By Kingsley Omonobi, Henry Umoru, Ben Agande, Levinus Nwabughiogu & Joseph Erunke
ABUJA — A coalition of Niger Delta militants said yesterday they were returning to the creeks to disrupt oil production in the Niger Delta, following last Tuesday’s raid on the Abuja house of elder statesman, Chief Edwin Clark, by policemen over alleged illegal possession of arms and ammunition.
The group also raised an alarm over assassination plots against some Nigerians, especially those canvassing restructuring of the country.
The militants’ declaration came on a day Police authorities paraded the informant, who gave the false information that led to the raid.
Although Force Headquarters said the Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, was not aware of the raid, sources in Abuja, yesterday, disclosed that fear of the consequences of the failed raid on the residence of Chief Edwin Clark, in Asokoro, Abuja, as was the case with the invasion of the National Assembly, which led to the sack of former Director-General of Department of State Service, DSS, Lawal Daura, led to the prompt arrest and detention of the officers, who undertook the operation.
‘Sins of those targeted’
The sin of those being targeted, the Militants said, stemmed from their attempts to stand against the killings across the country and their tough stance on restructuring of the country.
Rising from a meeting, the group in a statement signed by major heads of the coalition groups, also announced an end to the ceasefire agreement with the federal government, saying it was returning to the creeks.
The agitators, who also insisted on the restructuring of the country as a condition for peace in the country, issued an ultimatum to all major oil companies operating in the Niger Delta to relocate their headquarters to the zone between now and December 2018.
Those who signed the statement include General John Duku for Niger Delta Watchdogs and convener, Coalition of Niger Delta Agitators; General Ekpo Ekpo for Niger Delta Volunteers; General Osarolor Nedam for Niger Delta Warriors; Major-Gen. Henry Okon Etete for Niger Delta Peoples Fighters; Major-Gen. Asukwo Henshaw for Bakassi Freedom Fighters; Major-Gen. Ibinabo Horsfall for Niger Delta Movement for Justice and Major-Gen. Duke Emmanson for Niger Delta Fighters Network.
Others are Major-Gen. Inibeghe Adams for Niger Delta Freedom Mandate; Major-Gen. Abiye Tariah for Niger Delta Development Network; Major-Gen. Joshua Ebere for Renewed Movement for Emancipation of the Niger Delta; Major-Gen. Jeremiah Anthony of
Movement for Actualization of Niger Delta Republic; Major Francis Okoroafor
Niger Delta Freedom Redemption Army and Colonel Nelson Okochi Walter for
Niger Delta Liberty Organization.
Our stand — Niger Delta groups
The statement read in full: “At the general assembly meeting of the Coalition of Niger Delta Agitators, we viewed, analyzed and also condemned in strongest terms the unwarranted invasion of the Abuja home of Niger Delta leader and elder statesman, Chief Edwin Clark.
“This development is one in the series of plots to harass people in the Southern and Middle Belt Forum.
“Our intelligence further revealed that some of the people under the government watch-list that would either be assassinated or framed up are Obong Victor Attah, Dr. Alfred Mulade, Air Commodore Idongesit Nkanga, retd, Senator Bassey Henshaw, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, Prof. Chigozie Ogbu and Dr. Isuwa Dogo and others for attempting to stand against the killings across the country as well as their stance on restructuring.
“The recent police action and attempt on the life of the Niger Delta leader is a wakeup call for action, we cannot continue to watch this continue.
“We also condemned the statements made by the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, in respect of the restructuring of the country.
“After extensive deliberation on these issues, we hereby issue an ultimatum that any oil company that fails to relocate its headquarters to the Niger Delta between now and December 2018 should stop operation and vacate the Niger Delta or face the consequences.
“The refusal of the President to sign the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill into law is viewed as an attempt to forcibly control Niger Delta resources by proxy. And we advise Mr. President to have a rethink on this issue.
“According to reports, the President refused to sign the bill for fear that; it would weaken his power as the Minister of Petroleum Resources; his Ministers he consulted over the bill advised him against giving his assent as the Petroleum Regulatory Commission would then have powers to check his excesses, and the fiscal content” of the bill would be subject to litigation.
“The coalition wishes to state here clearly that we had fulfilled our part by maintaining total peace and ceasefire in the Niger Delta since 2017 as advised by Niger Delta elders and leaders, the oil output during the period has increased tremendously.
“However, the federal government has been playing politics with the Niger Delta people. We, hereby, officially announce that our cease fire ends today and we are returning to the creeks.
“We assure the Presidency that with just one month of our operation, the oil output will return to 200 barrels per day; we shall crush anything that crosses our line of operation. The actions and utterances of the Presidency have taken us by surprise, we cannot help but stand firm and fight with aggression for what rightly belongs to us.
“Finally, we, hereby, call on the International Oil Companies, PENGASSAN, NUPENG as well as other individuals that have businesses with oil companies in Niger Delta, especially in the platforms, rigs, pipelines and terminals, to withdraw their members on or before end of December 2018 as we cannot assure the safety of anyone anymore from now on.
“We want to assure you that our operation shall be second to none and we shall ensure the total liberation of our land and people from the injustices and neo-colonialism of the Nigerian state.”
Still on the matter, one of the militant generals who refused to disclose his identity, in a telephone conversation with Vanguard last night said: “Tell them in Abuja say trouble dey sleep, yanga go wake am.”
Police parade informant
Meanwhile, the Nigeria Police Force, yesterday, paraded the informant, who allegedly gave false information that arms and ammunition were kept in Chief Edwin Clark’s residence in Asokoro, Abuja, describing the raid as an illegal operation.
The informant, Ismail Yakubu. hails from Waru Village, Apo District, Abuja.
The officers that carried out the raid are being detained by the IGP’s Monitoring Unit, ASP David Dominic, include the team leader, Inspector Godwin Musa, Inspector Sada Abubakar and Inspector Yabo Paul.
A statement by Force Public Relations Officer, Jimoh Moshood, justifying arrest of the policemen said: “Notwithstanding, the fact that on daily basis the Nigeria Police Force across the country receive information from members of the public which are promptly used to prevent and detect crimes, the Force will not condone misconducts by any of its personnel that can run contrary to the rule of law.
“The Police, therefore, has the statutory rights to execute a duly obtained search warrant in any premises where it has actionable intelligence or information that incriminating items or exhibits used to commit crime or about to be used for criminality, with the aim of recovering them to prevent the commission of such crime or to detect the crime that had been committed.
“Any officer who is to carry out the execution of search warrant must follow the laid down procedures within the law.
“Where such is not followed, such an officer must be made to face the consequences of violating the rule of law.
“The officer that led the team has been queried and the three inspectors are currently undergoing orderly room trial for the appropriate punishment to be meted out on them.
“The informant, Ismail Yakubu, from Waru Village, Apo District, Abuja will be arraigned in court for giving false information to mislead police action.”
Fear of consequences
Meanwhile, sources in Abuja, yesterday, disclosed that fear of the consequences of the failed illegal raid on the residence of Chief Edwin Clark, in Asokoro, Abuja, led to the prompt arrest and detention of the officers, who undertook the operation.
Vanguard gathered that operatives of the Special Tactical Squad ‘STS’, which directly reports to the IGP, undertook the operation but in times past, had they been successful with the information and had found arms in Chief Clerks’ residence, nobody would have denied them.
It was gathered that though some high ranking officers were aware of the raid since the IGP was not around, they opted to adopt a wait-and-see attitude regarding the outcome of the raid before further moves.
However, when the operation backfired, the officers denied.
“The lesson of what happened when former DG of the DSS, Lawal Daura was sent packing over the NASS siege reverberated when initial reports of the failed raid came out.
“Remember that the botched siege on the National Assembly, particularly the Senate, and the failed plot to impeach Senator Saraki as Senate President, led to the removal of Lawal Daura as DG.
“Remember that DSS operatives, who carried out the operation said they were acting on orders from above. In the case of the Police raid, everybody denied knowledge, so nobody can be held responsible except the primary actors,” the source said.
Raid not heard of until it failed
Vanguard investigations showed that the IGP’s Monitoring Unit, the Police legal department, the IGP’s Intelligence Response Team (IRT) and Technical Intelligence Unit (TIU) were not aware of the raid until its failure was made known.
On Tuesday night, the Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, delegated the Deputy Inspector General of Police, DIG Joshak Habila, to lead a team to visit Chief Clark and apologize for the unauthorized raid carried out by some policemen on his house in Abuja.
In a statement, Force spokesman, Acting DCP Jimoh Moshood, had disclosed that IGP Idris was not aware of the raid on Clark’s residence by the policemen.
He said: “The IG did not authorize the search and has, therefore, sent a delegation of senior police officers, led by DIG Joshak Habila, along with some commissioners of police, who visited Chief Edwin Clark and apologized on behalf of the Nigeria Police Force and the IGP for the misconduct of the said police personnel and the attendant embarrassment the search has caused the elder statesman and his family. The delegation was received by Chief Edwin Clark and the apology was accepted by him.”
IGP orders probe
He said the IG had ordered a probe of the four policemen involved in the raid, adding that they would be tried in accordance with the Force Disciplinary Procedures before appropriate punishment are meted out to them.
Speaking to newsmen during his parade, the suspect, Ismail Yakubu, who identified himself as a council member in Waru District Palace, Abuja, said he alerted the police to raid the house based on his patriotism to the nation.
Yakubu said he had no regret providing the police with the information because he had a duty as a citizen of the country to assist its security agencies in curbing crimes.
But he said the information on alleged presence of arms and ammunition in the residence of the former Federal Commissioner of Information was provided to him by the driver of the cab he boarded to Asokoro on the fateful day.
He said: “My name is Ismaila Yakubu, I am 45 years old and an indigene of Waru village in Apo in the Federal Capital Territory, FCT.
“First and foremost, I appreciate the time given to me. The point is that I got to hear about the large cache of arms and ammunition in the home of Chief Edwin Clark on my way to Asokoro, at exactly four o’clock on Monday.
“I was called to come and receive a message at the back of ECOWAS secretariat and I took a taxi from Apo round about.
“When I got there, I called the man that asked me to come and receive the message. The street I was headed is actually called Haile Selassie and there is a Catholic Church on that street, beside an uncompleted building. That was exactly where the man asked me to meet him.
“The whole place was crowded, there was no way to either go in or out. So I began to ask questions.”
Raid on Clark’s home, unwarranted harassment — Saraki
In his reaction, Senate president, Bukola Saraki, described the incident as an unwarranted harassment of the elder statesman.
Saraki in a statement signed by his Special Adviser on Media, Mr. Yusuph Olaniyonu, said: “Chief Edwin Clark, a second republic senator, former minister under the General Gowon administration is not just anybody.
“Yes, he is not above the law. If there is a genuine reason for his home to be searched by law enforcement agencies, nobody will object to it.
“However, as it now appears, for the police to conduct a raid on the home of a man of that age on the pretence that they were looking for arms and eventually, the claim turned out to be a hoax, then something must be amiss.
“This type of action by the police coming at this time when the nation is preparing for election is not reflecting well on the country. Such actions constitute a threat to democracy. They represent gross abuse of state institutions.
“Now that the Inspector-General of Police has denied that the raid was authorized, the next move should be a thorough, transparent investigation into the Chief Edwin Clark incident to prevent future occurrence.
“These kinds of ugly developments must stop. This country experienced peaceful change in 2015 because the government in power allowed democracy to work. If the government had allowed the flagrant abuse and misuse of state institutions to be the norm, we would not have had the change that occurred.”
Saraki reminded the Federal Government of its commitment to world leaders to create a peaceful and conducive atmosphere necessary for a credible, free and fair elections devoid of intimidation, suppression and human rights abuse.
He said: “Democracy is not only about elections. Circumstances that will create tension in any part of the country or make people feel that their fundamental human rights are being trampled upon should be avoided,” he said.
“If a man of the calibre and status of senator Edwin Clark could suffer such unwarranted raid on his home, then what happens to ordinary Nigerians as we move towards the 2019 polls and beyond?”
Makarfi calls for full probe
Reacting in a similar manner, a presidential aspirant on the platform of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Senator Ahmed Makarfi, yesterday called for a full investigation into the raid on Clark’s house, saying the incident was “further evidence of the descent of the country into the abyss of authoritarianism and police state.”
In a statement issued in Kaduna yesterday, Makarfi said the raid was an attempt by the government in power to intimidate and cow Nigerians.
According to him, Nigerians must resist any attempt to “constrict their democratic space.”
The statement signed by Mukhtar Sirajo, his Media Assistant read:
“The attention of Senator Ahmed Mohammed Makarfi has been drawn to the raid by personnel of the Nigeria Police, on the house of elder statesman, Chief Edwin Clark, on Tuesday.
“Senator Makarfi considers this assault on a respected national leader, a former Federal Minister and a nonagenarian as callous and further evidence of the descent of the country into the abyss of authoritarianism and police state.
“It was clearly an attempt to intimidate and cow, as well as stifle contrary opinion in clear violation of our constitution and international conventions, as we approach the 2019 elections.
“Senator Makarfi identifies and sympathizes with Elder Clark over this assault on his privacy as well as calls on Nigerians to be vigilant and resist attempts at constricting our democratic space and fundamental human rights, (mis)using agencies of state.
“Even though the Police authorities have sought to distance themselves from this show of shame, Senator Makarfi urges that they go ahead to institute genuine investigation into this, with a view to unraveling the sordid act as well as bringing perpetrators to justice.”