Barrister Roland Oweilaemi Pereotubo is the President, Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) Worldwide and the President General, All Ethnic Nationalities in Niger Delta. He spoke to EJIKEME OMENAZU on the recently held 59th Independence anniversary, among other crucial issues. Excerpt:
President Muhammadu Buhari for the first time performed the Independence anniversary events at the Aso Rock instead of the traditional Eagle Square in Abuja. What do you think could have necessitated his action?
I don’t really know. But, sometime ago, the Presidency said rodents had destroyed President Buhari’s office and so he would be operating from his official residence in the Villa. Maybe, that was the reason. Whatever might be the reason, what matters most to Nigerians is good governance. While it is good that our President performs the independent ceremony at the Aso Rock Villa, as that is our national emblem, our concern is good governance. What Nigerians expect from Buhari is even distribution of the dividends of democracy. The government should initiate policies and programmes that will relieve the country of this acute hardship occasioned by bad governance, through leadership failure.
What is your take on President Buhari’s Independence anniversary speech? How would you juxtapose his utterances with the situations on ground in the nation?
President Buhari’s Independence Day speech was more of a threat of violence to the people he has sworn to protect. Nigerians do not need iron cast governance. This country has never been more divided than now. We need a president that will play fatherly role to all and sundry. In my humble view, I see Mr. President’s speech as a declaration of war against Nigerians.
The issue of dealing with hate speech though is commendable under a democratic setting. The government should not take action in flagrant violation of the nation’s laws. Given a blanket order to the security agencies to deal with hate speech in the social media will reduce Nigeria to a police state where the rule of force takes the place of rule of law. Every law enforcement process should be dictated by the constitution. The judiciary should also be given an unfettered hand to operate. That is only when such an order should be passed.
On the charge that Nigerians should deviate from lawless habitats. My position is that Nigerians would have appreciated his advice better if Mr. President had directed his speech to the overbearing security agencies who are abusing their privileged positions with impunity. The most lawless set of people in our country today are the security agencies, especially the DSS and the police. These people use crude methods to enforce the nation’s laws which are not known in our jurisprudence. How can the ordinary man obey the law when the man who is to enforce it is flouting the law with levity?
On the threat to combat militants in the Niger Delta, I felt that President was just beating the drum of war for nothing. There is no militants’ activities in the Niger Delta. The issue of militancy has since been resolved in 2016 when leaders of the region represented the agitators to broker peace with the FG.
Based on the assurance of the Federal Government to address some of the demands of the region, especially the issues of modular refinery, relocation of oil companies’ head offices to the region and massive infrastructural developments, the militants have since given peace a chance to allow the government fulfills its bargain.
Niger Delta people only expected President Buhari to tell the world the progress report of its promises to the region. Instead of addressing the identified issues, our President is threatening to unleash mayhem on our peaceful communities. That is a war of aggression against Nigerians. What is our offence for this new threat of violence?
If giving administrative control of the NDDC to the Ministry of Niger Delta from the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) is for its effective management as Mr President has said then, I have no problem. NDDC is swimming on a cesspool of corruption. The commission needs proper monitoring.
Lastly, on the transfer of NSIP from the Vice President’s office to the Ministry for Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, if the gesture is to achieve optimum management, then, I have no problem with it. Otherwise, I would raise eyebrows that the government is emasculating the Vice President for obvious reasons.
How do you see the $9.6 billion fine given to Nigeria by a UK court? Do you think that the current efforts of the government to escape the fine would pay off positively on the side of Nigeria?
I think that there was an official dereliction by the relevant authorities to do right thing at the right time. It is the lack-lustre of those in authority that took us to this miserable height. We should call a spade a spade. The Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr. Abubakar Malami, has not done enough to save the country from this quagmire. His lack of commitment to the prolonged legal battle in the UK and the US courts brought us to this disgraceful end.
I thank God that the UK court has ordered Nigeria to pay $200,000 security while we appeal against the $9.6 judgment. I am happy because the FG has already appealed against that ruling of $200,000 security. I hope that we will get headways because even P&ID is ready for out of court settlement.
What is your take on the controversy over the appointment of Benard Okumagba, an Urhobo, as the new NDDC MD?
The issue of NDDC appointed is a matter of law. No one can say anything other than what the NDDC Act has said. I don’t have any problem with Bernard Okumagba’s appointment as the Managing Director of the NDDC. As a person, especially who is from Delta State, I can only say the offices apportioned to Delta State should rotate among the ethnic groups in the state. In a situation where only one ethnic group retained the offices for a given period of time as against our plural status then such practice can be regarded as a contravention of the Federal Character Act and the 1999 Constitution.
Since the inception of this Buhari administration, only one ethnic group is occupying the NDDC offices given to Delta State. That is an aberration and we want such ugly practice to be changed for the good of all Deltans. Political power should not be used as a weapon of oppression. Let us play politics of inclusion and not seclusion.
The Ijaw have always cried out over alleged marginalisation, even by the state governments in the Niger Delta. To what extent has this issue been tackled the current dispensation?
The Ijaw man is oppressed. Our problem of marginalisation has not been addressed by successive governments up to this present level. From Ondo State down to Akwa Ibom State, the Ijaw people are being oppressed, except in Bayelsa State. All states we found ourselves, we are still politically and economically being marginalised in spite of our economic contributions to those states. Edo State happens to be the worst. There is a constant threat of annihilation by our neighbours in the state. Even successive governments in the state have not considered the Edo State Ijaws as human beings that require government’s attention. Meanwhile, we are the economic base of the state.
That is the situation the Ijaw man finds himself in all the states we are aborigines apart from Bayelsa State which is our own. The Federal and State governments still largely marginalise Ijaw people in the Niger Delta.