How Allen Onyema made money from Niger Delta—Ijaw Youth leader

Convener, Integration Summit Group of Nigeria, ISG-N, Dr. Chris Ekiyor, has said that some influential foreign monopolists wickedly classified the financial transactions of Chief Executive Officer, CEO, Air Peace, Mr. Allen Onyema, in the United States, US, as money laundering and blew his business transactions out of proportion in a premeditated plot to kill enterprising Nigerian businesses. Ekiyor, a former Commissioner in Delta State and fourth President of the Ijaw Youth Council, IYC, who spoke to Saturday Vanguard in an interview, called on the Federal Government to read between the line and save Onyema from the foreign schemers, apparently made vulnerable by his spectacular rise in the aviation industry.

His words, “In my opinion, some powerful foreign monopolists, who feel threatened by his meteoric rise in the aviation industry are behind his current trials. The recent US indictment of Allen Onyema and his business transactions came as a big shock to me, Allen and I have known since 2005.” “They felt that with the way he is going, if they do not stop him now, he may eventually give them a run for their flight into Nigeria under the Bilateral Aviation Safety Agreement, BASA,” he added. He said that unknown to the conspirators, “Allen played a big role in bringing the oil war of 2009 in Nigeria to an end and worked with Ijaw youths in saving the lives of Americans and their businesses in the Niger Delta region.” Ekiyor asserted, “I do not know what the US law says in this kind of arrangement. Perhaps the US is in a better position to tell us where and how Allen violated their banking system.

But where goodwill exists, an honest mistake is never blown out of proportion like what we are seeing now with Allen, he has been maliciously blanketed as money launderer.” “There are hazards transferring huge sums through someone else’s account. People had paid money into the accounts of investments firms only to lose their deposits. America will always protect Americans’ interest over foreigners in any dispute. Therefore, it was safer for Allen to open his own company in America and from there pay a third party to supply him the aircraft he needed. His was good thinking,” he added. Nigeria, US business environments dissimilar According to him, “The Nigerian business environment is at variance with that of America. Here if you give a quotation to government and they find your price acceptable, they award you the contract.

Whether inflated or not, if the government approves your quotation, it becomes legally binding, that is no fraud, it is pure business.” “For instance, you could prefer to sell a bottle of water for N500 to government, probably because of the way you packaged and promoted it, even though the public is buying it for N150. If the government pays you what you asked for, then the transaction is very much in order! I do not know if Allen’s transactions were inflated or not. The question is did he deliver what he was contracted for? The overwhelming answer is affirmative yes to the letter. “He is a wise businessman who invested heavily in real estate. Allen told me about his investments even before diversifying into aviation. I think he got the idea from training our boys as aviators. Anyone doubting his integrity should investigate if he bought his planes cash or he owes banks. “

America must understand that Allen made his money legitimately. He was a very successful man when I first met him. He was in real estate big time, lived in a comfortable home, frequented South Africa and funded non-violence programmes with his own money or with funds provided by Shell. None of his NGOs has ever received grants. FEHN paid tax from legitimate jobs. “Nigerian NGOs resort to contract and consultancy to survive in the absence of grants. A percentage of their profit goes to charity while a percentage goes to the owners. Allen was the sole owner and administrator of his foundation. However, if the charge against him is that he moved millions of dollars to America, his accusers should also realize there was no way he could have possibly carried that kind of money in a briefcase. Allen legitimately transferred his money overseas through the Nigerian Central Bank that cleared him. He also used the monies for the very transactions. “In America, you almost cannot open a bank account as an alien since you have no social security number. Your only option is to open a business account to get tax identity number. Most foreign businesses do that and that may be the reason Allen registered his aviation company in America to secure his liquidity. “But I make haste to declare that those monies were not American monies. Those monies were not missing Nigerian monies in any office. Those monies were not from dubious Yahoo business. Those monies were monies earned legitimately by a hardworking business person. Anyone thinking that Allen would deliberately endanger his reputation by doing something stupid does not really know him,”

Ekiyor stated. My pact with Onyema Asked his association with Onyema, he said, “An eminent senior citizen called Kola introduced us in Port Harcourt at a time when militancy was at its worst and wildest. There were kidnappings and killings everywhere, but we talked about bringing peace back to the Niger Delta.” “My immediate impression was that Allen was a man who had my type of gene for great ideas. I was already aspiring to become the president of the Ijaw Youth Council, IYC. Allen immediately saw the transformative opportunity of converting me to the Kingian non-violence approach to social change. He rightly calculated that a pro-dialogue IYC president was required as a necessary step to transforming the region. He changed the mindset of N’Delta youth “Allen asked me about the IYC motto and I told him it was ‘By Any Means Necessary.’

He set about using his immense influence and resources, transforming a handful of other youth leaders and me from Ijaw land. Under his tutelage, we successfully underwent the first two stages of the Kingian non-violence programme in Nigeria and South Africa. “But he only took some 10 of us to the US for the stage three. Back from the US, we set about deradicalising our youths. Allen was there for region Shell, Chevron and the other oil companies paid for the programmes making it possible for us to take the beneficiaries to Lagos, South Africa and America. “It has often been suggested that the North shot itself in the foot sponsoring our youths to Abuja to campaign for General Sani Abacha’s transmutation from dictator to democrat. The campaigners left the Niger Delta innocent and returned from Abuja radicalized: What they saw there made them completely dissatisfied with the squalor back home.

“Likewise, Allen was smart exposing our youths to the splendours of foreign capitals. He showed them the wonders that could be replicated in the Niger Delta if only they stopped fighting and embraced dialogue. He changed their mindset and it was only a matter of months before they began to desert their camps to seek us out in the city. That enraged a couple of the commanders who then targeted me. …some say he is a CIA agent “I escaped multiple attempts on my life but somewhere in Bayelsa state, my voyage on this earth almost came to a sudden end as I was shot at by some unknown angry militants. Their bullets missed me. As for Allen, they are those who still believe he was a CIA agent sent to destroy our struggle through non-violence. He was the one preaching to our boys to engage their minds, rather than their guns in the pursuit of social change.

Things were not helped as Shell and Chevron continued to pay for the deradicalisation programmes; knowing they stood to benefit if peace returned to the region. “I eventually became IYC president in 2007 with the support of many friends. The like of ex-militant leader, Government Ekpemupolo, alias Tompolo , Mujahid Dokubo-Asari and a host of other great minds supported from the trenches, while from the outside we had late Chief Chris Ghomorai , Timi Alaibe and of course Allen. “Dokubo-Asari supported me from prison. Jon Jon, T.K.O Ogoriba, Jonathan Lokpobiri and Caroline Bakumo, who later married Asari and a host other teeming supporters, were among those that made my election victory possible.

These were people, who believed I was pro-intellectual and non-violent in my approach to the struggle. Asari was at war with the Nigerian state. His armed struggle ideology was the order of the day and I had to preach endlessly for non-violence. “On winning the election I immediately sold the Kingian non-violence to Alaibe, who was the Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC. I then introduced Allen to Timi and the region never remained the same again. The IYC, NDDC and Allen’s Foundation for Ethnic Harmony in Nigeria, FEHN, began to decongest the creeks in piecemeal. It pulled out a batch of 600 youths from the creeks and deradicalised them,” he revealed. Misleading information about Kuku, Onyema Contrary to the impression that Onyema was a conduit pipe for ex-Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta and chair, Presidential Amnesty Programme, PAP, Hon Kingsley Kuku, he said, “Kingsley Kuku was Alaibe’s aide. That was how Allen met him.

Therefore, the hue and cry about Kuku and Allen make no meaning if we can remember that Kuku was working under Alaibe when I introduced Allen and Alaibe.” “Furthermore, Allen was already being contacted by a former chair, PAP, General Godwin Abbe to be part of the envisaged amnesty programme. Alaibe eventually consolidated the relationship as General Abbe’s successor at the Amnesty Office,” he said. Ekiyor disclosed that at point the Presidency queried Alaibe for allegedly using government funds to train ex-militants, adding,” We went to Aso Rock and explained what the programme entailed. The then President Umaru Yar’Adua listened and gave his approval. Our approach to peacebuilding eventually led to the amnesty programme, as we know it today.” The activist stated, “Allen played a big role in bringing the oil war of 2009 to an end. He worked with us in saving American lives and businesses in the Niger Delta.” What US should realize about Onyema “The Federal Government pronounced the Presidential Amnesty Programme in 2009 and Allen was perhaps the most qualified among us with the requisite experience and exposure, having trained more than 600 successfully out of the radar.

“Government paid a huge sum per youth based on international best practices as Allen brought in experts from America to do the job. Over 30,000 ex-militants were for training. We set up camps in Akodo for months and Obubra for one year. As a contractor, Allen was the major player. His FEHN was an NGO, but he actually used it for consultancy, Shell and the Federal Government paid him and he paid tax,” he said. Ekiyor noted, “Here is an Allen, who dared trod where even angels fear to walk and America he once projected as the standard-bearer of Kingian non-violence is up in arms against him. However, there is no stopping him, as his hands are clean. He is a cool-headed researcher, who invests only after test running. Allen has never failed in any venture. He is our brother, pride and mentor. The Federal Government must protect him. The conspiracy against Air Peace is a conspiracy against Nigerian businesses everywhere.” Vanguard

Pix: Allen Onyema