On Friday, June 17, former Niger Delta militants’ leader, Asari Dokubo stirred the hornet’s nest when he accused the military of being complicit in the oil theft in the region, and equally threatened to kill the Igbo in their numbers.
This heavy threat and allegation were released right inside the presidential villa where he had gone to see the President, Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
He emphatically declared that some cabals in the military were neck deep in the unfortunate operation of oil theft in the Niger Delta, which has brought the country’s oil production to its lowest ebb, and at the same time affected the total oil revenue, and by extension, brought untold economic hardship to Nigerians.
But the Nigerian Navy, in a quick response to Dokubo’s allegation, described it as spurious, and even challenged him to produce evidence to that effect.
The Director of Naval Information, Commodore Adedotun Ayo-Vaughan did not only challenge Dokubo to produce evidence of his claims, he also challenged him to mention the names of those he said were behind the criminality.
Ayo-Vaughan noted that the Nigerian military, and particularly the Navy, had been at the forefront of fighting crude oil theft at all levels in the country, stressing that those involved in the theft launched a two-pronged approach to the illicit business.
“While crude oil being stolen from pipelines was being refined in the creeks for the local market and local buyers, it was also being stolen by criminals from offshore at the sea.
“You remember the case of MT HEROIC IDUN that was made to pay fines to the Nigerian government after it was arrested and brought back from Guinea Bissau, Malabo Island and made to face court orders.
“It demonstrated the will of the Navy to go as far as even beyond our waters to arrest a ship that attempted to load without licence or due approval; that happened in April last year.
“I was there physically on board one of our ships at FOT in Onne when the Navy launched ‘Operation Dakatarda Barawo,’ which means stop the thief in Hausa language- stop the thief that is stealing the nation’s natural resources, the hydrocarbons.
“The Nigerian Navy has been fighting crude oil theft, taking the fight to the creeks, and as I speak to you, our men are battling in the creeks. So, what I will just say is that Asari Dokubo is seeking some form of relevance or whatever.
“He alleges that there is a cabal of military people that are involved in crude oil theft; let him bring the names. Nobody is afraid of getting the names of those involved in crude oil theft.
“You cannot make such spurious allegations and think that we will just sweep it under the carpet,” he said.
The Naval spokesman further noted that neither the Chief of Defense Staff nor the Chief of Naval Staff would condone such an act.
He promised that the Nigerian Navy would not be distracted by the allegations and would continue to be actively involved in the fight against crude oil theft and resources in the Niger Delta.
“So, for anybody to say that there is a cabal of military officers, the only simple thing to do is to bring the evidence, and the names involved,” he stressed.
In the same vein, the Nigeria Army, through the Director, Army Public Relations, Brig-Gen Onyema Nwachukwu, has also reacted, saying the Army had been vigorously engaged in the fight against illegal oil-bunkering, oil theft, illegal oil refining and other sundry crimes in the region with positive results.
“And this has yielded positive results as evident in the increase in daily oil production per barrel from an abysmally dwindling output in the past.
“The Nigerian army has zero tolerance for any compromise on the part of our troops, and will not condone such acts of economic sabotage. No black sheep will be spared if identified.”
Aside from accusing the military of having a hand in the oil theft in Niger Delta, Dokubo also attacked the Igbo, saying that but for the British intervention, he would still have been selling the Igbo as slaves just as his forefathers did.
He also mocked the Igbo that their people are dying in their numbers, and insinuated that he and his boys were dealing with the boys loyal to the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, in places like Imo, Abia and Ebonyi States.
“The Igbo people do not know their roots. They don’t have respect for who bought their father. You think every Kalabari man is a Kalabari man. Igbo, I don’t know them. If not for British intervention, I will still be selling them the way my father sold them,” he stated in the viral video.
Expectedly, Nigerians, home and abroad, as well as the civil society organisations were unanimous that he should be arrested and prosecuted for maligning the integrity of the Nigeria military and equally threatening one of the three major ethnic groups in Nigeria, the Igbo without provocation.
The call for his arrest became so intense that there was a rumour that he had even gone into hiding. It was later discovered that he had gone to the Muslim holy land in Mecca for Hajj.
However, some Nigerians also supported him on the alleged military involvement in the oil theft.
Those on this divide charged the military to come clean and defend their image rather than call for his arrest.
On the threat to the Igbo, the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, HURIWA, gave the federal government a 72-working hour ultimatum to arrest him or it would mobilise its members to embark on a nation-wide protest.
A statement by its National Coordinator, Emmanuel Onwubiko said: “Asari Dokubo must be arrested by the Department of State Services, DSS, or any other relevant security agency for his suspected link to the violent phenomenon of ‘unknown gunmen’ in the South East.
“The Nigerian Government must arrest Dokubo now or the Federal Government is indirectly tasking the Igbo youths, lovers of the Igbo and the Igbo groups that support the well-being of the Igbo people to begin peaceful protests simultaneously.
“The HURIWA is giving President Bola Ahmed Tinubu 72 working hours to order the arrest and investigation of Dokubo over his suspected link to the violent phenomenon of the unknown gunmen in the South East or HURIWA will call her members for a protest in Abuja next week over it.
“Illegality must not be allowed to continue while the security agencies pretend not to know or willfully not take action. Asari Dokubo must be arrested. Nigeria is not a Banana Republic.”
The National Publicity Secretary of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Dr. Alex Ogbonnia described Dokubo’s threat as the ranting of an ant, stressing that the apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation would not dignify him with a response.
“Asari Dokubo does not deserve a response from the National Executive Committee of Ohanaeze Ndigbo; rather we have a youth wing that will respond to him. I’ll be lowering the office of the NEC of Ohaneze to respond to Dokubo. It doesn’t fit it,” he stated.
But, reacting to the calls from different quarters for his arrest, particularly for the threat against the Igbo, he has released another bombshell, which appears to vindicate the position of those who see him as too big for the law to touch.
He warned the Federal Government in a viral video not to contemplate arresting him as that would spell doom for the country.
He challenged the government to arrest him if it is not afraid of him. He threatened to cripple the oil production if he is arrested.
In the viral video, Dokubo had said: “I am not afraid of arrest, but they will never arrest me because if they do, the consequence is that Nigeria will be history.”
He boasted that the last time he was arrested, the oil production was reduced from about 2,000,000 bpd to 70,000bpd and warned that if the government dared to arrest him this time round, he would ensure that not even a single barrel would be produced in a day.
He threatened thunder and brimstone, saying, “I am saying it bold and clear without mincing words that the consequence of my arrest is that Nigeria will be history. The last time I was arrested, the oil production was reduced to 700,000bpd. This time, it will be zero, and we will match violence with violence, intrigues with intrigues, bullets with bullets and blood with blood. We are ready for them.”
However, after the video went viral, Nigerians expected a quick reaction from the government in the form of arrest and prosecution, but surprisingly that has not happened.
The government has recoiled into its shell, apparently afraid of the consequences of touching him.
The thinking in some quarters is that Dokubo has just proven that he is too big to be touched by the law.
Those on this side of the divide would quickly call to mind the work of the classical English author, George Orwell.
The author, in his celebrated fable, ‘The Animal Farm,’ said that all animals are equal, but in reality, some are more equal than the others.
That is where the country is at present, even though many are still watching, believing that the government would muster the gut to do the needful.
However, there are others who believe that the government is entangled in a cobweb of secrecy, which Dokubo is privy to, and would not want him to spill the beans by arresting him.
“The government will never arrest him as he earlier boasted,” they added.
The Nigerian Police, through the Force Public Relations Officers, FPRO, Olumuyiwa Adejobi, said it is not aware of the viral video.
“I have not seen the video. I am not aware of that,” Adejobi said.
In the midst of Dokubo’s actions and reactions from both sides, the questions on the lips of many still remain: How did the country get to this sorry state? Why did Dokubo challenge the government to a duel? Nigerians have also been reacting to the recent video where Dokubo dared the government to arrest him.
The President of the Middle Belt Forum, MBF, Pogu Bitrus, said Dokubo was just bragging because the country’s institutions are very weak, otherwise nobody is above the law.
“If we have a government in place and it is seen that Asari Dokubo is guilty of crimes against the state, he can be arrested and dealt with.
“Nobody, from the president down to the ordinary person, is above the laws of the land. So, as far as I am concerned, he is just bragging and boasting. That is up to him, but I don’t believe that anybody is above the law.
“If he is living according to the law, fine and good; we are not supposed to victimise anybody as a people in this country, but for somebody to claim that he is above the law, it is a deceit.
“In the first instance, nobody is above the law, but you see, when we have a system where people feel they can do whatever they like in government and get away with it, people out there will also do the same thing.
“So, it is for the government to now sit up and be the government that it is supposed to be, because nobody is above the laws of the land,” he said.
For the Enugu State Chairman of the Labour Party, LP, Casmir Agbo, Dokubo is an outlaw and should be dealt with by the law.
His threat to the Igbo, according to Agbo, is a treasonable offence.
“What he said is treasonable. He is challenging the authority of the Federal Government. He should be arrested and prosecuted.
“For him to be carrying AK-47 in the public glare and on national television is an affront to the Nigerian law. He should be dealt with accordingly, but the only problem we have in this country is that some people think they can behave anyhow because they are close to the people in authority; that is our problem.
“But, once you start dealing with people in accordance with the law, people will take their time.
“There is no justification for Asari Dokubo to be threatening the entire Igbo nation, saying that he killed them or that he was killing them ‘wotowoto’ and people are looking at him,” he stated.
He also agreed with those who said Dokubo is above the law.
“I see him as a man who is above the law, and I am asking that he should be arrested, tried and if found guilty, be jailed by the Nigerian state.
“That is very simple. I don’t have anything against him, but for him to be boasting that he has killed several Igbo people, and threatening that nobody can arrest him is just too much.
“He should be arrested and asked questions about those that he killed. He should be brought to book. He is among the people causing problems in Igbo land,” he submitted.
A lawyer and public affairs analyst, Ikechukwu Onodi could also not agree less with Agbo, as he insisted that what Asari did amounted to a treasonable felony.
He also believes that he has not been arrested because he has the backing of the government.
“It is a statement that tends to have aroused the sovereign authority of this country. It is the worst treasonable felony anybody can commit, but was he not making that inflammatory statement even with the crest of the presidency behind him?
“It is not a statement that an ordinary person can make and get away with it. He made it because he feels he can go away with it and nobody is questioning him. That is the problem we have.
“The statement is treasonable and felonious and he should be arrested and prosecuted,” he stated.
Similarly, the Igbo Lawyers Association, ILA, an umbrella body of lawyers of Igbo origin, has also called on the Acting Inspector General of Police, IGP, Kayode Egbetokun, to arrest and investigate the former militant leader over his reported threat to wipe out the Igbo tribe.
The group, which met in Aba, the Abia State capital, said it took time to wait for the reaction of the authorities on such an inciting and ethnic move by Dokubo, but having seen that nobody was taking appropriate action, it would use every available legal means to ensure that such issues were not swept under the carpet.
In a letter dated July 6, 2023, titled, “Threats/hate speech against Ndi-Igbo by Asari Dokubo: A call for his arrest and possible prosecution” and addressed to the IGP, the group said Dokubo should not be allowed to be moving freely after committing what it termed a heinous crime against the Igbo nation.