One of the demands of Niger Delta militants (their disruption of Nigeria's oil infrastructure led to a 26% drop in March in oil production, which is unlikely to recover soon) is the release of one of their leaders, Mujahid Dokubo-Asari, who has been behind bars since September.
Today, his trial was further delayed, though still no evidence or witnesses have been presented in the case against him:
"They are not ready to try him. They have no evidence. They just want to keep him in detention so that he's out of circulation," Festus Keyamo, Asari's lawyer, told Reuters after the case was adjourned to May 5.Seriously. Especially when Barclay's predicts that "U.S. oil prices will average more than $70 a barrel by the end of 2006".
Activists see the stalled trial as a sign that the government is not serious about tackling the delta's problems.
"It would be great if the government would abandon this litigious and time-wasting avenue and engage in dialogue," said Oronto Douglas, an activist named as mediator by militants of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND). [emphasis mine]
UPDATE: April 12, 2006, 2:42 PM. More on Dokubo-Asari's court appearance from Voice of America.
UPDATE: April 13, 2006, 8:49 AM. The Sun News has this from Dokubo's court appearance [emphasis mine]:
Dressed in his usual black T-Shirt with the inscription of Adaka Boro, a beret and black trouser to match, Dokubo took the absence of the presiding judge in the court room to berate the president amidst songs and prayers.I guess when the truth comes too close to home, and that truth is recorded by a court stenographer ... Will Dokubo ever see trial?
His words: "We are having a man (President Obasanjo) who is ready to devour everybody. I promise him that the Ijaws will follow him every inch and step. I will be alive to see him in chains, tried for crimes against humanity. The masses will then have freedom again.
"Freedom is not negotiable. These charlatans he gathered togethered as leaders of our people won’t be able to change the course of a revolution. He has not come to terms with the reality in the Niger-Delta. He will surely be brought down and be tried over the crimes he committed against the Odi People. Then, there will be no more Odi, no more Odioma.
"We know we are ready to meet him arms for arms, arsenal for arsenal. If all these did not work, we will use biological weapons. Let him not push us. I am not an Owu captive, my father was a king who fought the battles of his people. I challenged Obasanjo and I can tell you that the battle line is drawn."
He went into a muslim prayer and after counting the beads, he continued, "it is Allah that gives life and takes life. Obasanjo has already shot himself up and he shall surely be brought down."
At this stage, the NDPVF leader broke into a solidarity song as fury propelled him into another round of verbal attack, "Obasanjo has eaten more than he can chew. He thinks he can break my spirit and make me to beg him, it’s a lie. I won’t do that. Somebody who is fighting corruption is now buying arms to counter a revolution in the Niger-Delta. We are not afraid to pay the price for freedom. Do you know my name? I will face him face-to-face. When a hunter meets a lion, he tames it, I am a hunter, I will tame him."
Apparently not comfortable with Dokubo’s outpouring of invectives, the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), Salihu Aliyu, invited Dokubo and his counsel, Festus Keyamo, outside the court room at about 9.35 am where he appealed against such conduct. The militant leader had earlier described the trial judge as a biased judge being imported from the Federal High Court, Benin Division, to nail him.