FEATURE ARTICLE

Monday, December 9, 2019
chigachieke@yahoo.co.uk

ONYEMA SAVED AMERICAN LIVES

he figures below constitute roughly 3 percent of the eight categories of casualties contained in the 2007 report of the Monitoring Unit of Ijaw Youth Council, IYC. The report was tendered by the Chris Ekiyor-led IYC to the General Secretary of the United Nations, UN, European Union, EU, and Black Congressional Caucus:

Killing of expatriates: (1) 23 February 2007, a Lebanese with AUC Construction Company killed by gunmen at Isiokpo; (2) 16 January 2007, gunmen killed Dutch man Gideon Lapre and two Nigerians. But C.W. Moon (Korean) and Kumpas (another Dutch) escaped with injuries; (3) 22 November 2006, a Briton, David Hunt, killed and Pietro Caputo injured at the offshore Okono Okpoho fields while being rescued by Nigerian Navy. A soldier and two militants died; (4) 04 August 2006, five expatriate oil workers of a contractor engaged by Shell killed in ambush along Egbema/Aga Road; and; (5) 10 May 2006, an American working for Baker Hughes Inc. killed in Port Harcourt.

Clashes between Government Forces and Local Resistant Groups and Extra-Judicious Killings: (1) 21 June 2007, 15 youths and three soldiers killed in clash between JTF and militants at Ogboinbiri flow station of NAOC; (2) 13 June 2007, JTF killed nine youths in a speedboat at Ogboinbiri; (3) 11 May 2007, JTF killed four youths in speedboat along Oporoma axis of Nun River; (4) 12 March 2007, two policemen killed at Dawes Island when boat belonging to Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) was attacked; (5) 15 November 2006, two killed when JTF and local groups clashed at SPDC Nun River Field Logistic Base; (6) 07 June 2006, five naval officers, two civilians and Commander F.N. Kolawole killed escorting two Chevron boats along Cawthorne Channel; (7) 09 March 2006, seven soldiers and three gunmen killed when soldiers escorting fuel tanker on Escravos were attacked; (8) 30 March 2006, 19 soldiers killed in clashes at TUNU and Benisede Flow stations; (9) 08 March 2006, four naval officers and a police officer escorting oil vessel MTCM Spirit killed at Okerenkoko.

The above is a true reflection of the Niger Delta that Barrister Allen Onyema and his Foundation for Ethnic Harmony in Nigeria, FEHN, helped to salvaged. It all started with the Kaiama Declaration of 1998. By 2003 Asari Dokubo, 2nd IYC president, unease with the genocide visited on his Ijaw ethnic group by Western oil multinationals and the Nigerian state, declared war on Nigeria.

Rather than address Asari's complaints, President Olusegun Obasanjo abducted and imprisoned him in 2004. It was a costly mistake because in Asari's absence his lieutenants simply formed their own private armies and the killings spread to civilians.

Onyema's Role in Niger Delta Peace/Amnesty

We set the record straight: Apart from President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua himself, three powerful forces coalesced to engender peace.

The first was Onyema and FEHN. In 2005 he flew into Port Harcourt for a meeting with Ekiyor. He wanted Ekiyor and the militants to embrace the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr-inspired Non-Violence Method to Social Change. A forward-looking Ekiyor said he was interested as he was resolved to take over the leadership of the IYC. Onyema used FEHN, with Ekiyor approaching Shell to provide the funds, to train Ekiyor and a handful of youth leaders in non-violence in Port Harcourt, Lagos, South Africa and the US.

Ekiyor returned from the US where Onyema sent him for the Stage Three of Non-Violence Training and won the election that made him IYC 4th president in 2007. Onyema played a leading role in his election. With Ekiyor as IYC president, Onyema won over militants and non-combatant youths alike. FEHN trained more than 30,000 ex-militants from the nine Niger Delta states in non-violence. It also bided and was hired by the Federal Government to further train ex-militants in human capacity.

The second was the Timi Alaibe factor. An intellectual of the highest mental caliber, Alaibe immediately saw new possibilities in the Kingian non-violence. He was in charge of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, and agreed to meet Onyema at Ekiyor's suggestion. The Alaibe-led NDDC, same could be said of Shell and Chevron, was a big player in peace building awarding FEHN the job of deradicalizing and training ex-militants.

But by dissuading the youths from taking up arms, Ekiyor as IYC president made himself a target as some commanders wanted him dead. The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, MEND, controlled by the Big Five, namely, Government (Tompolo) Ekpemupolo, Boyloaf, Bibopre Ajube (aka Shoot-at-Sight), Ateke Tom and Farah Dagogo, was winning the war. Any suggestion for peaceful settlement was simply unthinkable and Ekiyor was annoying them. As for Onyema, MEND saw him as a CIA agent more dangerous than the money-making military Joint Task Force, JTF.

In the meanwhile, Western oil multinationals either scaled down operations or simply closed shops. From 2.7 million barrels per day Nigerian oil production dipped to 800,000 barrels.

The third force was the 2009 Felix Tuodolo-led Committee on Security and Economic Development in the Niger Delta (Tuodolo was IYC pioneer president and signatory to the Kaiama Declaration). Members included Ekiyor, T.K. Ogoriba (second signatory to the Kaiama Declaration, President of MOSIEND and father of the youth struggle), Asari (leader of NDPVF), Oyeinfie Jonjon (3rd IYC President), Sgt Weri Digifa (Chairman, Supreme Egbesu Assembly), Dan Ekpebide (Leader of FNDIC), Mike Wenebowei (former IYC Zonal Chairman), Eng. Udengs Eradiri (General Secretary) and Claudius Egba (IYC Speaker of Parliament).

Using the UN model of Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration, DDR, the committee developed a unique amnesty resting on Disarmament, Demobilization, Reorientation, Reorganization and Reintegration, DDRRR. Then the IYC called for a Youth Summit on 6th February 2009 in Yenagoa where DDRRR was endorsed. With the coast cleared, the committee drew a consultation timetable beginning with the Niger Delta governors, Ijaw National Congress, INC, the Yar'Adua government, diplomatic community and militants.

On 8th February members met Bayelsa State Governor Timipre Sylva, who promised to sponsor the group in its onerous self-imposed task of ending the Oil War. Unfortunately, the committee's activities leaked to the creeks causing a big uproar. On 9th March the committee ran into a storm at Akure where they went to consult Governor Olusegun Mimiko of Ondo State. Commander Shoot-at-Sight and his militants waylaid and booed them as traitors. Mimiko saw them and they returned to Yenagoa only to receive a summon to appear before the warlords at Tompolo's Camp Five. A charge of disloyalty to the Ijaw cause was leveled against them. They replied that they were committed to peace before leaving unharmed.

A "Request for Audience" letter was on 9th March dispatched to Chief Andrew Uchendu, Chairman, South South Parliamentary Caucus of the National Assembly. Through Senator James Manager, letters were sent to "All Distinguished Senators and Honourable Members of the House of Representatives from the Ijaw Area." The letters stated the committee was mandated by the 6th February youth summit to dismantle all militant camps as prelude to amnesty. The meeting was "to explore possible areas of collaboration and assistance, among other issues, regarding the peace, security and development of the Niger Delta." On 26th February members made contact with the Yar'Adua government through the Inspector General of Police and Minister of State, Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs.

Within the diplomatic community the British High Commission was their first port of call on 26th March. The Consul welcomed their proposal for a negotiated amnesty. Other embassies were consulted. Finally, a reply came from Robin Renee Sanders, the U.S. Ambassador. The ambassador said she would see the committee on condition that Asari was not among the delegates. On 30th March Tuodolo led his committee to meet Sanders in Abuja without Asari.

Not minding these serious talks, Yar'Adua sent his soldiers to capture Tompolo for killing a Lt. Colonel and eleven JTF men on 13th April. Failing to get Tompolo, the soldiers destroyed his hometown of Gbaramatu on the banks of the Escravos River on 15th May. Some 2,000 Ijaws were said to have been murdered triggering an unprecedented humanitarian crisis. This genocide was endorsed on 21st May with a resolution by the Dimeji Bankole-led House of Representatives.

Then on Thursday 25th June, citing Section 175 of the 1999 Constitution, Yar'Adua declared: "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."

Conclusion/Caveat

Ten years after Onyema played a big role in ending a war that could have claimed more American lives and businesses, the US Department of Justice turned against him. On 19th November 2019 a US grand jury contrived to indict him for bank fraud and money laundering that could fetch him 105 years in jail if convicted. We ask, who did Onyema defraud? But we timely caution:

One, we know that Onyema's Air Peace is the real target of this conspiracy. But destroying it will certainly endanger American investments in the Niger Delta. Some hawks in the military and certain warlords, don't forget, have always opposed amnesty. With this conspiracy America has just given them the subterfuge to resume hostility.

And two, the Kingian non-violence taught a generation to love America. If the very prophet of non-violence is now hounded by America, then America values could be repudiated as seen in the 2nd December IYC press statement, Vanguard, "On the Media Trial of Air Peace CEO Allen Onyema by America Department of Justice."

America has never deemed it fit to thank Onyema for saving American lives. Before our very eyes an innocent man is being destroyed. The Igbo have a proverb: Those who kill the Dibia that prepares them charms must never forget that their enemies are still alive.

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