Reports strongly suggest that President Bola Ahmed Tinubu has enforced a prohibition on ex-Niger Delta militant leaders from making visits to the presidential villa in Abuja.
Recent information indicates that requests for courtesy visits to Tinubu by prominent militant leaders and ethnic militias from the oil-rich Niger Delta region have been consistently declined by the presidency.
This decision is said to have arisen following a visit by Alhaji Mujarhedeen Asari-Dokubo, the leader of the now defunct Niger Delta Peoples Volunteer Force (NDPVF), to Tinubu on June 16 of this year.
Asari-Dokubo, an unwavering and ardent supporter of Tinubu, publicly endorsed and advocated for the president during the lead-up to the 2023 presidential election.
Sources reveal that Tinubu initiated this action due to concerns about Asari-Dokubo’s public statements and actions subsequent to his visit, which occurred shortly after Tinubu assumed the presidency.
Upon departing the presidential villa, Asari-Dokubo engaged in a conversation with State House reporters during which he criticized the Armed Forces, accusing them of being heavily involved in activities such as crude oil theft and the vandalism of oil-related equipment in the Niger Delta region.
This accusation reportedly shocked and embarrassed Tinubu, especially since it was made shortly after their meeting.
Dependable sources within the presidency claim that Asari-Dokubo’s criticisms of the military in the vicinity of the villa hinted at the president sharing similar viewpoints with the prominent former militant leader.
The presidency is said to have been alarmed by the backlash from notable Nigerians over Asari-Dokubo’s statements and actions, particularly his audacious gatherings of armed youths in his stronghold in Rivers State, which were frequently captured in viral videos where he assumed a commanding role.
The situation escalated further when Asari-Dokubo openly confronted the governor of Rivers State, Siminalayi Fubara, threatening action against the state’s chief executive.
The presidency reportedly found this behavior unacceptable, as it projected the image that the president endorsed and supported Asari-Dokubo, creating a negative impression.
In response, it is alleged that the president has decided to refrain from hosting ex-militant commanders and ethnic militias in the presidential villa, aiming to avoid unfavorable perceptions and signals to the public.
As a result of this decision, insiders indicate that individuals connected to the Niger Delta’s ethnic conflict and the unrest within the oil industry have had their requests for courtesy visits and audiences with the president declined by the presidency.
Supposedly, the president’s past experience with Asari-Dokubo has led him to distance himself from certain militant leaders. A notable ex-militant who recently requested an audience with the president expressed disappointment when his application was rejected by authorities at the seat of power. He claimed that senior officials informed him that the president was disinclined to meet with members of his group.
This ex-militant asserted, “I had intended to lead my group to meet with Mr. President, and we submitted our usual request for a courtesy call in July. We patiently awaited approval and a potential meeting date, but to my surprise, I received a phone call informing me that the proposed visit had been declined.”
“I exerted considerable pressure, but the presidency remained steadfast. When I questioned why Asari-Dokubo was allowed to meet with Mr. President while I was being prevented, they reluctantly mentioned that the aftermath of Asari-Dokubo’s visit informed their decision to bar former militant commanders from further interactions with the president,” the source added.
Additionally, an insider from the presidency disclosed, “The president has issued a directive that he will no longer engage with Niger Delta warlords or ethnic militias following the troubling experience after granting an audience to Mujarhedeen Asari-Dokubo. Asari is a staunch supporter and follower of Mr. President, but the fallout from his visit was a nightmare for the presidency.”
“You may recall that after leaving the president’s office, he publicly criticized the Armed Forces, alleging their involvement in illegal activities in the Niger Delta. He has been seen parading arrogantly with armed youths, boasting of his private army’s capabilities to challenge authorities, including the military and even a sitting governor, specifically Governor Fubara of Rivers State.”
“Many Nigerians, assuming his actions had presidential backing due to his proximity to the president, directed insults towards Mr. President. This was highly embarrassing, prompting the presidency to take action. Consequently, Mr. President will no longer permit prominent warlords like Asari-Dokubo to enter the villa and meet with him.”
Meanwhile, Ajuri Ngelale, the special adviser on media and publicity to the president, has stated that he is unaware of the issue and any directive from the president on this matter.
“I haven’t come across any such speculation within the State House. While we appreciate the appeal of intriguing reports, I think it’s important to avoid speculative assumptions lacking verifiable factual basis.” Ngelale stated in response to messages seeking his reaction to the report.