As the federal government intensifies effort to appease the restive Niger Delta region to stabilize oil production, President Muhammadu Buhari has ordered the immediate return of the golden sword seized by the Nigerian Army last year to the Gbaramatu Kingdom.
The golden sword described as the symbol of authority of the Gbaramatu in Warri South Local Government of Delta State, was reportedly confiscated by soldiers from the 4th Brigade, Benin City, in May last year while searching forex-militant leader, Government Ekpomokpolo, alias Tompolo, in the heat of oil facility bombings in the area.
In addition to the return of the sword, the presidency has also resolved to mobilize funds for the immediate takeoff of the Maritime University of Nigeria, which has been marred by controversy and lack of funding.
A top Presidency source said last night that President Buhari ordered the search, recovery and immediate return of the golden sword which is a symbol of the ‘Egbesu Shrine’, to the Gbaramatu kingdom with immediate effect.
The official, who pleaded anonymity, said the new move by the Presidency to appease the Niger Delta was in line with the resolve by the government to bring about lasting peace to the area and end the destruction of economic facilities that are currently hurting the nation.
The source confirmed that it was in a bid to appease the Niger Delta and forge ahead that President Buhari despatch his Vice, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, to meet with key leaders of the Niger Delta in recent weeks even in his absence for vacation and medical attention.
The official described Osinbajo’s ongoing visits to the Niger Delta as a ‘diplomatic offensive’ aimed at resolving the crisis in the area for a stable Niger Delta.
As part of the Niger Delta rapprochement, the Presidency has also decided to play down on the use of open military tactics against Niger Delta militants in favour of dialogue with identified groups one of them being the Pan Niger Delta Elders Forum, PANDEF.
The official said,“President Buhari instructed the Vice President to go and work out details of series of tours and visits to all the states in the country that has oil-producing communities and ensure that “all interests are brought to the table, regardless of parties or any other differing factors or cleavages.”
“The meetings also resolved that the Amnesty Programme which the President had already instructed should be maintained with even greater budgetary funding, and this this must be clearly communicated to the communities by the Vice President during the meetings.
“Besides, the President also asked the Vice President to ensure that during the visits, the communities should be made to understand that the Federal Government is now interested in action and would do its own part. The Vice President was also asked to secure from the communities a buy-in of peace and collaboration from State governments and the oil companies in particular.
“At that meeting, it was also decided that any immediate and reasonable requests of the communities would be earnestly considered to build confidence that all parties can then build upon.
“To show his determination and commitment to create a new understanding and atmosphere between the government and the communities, the President in fact gave an order after the Vice President’s visit to Gbaramatu that an investigation be conducted to determine what happened during an alleged military raid of the Gbaramatu community where allegedly the Kingdom’s Golden Sword was taken away.
“The presidential order also directed that a search for the Golden Sword of the kingdom allegedly confisticated -if this is found to be so-, should be recovered and once located promptly released to the Kingdom with an apology.
It will be recalled that High Chief Government Ekpemupolo had threatened to take steps to recover the missing golden sword, which is also referred to as the traditional symbol of authority of the Gbaramatu Kingdom.
The embattled former leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta stated this in an open letter he addressed to President Buhari dated June 29, 2016.
In the letter, Tompolo explained that the ‘symbol of authority’ was seized while the military was searching for him over his alleged involvement in recent series of attacks on oil facilities, which he had consistently denied. Tompolo, who also described himself as the Chief Priest of the Egbesu Shrine, alleged that other property worth several millions of naira belonging to Gbaramtu indigenes were also taken away by soldiers.
He said, “Your military has not returned the golden sword (symbol of authority) and the innocent students as well as the palace staff picked up at Oporoza town, on Saturday, May 28, 2016, to Gbaramatu Kingdom.
“Today is exactly 31 days after the invasion of the traditional headquarters of Gbaramatu Kingdom, Oporoza town, by your military, led by Brig.-Gen. Faruk Yahaya of the 4th Brigade, Benin City, in search of me, with the allegation that I am the one behind the bombing and destruction of crude oil facilities in the Niger Delta region, and the incident happened in my absence.
“But I was informed that the army was on the loose, and committed so much abomination in the community. Imagine, the traditional ruler of the kingdom was literally placed on house arrest for one week.
“As I said in my previous publications, the military made away with the Symbol of Authority of the Gbaramatu people from the Egbesu Shrine, which I am the Chief Priest. They also made away with other valuables, worth several millions of naira from the community. The most annoying one is the purported arrest of 10 young promising men, most of whom are orphans, who are secondary school students sitting for the West African Senior Secondary School Examinations, and other palace staff, and labelled them as members of the Niger Delta Avengers.”
Tompolo, who is wanted by the EFCC for money laundering, added, “As I write you now, these innocent young promising men are still with your military for no reason. This is truly man’s inhumanity to man in our own country. We are presently being treated like conquered ones because of crude oil.