Former militants in the Niger Delta under the auspices of the Leadership, Peace and Cultural Development Initiative (LPCDI) have made a passionate appeal to the federal government to consider a review of the ongoing trial of Mr. Charles Okah and Mr. Edmund Ebiware, over the Independence Day bomb blasts in Abuja in 2010.
The group in a statement signed by its President, Reuben Wilson, also urged the government to explore a political solution towards reviewing the conviction of Mr. Henry Okah by the South African authorities over the same incident in Abuja.
The appeal is coming on the heels of the visit by the Presidential Committee on Prerogative of Mercy to some prisons in the country in order to grant amnesty to suspects incarcerated for various offences by the federal authorities.
The group noted with satisfaction the recent ceasefire declaration by fringe elements of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), who had accepted to dialogue with the federal government through the Special Adviser on Niger Delta and Chairman, Presidential Amnesty Programme, Hon. Kingsley Kuku, on the pathway to lasting peace in the Niger Delta.
“For us as former leaders of militant camps in the region, we cannot but commend the Committee on Prerogative of Mercy on one hand and MEND on the other for these initiatives that will usher in absolute peace in the land. We have always advocated for this and will support any sincere move that will promote peace in our region and country. This is the only way that the much-needed development can be noticed and appreciated in the region.
“Our confidence in the person and ability of Kuku has never been in doubt. We believe he has the magic wand to handle matters of this nature. So, if the elements in MEND have chosen to talk with him, we can only support the proposition and also urge the federal government to dialogue with them so that kidnapping and all sorts of criminalities associated with MEND in the recent past can end.
“It is even the more interesting that their proposal came at a time that the Committee on Prerogative of Mercy is visiting prisons for a possible release of suspects who deserve the federal government’s pardon.
“We implore the committee to take advantage of MEND’s olive branch to revisit the case of the Okah brothers and that of Ebiware. One thing is certain: if steps are taken to pardon them in Nigeria, it will be a right step towards securing comprehensive pardon for them anywhere and everywhere. Once that is done, we can be sure that the Niger Delta will experience peace like never before.”
The LPCDI equally noted that Charles Okah’s poor state of health was a condition for his pardon.
“We make this plea on his behalf considering his state of health. We have read in the media that he is going through very serious health challenges. We believe that if Charles Okah’s case is revisited, it could lead to his release.
“We also call on Hon. Kuku to liaise with the Committee on Prerogative of Mercy towards ensuring that the government tempers justice with mercy, especially at this time of our national life just as we urge the government to accept MEND’s offer and initiate the peace talks without delay.
“Our interest remains the peace and development of our region. This is one way of supporting Mr. President to remain focused in the discharge of his duties.”