By Emma Amaize
â€¢ Clark cautions JTF, militants
â€¢ Gbagi faults amnesty
WARRIâ€” BARELY 12 hours after President Umaru Yarâ€™Adua proclaimed amnesty for militants in the Niger_Delta on Thursday, the Movement for Emancipation of the Niger_Delta (MEND) blew up a well head (jacket B) of the Shell Afremo off_shore oil field in Delta State, claiming its action was in response to the razing down of the homes of some perceived militants at Agbeti community in the state by the Joint Task Force (JTF) on the Niger_Delta, earlier that day.
Before the militants struck,Â leader of the Ijaw ethnic nationality and First Republic Minister of Information, Chief Edwin Clark had in an interview with Saturday Vanguard welcomed the amnesty granted by President Yarâ€™Adua and called on militants in the region to accept it.
He, however, called on the JTF not to do anything that would make the boys not to come out of the creeks voluntarily to accept amnesty already offered them by the Federal Government and surrender their arms accordingly, suggesting, particularly, that the security outfit should call off its Cordon and Search operation in the creeks of Gbaramatu kingdom.
However, formerÂ chairman of the Board of the Legal Aid Council of Nigeria and business mogul, Olorogun Kenneth Gbagi, yesterday, faulted the amnesty proclamation for militants by President Umaru Yarâ€™Adua, saying it is structurally defective and is not a solution to the Niger_Delta crisis.
He said there was nothing tangible the Federal Government said it was going to do in the Niger_Delta beyond gracing the tube light to make unproductive and very undemocratic statements in the name of amnesty to militants.
According to him, â€œThe problem is that our government is not straightforward in handing issues. We are a Republic, why should the Chevron Nigeria Limited (CNL), which is doing its business principally in Delta State, be taking the resources from the state to Lagos to spend. I am aware that for its Escravos_Gas_to_Liquid project, training is going on for some persons in a hotel, I think so, and it is spanning the next 10 years, why Lagos, is there no place the training can be done in Delta state, which is where the money is going to come fromâ€.
Spokesman of MEND, Jomo Gbomo in an online statement, yesterday, confirming the attack on the Shell facility said, â€œ Nigerian military Joint Task Force began a punitive expedition on the Niger Delta oil bearing community of Agbeti in Delta state at about 2100Hrs, Thursday, June 25, 2009 some few hours after their Commander_in_Chief, President Umaru Yarâ€™Adua made an amnesty proclamationâ€.
â€œTheir mission was to seek the homes of perceived militants and raze them to the ground ahead of any amnesty.
â€œThis action by the soldiers serves as an in_sight to what the region should expect in a one_sided balance of uncontrolled power from a military that lacks discipline and nurses hatred and seeks revenge for their humiliating defeat.
â€œIn response, at about 2300 hrs the same day, Thursday, June 25, 2009, Piper Alpha continued its rampage on the Nigerian oil industry by blowing up the second remaining well head (jacket B) of the Shell Afremo off_shore oil fields in Delta stateâ€, he stated.
Reacting to the amnesty package by Mr. President, Chief Clark said, â€œI listened to the broadcast with passion and gratitude, and was happy that it was granted unconditionally to those undergoing trial, including Henry Okah. It is a historic proclamation and is welcomed by all.
â€œIt will help to usher peace, security and stability to the region. It will definitely create the forum for peaceful negotiation on problems of the Niger_Delta and also create the needed conducive environment for development of the regionâ€, he asserted.
The elder statesman said the struggle by the boys was to draw attention to the degradation, injustice and underdevelopment of the region and since the point had been made, they should accept amnesty without much ado.
He said the repression of the freedom fighters had come to an end with the amnesty proclamation by President Yarâ€™Adua and urged him to direct the JTF to stop creating situations that promote hostility between the task force and youths.
â€œMilitants should not be scared away by the task force from coming out to accept amnesty. If the JTF continues with its current operation in the region, of course you know that the waterways of Delta state are still sealed, there is no free movement, people will think that the war is still on and will not come out to surrender their armsâ€, he said.
Chief Clark also appealed to oil bunkerers not to create scenes that would give the impression that Niger_Delta youths were still involved in criminal activities, sayingÂ the genuine struggle of the region has been contaminated by the oil thieves, who had made many to think that oilÂ bunkering was synonymous with the agitation for development.
He appealed to President Yarâ€™Adua to set up a powerful Judicial Commission of Inquiry to unravel thoseÂ involved in oil bunkering and take necessary steps to stop them, noting that those engaged in the illegal act were powerful Nigerians from outside the Niger_Delta.
Recalling the African Pride saga in which some two Navy officers were named, he said what some youths in the region do would just be termed jerry_can bunkering and the real bunkerers should be unmasked