Says it’s corruption fighting back
ABUBAKAR Tsav, a former police boss and unapologetic social critic, in this interview, addressed two issues in the news. The one is the renewed wave of militancy in the Niger Delta and its effects on the social, economic and political health of the country. The other being the unrelenting fight against corruption by the present administration. As always, the retired policeman took on the issues in the combative, yet well-meaning fashion. He spoke to TUNDE THOMAS.
How would you react to the resurgence of militancy in the Niger-Delta with the emergence of Niger- Delta Avengers, and now the attacks on oil facilities by members of this new group?
Niger-Delta Avengers, or whatever name they call themselves, are blackmailers. They are criminals. They are being sponsored by corrupt politicians who are being exposed and put on trial for corruption by President Buhari’s administration.
Whoever referred to the NDA members as freedom fighters is doing a lot of disservice to this nation. Members of this group are criminals and they should be treated as such.
Where were these criminals when Jonathan was in power? Where were the so-called Avengers when Jonathan was there; when his administration was awarding lucrative contracts to the so-called militants under the guise of protecting the oil pipelines…?
(Cuts in) But the NDA is claiming that the renewed militancy is as a result of their disenchantment with the under-development of Niger-Delta and other …
Who under-developed Niger Delta? It is the leaders from Niger Delta that under-develop the region. What else do they want Federal Government to do to develop the region? Federal Government set up the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, and the ministry is working; the Niger Delta Development Commission is also there as interventionist agency to develop the region. Aside these, the oil producing states also collect 13 per cent derivation from Federal Government. To me, people that are saying that enough attention is not being paid by the Federal Government to the Niger Delta, are wrong.
If at all they are saying that Niger Delta is underdeveloped, they should hold Niger Delta leaders responsible. Niger Delta leaders under developed Niger- Delta. Why did I say so? Look at the money meant for the development of Niger Delta but allegedly stolen by former governors James Ibori of Delta State, and late Diepreye Alamieyeseigha of Bayelsa State. They allegedly stole money meant for the development of their states to buy houses in London, New York, Dubai and other places. They took away their states’ funds to foreign personal accounts.
There are several others like Ibori and Alamieyeseigha from the Niger Delta. These are the people the Niger Delta should hold responsible for their plight.
Jonathan was there for six years; was he not from Niger Delta? They didn’t protest at the time or ask him questions. So, it is Buhari that has just spent one year in office that will do the miracle?
This is why I said NDA, or whatever group that is causing problem in Niger Delta today, is not sincere. They are not fighting for their people. They are fighting their own battle – they and their sponsors are not happy that Buhari is fighting corruption, and that some of their mentors and sponsors have already been exposed.
But fears are being expressed of the economic losses as a result of the attacks on oil facilities, and the need to dialogue with them.
How do you dialogue with criminals?
These people are criminals. Federal Government should not dialogue with them.
If Nigeria will burn, let it burn. Why dialogue with criminals? President Buhari
should not succumb to blackmail. These militants should not be treated with kidsgloves.
They should be dealt with otherwise, other groups will emerge and start
making trouble, believing that government will eventually call them for settlement.
Federal Government should not create the impression that it is weak to deal with
troublemakers. If you start negotiating with criminals and pamper them, they will later turn into monsters – that is why you have people like Tompolo today. Rather than dealt with him when he started making trouble for the nation, they pampered him with oil contacts, and even gave him police escorts. What an insult! The thing got into Tompolio’s head, and he later became a monster, just like Asari Dokubo.
Now that Tompolo has been declared wanted, some people are even suggesting
that he should be set free or amnesty announced for him, and that there will be
peace in Niger Delta. My own take on that is that if you grant amnesty to Tompolo, then let government open the gates of all prisons in the country and allow all the criminals to go home.
But still on the same issue of Niger- Delta and Nigeria being fair to the region as source of the nation’s wealth …
(Cuts in) Nigeria has been more than fair to the Niger Delta. Do you know that
before oil was discovered in the Niger Delta, money realised from cocoa, cotton,
rubber, groundnut and mineral resources from other regions were not only used to
train people from Niger Delta, but to develop the oil industry? People from Niger
Delta have also benefitted from the wealth of other regions. People of Niger Delta
should hold their own people responsible for the underdevelopment of the Niger
Even through the Amnesty Programme, Federal Government has been spending a
lot of money on training youths from Niger Delta. Some of them have been sponsored
for overseas training, while others have been collecting monthly stipend for
doing nothing. The Amnesty Programme has a timetable, and it is supposed to have
achieved the objectives for setting up, but these troublemakers do not want the Amnesty
Programme to end because of huge sums of money they are making from it.
But there is a time for everything. Time has come for the programme to be wound
- But if Federal Government still wants to succumb or dance to the tunes of apologists
that say it should continue, then Federal Government should be paying a
monthly stipend of N5,000 to all unemployed youths.
Some eminent Nigerians, including former Vice-President Alhaji
Atiku Abubakar, have renewed calls for restructuring of the nation,
with emphasis on practice of true federalism as the only panacea to
the myriads of problems confronting the nation. Do you agree?
Those calling for restructuring or true
federalism are entitled to their opinions, but what we should realize is that there
is no system that is perfect. For instance, under true federalism, we are supposed
to have state police. But sincerely speaking, do you think state police can work in Nigeria? Politicians, state governors will hijack state police to harass and persecute
their opponents. What we need is good governance, and I believe that Nigerians
should give President Buhari’s leadership a chance. We should cooperate with him
as he has expressed his determination to restore sanity to the nation’s polity.
But there are concerns that if the pockets of crises here and there
are not addressed on time, the nation as a corporate entity is endangered?
I don’t believe that Nigeria will break up. It is not easy as you think. The constitution
we presently run doesn’t allow a break up, so we need a constitutional
amendment before you can talk about such an idea. The present constitution recognizes
one indivisible state called Nigeria.
The present crises are the handiwork of corrupt politicians being exposed by
Buhari. They are the sponsors of most of the crises — they are doing so in order to
get back at Buhari or to distract him.
But Buhari should remain focused and resolute in his determination to create a
new order, which will help restore Nigeria’s lost glory. President Buhari should
also strengthen the police. A strong police force will help in maintaining law and order.
What is your reaction to the recent disclosure of certain amount
of looted funds and properties recovered by government?
It is a right step in the right direction. It showed that this government is not only
committed to transparency, but also determined to sanitise the polity. However, I’m
disappointed that the federal government didn’t go far with the whole exercise.
How far were you expecting?
Disclosure is nothing without publishing the names of those people who looted
the funds. Initially, Federal Government told the whole nation that it was going
to publish the looters’ names, but why the sudden u-turn? Disclosing the total
amount of looted funds recovered is nothing without disclosing the looters’ names.
Why protect looters’ identities? Nigerians need to know these people; we need to
know the identities of those who are stealing our commonwealth.
But Federal Government gave some reasons for not disclosing
the names of the looters …
(Cuts in) It was a big mistake, a costly error on the part of government not to release
looters’ names. Federal Government should not give Nigerians the impression
that some individuals are being shielded or protected. Why should you shield a
thief? Nigerians need to know the names of the looters. When their names are published,
they and their families will be put to shame. If the names of looters are not
published, they will continue to steal public funds.
The danger again in not publishing the names of the looters is that it will create
doubts in the minds of Nigerians as to whether the total sum declared to the nation
is actually the sum recovered from the looters. I will advise President Muhammadu
Buhari not to give room for people to start doubting whether his administration
is actually determined to launch a total war against corruption. He has started
very well and is on the right track, but should be very careful about people that
surrounds him. He should not listen to bad advisers.
Former President Goodluck Jonathan, in a recent interview,
claimed that he is aware that the government is probing him…
(Cuts in) What is the big deal? Does Jonathan expect that his stewardship as a
former leader of this nation will not at one time or the other come under scrutiny?
Look at the ongoing revelations about the looting of public funds that took place under
his watch. It is one of the reasons why Nigeria is in the present economic mess.
Looters had a field day under Jonathan’s administration and the revelations coming
out on daily basis about this looting is mind-boggling. Public money stolen
under Jonathan is running into trillions of naira and other foreign denominations.
Apart from politicians, even Army Generals and civil servants had a field
day stealing public money, while Jonathan was in charge as president. This is a national embarrassment. Look at a former Chief of Air Staff that was accused of stealing N7 billion; the man opted for out of court settlement. Why did he do that? That means that he actually stole the money. If he didn’t steal, why would he
opt for out-of-court settlement, or where will he get N7 billion to return to government’s
coffers? Even his salary put together in all his years in service can’t be up to N1 billion naira. It is very disheartening that such monumental fraud and corruption took place in this country while Jonathan was in charge.
Does Jonathan expect looters that stole public funds under his watch to be set free or allowed to go scot-free? That is not possible. Again, what is the big deal in probing Jonathan? What Jonathan and other political leaders must
realize is that, whosoever offer himself for public service must be ready to give account of his stewardship. Leadership or public office appointment is not a tea party. If you know you are not ready
to render account of your stewardship, then don’t offer yourself for service.
We should not bring sentiment into this. Then look at all those people that
are being held for stealing billions of naira; all of them, including Sambo Dasuki,
have been mentioning Jonathan’s name as the one who ordered that the
money should be given to them.
Jonathan will not be the first former president to be probed. Rather than playing
on emotions, let him offer explanations on some of these issues, whenever
it is required of him to do so.