Why the sponsors & operators of 'FAMOU-TANGBEI' in bayelsa state should be prosecuted
We wish to thank the President and Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces Dr. Goodluck Jonathan for ensuring the disbandment of the notorious Operation Famou-Tangbei in Bayelsa State. It is a decision that is long overdue to bring succor to the
inhabitants of Bayelsa State. We believe Mr. President has once more demonstrated government's responsiveness to the aspirations of the people.
We reckon that security is the first law of nature and no administration will do anything to compromise the security of her citizens. However, there are times political power holders because of overzealousness and the tendency to protect their personal estates, are tempted to use official security for their personal advantage. This is exactly what happened to Operation Famou-Tangbei, OFT in Yenagoa. OFT was established when militancy was at its peak and there was a need to reduce crime. It was for that same reason that the Federal Government initiated the Amnesty Programme in the Niger Delta Region. Now, with the Amnesty Programme, OFT has outlived its usefulness.
We represent seven Civil Society Organizations in the Niger Delta. When the issue of the excesses of OFT was reported to us, we conducted investigations into their activities. We discovered that while the outfit was established to reduce crime; it has rather exacerbated criminal activities. We therefore hereunder buttress the reasons for the timeous actions of the Federal Government.
There are several reasons why the OFT squad should not only be disbanded but its key sponsors and operator prosecuted. A few of these reasons are outlined:
1. OFT AS AN INSTRUMENT OF INTIMIDATION AND POLITICAL REPRESSION: The Operation Famou-Tangbe OFT outfit was an instrument of political repression and intimidation. The present administration has used OFT to intimidate, maim and harass members of opposition parties in Bayelsa State. This has been the complaint by the opposition Labour Party in the State during and after the April elections. Rather than maintain peace and security, OFT became an instrument of intimidation like the Gestapo under Nazi Germany.
2. OFT AND EXTORTION OF MONEY IN AND AROUND YENAGOA: There are many reported cases where people paid undisclosed sums of money to OFT Policemen to beat people up for trivial matters such as boy friend - girlfriend relationship etc. OFT also played the role of debt collectors and settlement of matrimonial issues. These are civil and domestic issues that have no relationship with security.
3. The OFT outfit became a handy tool in the hands of political office holders in Bayelsa State to seize land from the less-privileged and those who are not politically connected. It is not surprising that a Law maker and a Traditional Ruler could come out to condemn the disbandment of OFT. We also learnt that the present administration is desirous of using OFT to commit violence and rig the gubernatorial elections in Bayelsa State.
4. OFT IS A DRAIN ON THE BUDGET: The funding of OFT is a colossal drain on the budget of Bayelsa State. Officially, it is estimated that the sum of N150 Million is spent monthly to maintain the outfit. Research however showed that the Government spends the sum of N40 Million while the remaining N110 goes down the pockets of the sponsors and operators. Civil Society should pressure the Bayelsa State Government to account for huge sums of money spent to maintain the outfit.
5. SETTLEMENT OF DOMESTIC MATTERS SUCH AS MATRIMINIAL PROBLEMS: OFT operators saw themselves as above the regular police force. The head of the squad executed directives only from Government House and other corrupt government officers. The Commissioner for Police was not rich enough to give instructions to the body. If the operations of the squad are legal and within the ambit of law, why did the Commander refuse to take directives from the State Police Command?
6. SETTLEMENT OF PERSONAL SCORES: The death of the Plant Manager at Gilly-Helena Hotel Late Mr. Karina Frank-Oputu - who in Sept 2011, was beaten to death by OFT operatives in Yenagoa, is just one of several cases of unreported extra-judicial killings. Such cases are numerous in Bayelsa State and most of the victims could not complain for fear of been maimed or killed by OFT operatives.
7. SUPPORTING RIVAL CULT GROUPS and killing of opponents under the guise of curbing cultism. When you consider the circumstances of the killing of the 22 year old Freddie Philip Ockiya in Yenagoa, it is obvious that OFT operators behaved like cultists, who took delight in killing rivals. If they were fighting cultism, one would have expected that when somebody is arrested, the person is made to pass through due process of the rule of law as against summary execution. We are investigating several other cases of extra-judicial killings in the State.
We interacted with some Bayelsa people who hailed the decision to disband the OFT outfit. In fact the announcement of disbandment kept so many Bayelsa people jubilating. The opinion of Bayelsa people was also sampled on facebook - the most popular social network. Among 200 views sampled, about 198 persons supported the disbandment of Famou-Tangbei. In fact a great many people are of the view that the sponsors and operatives should be tried for human rights violations against the background of sundry extra-judicial killings in the State. On the basis of this popular decision by the Inspector General of Police, it is ridiculous for a few persons to argue that the scrapping of OFT will bring back criminality are perhaps not aware of the strides government has recorded in the Amnesty Program. Amnesty has brought about relative peace in the Niger Delta Region and Bayelsa State is not an exception. We are grateful to President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan for taking proactive steps to stop the activities of the OFT killer squad.
Those who are raising eye brows about the disbandment of the notorious outfit in some national papers are beneficiaries of the nefarious activities of the squad. By implication, they are enemies of the freedom we all savour in a democratic system of government. Bayelsa State is Mr. President's home State, which should be a reverting model of what the rule of law, stands for. The OFT outfit has exacerbated the problem of insecurity in Bayelsa State rather than Civil Society in the Niger Delta Region has started to document the numerous cases of killing especially the killings that subsume under extra-judicial murders or killing without the due process of law. When the compilation is done, the federal government will be furnished with more information on the activities of OFT. With such cast-iron evidence, human rights lawyers will determine whether or not the sponsors and culprits of such massive human rights violations will be prosecuted.
We the undersigned categorically call on the Presidency and the Forces Headquarters to immediately set up a panel to investigate their activities and bring the culprits to book for full restitution. We demand justice and the enforcement of the fundamental rights of all Nigerians including the people of Bayelsa State.
Barr. Eghosa Osaro
Civil Liberties Organization