Posted by By HENRY CHUKWURAH, Port Harcourt on
Former Governor of Rivers State , Dr. Peter Odili was, on Wednesday, at the Justice Kayode Eso-led Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Port Harcourt, fingered in the crisis in Okrika clan and the violence that engulfed the entire state for years.
Former Governor of Rivers State , Dr. Peter Odili was, on Wednesday, at the Justice Kayode Eso-led Truth and Reconciliation Commission in PortHarcourt, fingered in the crisis in Okrika clan and the violence that engulfed the entire state for years.
While a member of the Ado Royal House of Okrika, Chief Thompson Ibulubo alleged that the destruction of Okrika clan was hatched in a meeting held in Government House, Port-Harcourt,with Dr. Odili as the chairman, the Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO), told the commission that the names of the ex-governor and former Transport minister, Dr. Abiye Sekibo kept re-occuring as financiers of some of the armed gangs in the state.
Led in evidence by his lawyer, Chief Ibulubo, one of the signatories to the memorandum sent in by the Ado Royal House, told the commission that Dr. Odili supervised a meeting where it was agreed on how to forment crisis in Okrika Local Government Area of the state, which at the time, was headed by the then APP now All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP).
Others at the meeting, according to him, included the late Chief A. K. Dikibo, Chief Alamie Eremie, Mrs. Gloria Fiofori and Dr. Sekibo, most of who were in Odili’s cabinet at the time.
Citing instances of deliberate official marginalization of the clan by the PDP-led state government, the witness recalled that two boats and five transformers meant for the area were never released.
However, under cross-examination by Dr. Odili’s lawyer, Mr. I. Adedipe, the witness said although he was not at the meeting, he gathered the facts from one Chief Sara Egbe’s petition.
Chief Ibulubo insisted that although he extracted the allegation from Chief Egbe’s statement, he was sure of his facts.
Later in his evidence through one of its top officials, Mr. Damian Ugwu, the Civil Liberties Organisation stated that its findings on the violence in Rivers State showed that they were sponsored by politicians who funded armed gangs to help them win elections.
Ugwu said all the cult groups they interviewed stated that they were funded and armed by unidentified politicians. He said also that some of the gang leaders interviewed revealed that between 2004 and 2007, Dr. Odili allegedly recruited them to help rig the elections.
Listing Ateke Tom of the Niger Delta Vigilante and Soboma George of the Outlaws as the principal actors in the violence, the CLO official faulted the arms buy-back scheme of the Odili-regime in Rivers State.
“That programme aggravated the problem because under the arms buy-back, people who returned their arms were paid big money and they were able to get more sophisticated weapons. Also, some government officials were involved in backhand business in the transaction and they made a lot of money as we were told by some members of the armed groups.”
Ugwu named Chief Fred Alasia, a former Chief of Staff in Odili’s government as one of the officials linked with such deals. The CLO official urged that the insurgents should be granted general amnesty because they were merely used by self-seeking politicians who exploited the mass poverty in the state despite the billions of naira monthly allocation to the government.
Recommending solutions, the civil rights group urged that instead, erring top government functionaries who funded the violence should be arrested and prosecuted.
Also to be put on trial, the CLO official urged, are security and law enforcement officials, especially personnels of the Joint Task Force (JTF) and the police who were involved in extra-judicial killings in the state.
He recalled a case of the killing of two brothers, Chima Obi and Chijioke who were arrested by the Mile One policemen in which the late Chijioke’s wife who was also detained alleged she saw policemen share her husband’s property while she was in the cell.
Ugwu said the CLO would also want the government to tackle the poverty in the otherwise oil-rich state and ensure that oil companies perform their social responsibilities to their host-communities. Also, the Federal Government should allocate more funds to the Niger Delta region and curb the excesses of security agencies in the area.
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