By Jimitota Onoyume
PORT HARCOURT: FOR fear of arrest most militants in the Niger Delta region have resolved to offer themselves for the proposed amnesty by the federal government by proxy.
The trio of Boy loaf, Soboma George and Fara Dagogo who spoke through an organization, Niger Delta Non Violent Movement, in Port Harcourt yesterday said they were still apprehensive that some militant leaders could be arrested if they turned up person for the amnesty.
They recalled a recent case in Rivers state when Soboma Jackreece aka Egberipapa came out from hiding to participate in a peace talk in his home town, Buguma some months ago, and ended up being picked up by the Joint Task Force in the state. Adding, also that Asari Dokubo, at a time embraced peace but was arrested, prosecuted and detained for several months. . â€œThese experiences have put a snag and doubt on the peace process. Therefore the so called militants want a guarantee that what had befallen their colleagues should not befall them in the guise of amnestyâ€
The statement read by president and the secretary of the body, Onengiya Erekosima and Opuwill G. Aytu said the militant leaders mentioned above and others had resolved that they would be represented by their â€œwitnesses who will be appointed by them to discuss on the amnesty and press for certain conditions and view pointsâ€
The militants also called on the federal government to ensure that their names were expunged from any criminal records in the country â€œ on the logs that they are products of governmentâ€™s intransigencies on the Niger Delta question, victims of the political class extreme lust for power and rabid ambition, children of necessity of the highhandedness and violent suppression of the Niger Delta struggle by the JTF, fallouts of mercenary elders who feed fat from the struggle of the Niger Delta people. If the so called militants are criminals, then all these parties are also criminals and therefore need their own amnestyâ€
Adding, also that the names of those to be granted amnesty should be backed by law to ease their rehabilitation in society. And not to be prosecuted by future governmentsâ€
The militants also called for the unconditional release of their leader, Henry Okah and further asked the federal government to drop all charges against Asari Dokubo, Soboma George and Soboma Jackreece aka Egberipapa.
At press time, the Inspector General of Police, Mike Okiro, Minister of Interior Affairs, AIG and the Commissioner of Police in Rivers state, Mr Balla Hassan were allegedly meeting over the issue of amnesty for militants at the Police officers mess in Port Harcourt.
Meanwhile, for the amnesty being offered by the federal government to militants in the region to be meaningful the government has been urged to ensure that it also comes with a genuine programme for developing the area.
A public conflict and crisis management consultant, Bar Anthony Richard who spoke in Port Harcourt yesterday also urged the government to complete its process of consensus building in the region by engaging various groups just as he enjoined the region to give the federal government a chance to realize its vision for the area. â€œAs the federal government is looking at the issue of amnesty it should also look at the immediate release of projects to the region. This will make the people take the federal government seriousâ€
The conflict management expert further hailed steps so far taken by the federal government in tackling challenges in the region. But quickly noted that there was urgent need for the government to immediately implement recommendations of the technical committee on the region.
â€Yar Adua has tried in terms of consensus building in resolving the Niger Delta crisis. The President is living up to his promises of resolving the crisis in the area. This has shown that he is ready to resolve the problem. He is listening to the yearnings of the people in terms of development. The federal government has come up with the issue of amnesty based on wide spread consultation. The issue of amnesty must go with development in the region and implementation of various reports of committees set up on Niger Deltaâ€â€
Continuing, Bar Anthony who warned against the use of force to resolve challenges posed by militancy in the region said the devastation brought about by the last military onslaught in Gbaramatu was avoidable. He advised the government to sustain its consensus building process as a way to avert armed conflict in the region in the future.