In Nigeria, the Movement for the Emancipation (MEND) of the Niger Delta has sent an open letter to President Bush calling for his mediation in resolving the dispute in the oil-rich Niger Delta region. The group said the way forward toward lasting peace in the region is the unconditional release of their leader Henry Okah who is being held in Angola. Gafa says he is a commander and member of the Joint Revolutionary Council of MEND.
From the creeks of the Niger Delta, he told VOA the Nigerian government also has 24 hours to apologize for the treatment meted out to Dr. Christopher Ikeyor president of the Ijaw Youth Council whom he said was beaten badly while on a peace mission to the creeks of the Niger Delta.
“Doctor Christopher Ikeyor was arrested accompanied by his people who were there with him to the convention. They took him away to unknown destination, they tortured him, they handcuffed him, and they beat him up. Even his armed was broken. And we are saying that the government of Nigeria should apologize and bring those soldiers to book within 24 hours or else we will attack them, we will face them for us to show that we are more mighty than them,” he said.
In the open letter to President Bush, MEND said Nigeria was on the verge of entering its own mega-conflict which if allowed to erupt could have wider human and economic consequences. Commander Gafa confirmed the contents of the letter.
“I am speaking on behalf of the Joint Revolutionary Council. That letter was sent by the people in the creeks. I’m also a camp commander and as chairman of the Joint Revolutionary Council, we are not going to relent. We have told George Bush that he should advise the Nigerian president to withdraw its men from the streets of Niger Delta. We don’t need Nigerian army in our creeks. We have already a fine paramilitary team here,” Gafa said.
The letter to President Bush said the way forward toward lasting peace in the Niger Delta is the unconditional release of Henry Okah who was being held by Angolan authorities and believed to have been extradited to Nigeria. Gafa described Okah as MEND leader.
“That letter is correct. Henry Okah is not a criminal; Henry Okah is our brother. He’s a fighter, a freedom fighter. Nobody should call Henry Okah a criminal. He was arrested unlawfully in Angola, and we have told the Nigerian state to advise the Angolan government to release Henry Okah unconditionally,” he said.
Gafa said MEND is appealing to President Bush to pressure Nigerian President Umaru Yar’Adua and the Angolan government to release Okah.
“Bush should advise his counterpart in Nigeria. He should advise Umaru Yar’Adua; he should advise our leaders let them call the Angolan people to release Henry Okah and apologize to Doctor Ikeyor or else the sleeping dog will get up,” Gafa said.