- Activist faces trial
- Keyamo, Ekiyor cry foul
Shock and outrage trailed, at the weekend, the plan by The Netherlands (Holland) police to arraign non-violence campaigner and president/founder of Rotterdam-based Hope for Niger-Delta Campaign, HNDC, Mr. Sunny Ofehe, in court for allegedly plotting to blow up oil pipelines, operated by Shell Petroleum Development Company, SPDC, in Nigeria.
Human rights advocate, Mr. Festus Keyamo, and former national president of the Ijaw Youth Council, IYC, Dr. Chris Ekiyor, who played a major role in galvanizing militants to embrace the Federal Government amnesty programme are among Nigerian activists dumbfounded by the charge against Ofehe.
The defence team of Mr Ed Manders and Mr Michiel Pennings, in an electronic mail statement, obtained by Sunday Vanguard, also said the new charge came to them as a surprise and wondered “why the prosecutor has such a keen interest in oil pipelines in far away Nigeria right now”.
It is not known if the Federal Government is aware of the plan to charge Ofehe with plotting to bomb SPDC pipelines in the Niger-Delta, but a source said the Attorney General’s office had no information on the activist’s trial for pipeline bombing. The activist had led delegations of Dutch parliamentarians and journalist to Nigeria to observe the degradation in the region and operations of Shell in Nigeria.
Ofehe, who has had a running battle, in the last few years, with SPDC with its international headquarters in The Hague, The Netherlands, was arrested at his Rotterdam home, early this year, for human trafficking, but the charge was dropped and replaced with a new one of attempting to blow up the company’s pipeline lately.
He visited some militant camps to speak with militants on why they were at war against the Federal Government and also met with the Joint Task Force, JTF, on the Niger-Delta as well the Presidency in his campaign.
It is also on record that he was disowned by the Movement for the Emancipation of Niger-Delta, MEND, the chief militant group in the region, for canvassing that the group should drop its violent dispositions for dialogue in the resolution of the Niger-Delta crisis.
At a conference on Niger-Delta organized by HNDC in The Hague, last year, he disagreed with the leader of the Niger-Delta Peoples Volunteer Force, NDPFV, Alhaji Mujahid Dokubo-Asari, who insisted that violence was the only language the ‘oppressors’ of the Niger-Delta understood and that the people should use violence to take control of their resources.
Keyamo, in response to inquiry by Sunday Vanguard said, “I am totally taken aback by this charge of terrorism. The Sunny I know will never get involved in such things. I hope the facts would be made open to dispel any notion of persecution. I will follow this trial keenly”.
According to Ekiyor, “It is quite surprising to hear that Sunny is being charged for terrorism in Nigeria by the Dutch government, whereas Nigeria government is quiet”, adding, “This goes to show the politics of oil can make great nations desperate”.
“I am convinced Sunny will find justice in the end. He worked tirelessly to bring hope in the Niger-Delta by supporting the peace initiative we preached, so when and where did he blow up oil installations?
“My candid advice is for the Dutch government to drop the charges and support the United Nations Environment Programme, UNEP, position on Ogoni, vis a vis Niger-Delta”.
Ofehe’s lawyers in their statement said, “Our client, Mr. Sunny Ofehe, President/Founder of Hope for Niger Delta Campaign, has been charged with plotting to blow up oil pipelines operated by Shell in Nigeria”.
“This charge has come as a complete surprise to our client and us. The charge is based on just a few tapped phone calls between our client and an acquaintance of his in Nigeria in which Sunny simply tries to come to an agreement to record bunkering of oil pipelines in the Niger Delta-region.
“In no manner was his intention directed to blowing up any oil pipeline.The surprise of this charge was even bigger, when we noticed that these phone-calls were already known to the prosecutor at the moment Sunny was arrested. However Sunny was not charged with terrorism then and only went into pre-trial custody on the charge of people smuggling and forgery. Now suddenly the prosecutor changed his mind and charges him with this serious crime, with hardly any ground to stand on.
“The defence team (Mr Ed Manders and Mr Michiel Pennings) wonders why the prosecutor has such a keen interest in oil pipelines in far away Nigeria right now. The questioned phone calls have been intercepted during a massive investigation against our client, which started more than a year before his arrest on the 22nd of February 2011.
“During this investigation police tapped all the phones and computers of our client and they even put a car with a camera in front of his office for 3 weeks. The defence team has been seeking access to other police files on which the suspicion against Sunny was based according to the police, but access has been denied by the prosecutor so far”.
They stated: “That makes the charges against Sunny even more questionable. The trial against our client starts on Monday September 5th 2011. We will ask the court to give access to all the material that is being held back by the prosecutor on that day. Hopefully we will then be able to see what the suspicion is really based on. If there was no suspicion the entire investigation could be illegal. We are confident that Sunny will be acquitted of the terrorist charges”.
Investigation by Sunday Vanguard revealed that 25 police Dutch police officers investigated Ofehe for almost two years and reportedly broke into his car and wired it with listening and tracking device.
A surveillance camera was reportedly placed in front of his office for five weeks and a Nigerian was recruited as a spy on him. His case file span up to 2,500 pages and investigation carried out on him would have cost up to 1 million Euros.
A source said the Dutch police were frantic to pin a charge on Ofehe and the matter is being followed keenly by the Dutch media , especially Radio Netherlands World (Wereld Omroep), the most popular and reliable newspaper NRC Handelsblad, Algemeen Dagblad and the television EenVandaag (Nederland 1).
-By EMMA AMAIZE
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