golden sword, which is also referred to as the traditional symbol of authority of Gbaramatu Kingdom.