By Ejiofor Alike
The Ijaw Youth Council, Worldwide has urged the federal government to apologise to a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mr. Dan Etete for wrongly accusing him of bribery and fraud in the Oil Prospecting Lease (OPL) 245 deal.
The demand of the Ijaw youths followed the Italian court ruling in Milan, which absolved Shell, Eni and the former minister of bribery or any fraud in the Malabu Oil Deal.
A Milan court had earlier this month acquitted Eni and Royal Dutch Shell, along with some of their past and present managers, including Eni’s Chief Executive, Claudio Descalzi, in the OPL 245 deal, described as one of the oil industry’s biggest corruption scandals.
The judgment read out in court by Judge Marco Tremolada, came more than three years after the trial first began and after a total of 74 hearings
The judge said the companies and defendants had been acquitted as there was no case to answer.
Etete had in the past three years faced trials in Italy and United Kingdom after it was alleged that he was involved in graft during the Malabu oil deal.
But following the clean bill of health given to him by the Italian court, the IYC in a statement issued yesterday by its Spokesman, Mr. Ebilade Ekerefe, argued that with the court ruling, Etete, Bayelsa State, where he hails from and the entire Ijaw nation had been vindicated.
The IYC spokesman added that apart from apologising to Etete, the federal government should as a matter of urgency return seized property belonging to Etete to him.
Ijaw youths accused the federal government of always looking for any loophole to drag the names of prominent Ijaw persons with opportunities at the federal level to the mud.
Ekerefe added that northerners involved in mega corruption deals had been protected.
He recalled that similar unfair treatments were meted out on a former Director-General, Department of State Services (DSS), Mr. Seiyefa Mathew; a former NIMASA Director General, Mr. Patrick Akpobolomemi and foremost Ijaw Leader, High Chief Government Ekpemukpolo also known as Tompolo.
“They were all falsely accused, put on forceful trials and exonerated from all trumped-up charges brought against them by the federal government. We commend the Milan Court and many others for their sound ruling on the matter involving Chief Etete.
“We wonder why others involved in oil business from other regions of the North are not questioned and prosecuted. We call on the federal government under President Muhammadu Buhari to tender an unreserved apology to Chief Dan Etete for the physical, psychological and financial trauma the three years fictitious trial had taken on him and the people of the region.
“We are worried that the federal government is waging a selective war against businessmen and politicians of Ijaw extraction. The so-called war against corruption in the oil sector appears to be targetted at institutions and individuals from the Niger Delta region, particularly of Ijaw extraction,” Ekerefe added.