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Published On: Thu, May 16th, 2013

Ijaw Leader Appeals for State Pardon for Henry Okah

Henry Okah

LAGOS, MAY 16TH (URHOBOTODAY) On the occasion of the fourth anniversary of the invasion of Gbaramatu communities by the Joint Task Force (JTF) in the Niger-Delta, the President of the Federated Niger Delta Ijaw Communities (FNDIC), Chief Oboko Bello, Wednesday called on President Goodluck Jonathan to grant state pardon to Mr. Henry Okah who was recently jailed for terrorist acts in South Africa.
Bello, who noted that the May 15, 2009, air, land and sea invasion and devastation by the JTF had left an indelible scar on the Ijaw Gbaramatu kingdom, adding that it was sensible for the federal government to pardon Okah, who was one of the leaders of the defunct Movement for the Emacipation, of the Niger Delta (MEND).
He urged President Jonathan to consider the pardon before contemplating amnesty for the Boko Haram insurgents whom he said, had carried out unquantifiable destruction of lives and property in Nigeria.
The JTF had on May 15, 2009, invaded the communities following the reported killing of about 13 soldiers by Niger-Delta militants in the Ijaw Gbaramatu communities in Warri South-West Local Government Area of Delta State.
Many people lost their lives during the aerial, land and sea bombardment of several Ijaw communities by the JTF.
Speaking at a low-key ceremony, Wednesday in Warri to commemorate the invasion, he lamented that practically all the projects initiated by the federal and state governments to cushion the effects of the large-scale destruction in the communities had since been abandoned.
Moreover, the buildings destroyed during the military operation are yet to be rebuilt, four years after, despite the government’s promises, Bello further regretted.
He attributed the spate of crime in the coastal communities such as illegal bunkering and illegal refining of petroleum products to the fact that the military invasion destroyed the people’s livelihoods.
The FNDIC leader said: “Four years ago, today May15, the JTF military carried out military actions in the Niger-Delta under the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. The invasion was declared after the killing and dislocation of several persons, the sacking of many communities and destruction of lives and property.
“During the JTF war in the creeks in 2009, Senator Edwin Kiagbodo Clark cried out against the genocide in the Niger Delta region wherein destruction was carried out in Gbaramatu kingdom at Okerenkoko, Oporoza,
Kunukunama, Kurutie, Benikrukru, Kokodiagbene, Igoba, Azama communities.”
He noted that the construction of Kokodiagbene-Pepeama-Okerenkoko road and rebuilding of destroyed houses promised by the Delta State government had been abandoned.
Bello also accused the Yar’Adua government of laying to waste numerous Ijaw communities including Okerenkoko, Oporoza, Kunukunu-ama, Kurutie, Benikrukru, Kokodiagbene, Igoba, Azama without rebuilding them afterwards.
The FNDC leader argued that the persistent cry of marginalisation and neglect vis-a-vis the Boko Haram insurgency in northern Nigeria was indicative that all was not well with the country, calling for the convocation of a sovereign national conference without further delay.
While calling for pardon for Okah, Bello said: “We appreciate Mr. President for his peace initiative, in the manner of late president Yar’Adua, aimed at granting amnesty and unconditional pardon to all persons who have directly or indirectly participated in the commission of offences associated with Boko Haram terrorist activities in the northern Nigeria; as it is also necessary to consider pardon for Okah who was linked with the October 1, 2010, Abuja bombing.”
“Perhaps, President Jonathan could have performed better in peace, were it not the incessant terrorist bombing activities of Boko Haram,” Bello said.

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