By Samneul Oyadongha, Emmanuel Aziken, Jimitota Onoyume andÂ Dapo Akinrefon
MEND spokesman,Jomo Gbomo while responding to Vanguard inquiry said it is either the President amnesty will offer hope or dismay to the blighted region which for decades have been criminally neglected by the Nigerian state.
His words, â€œthe President address will either offer hope or dismay. If he breaks away from the tradition and fear of the past where other regions are afraid of fiscal federalism then we have a problem on our hands. If he makes a bold step, then Nigeria will turn around for the better.
â€œWe are preparing for war and for peace; depending on what he says. Either way, we are prepared to respond at short notice.
â€œWe hope the FGN will consider justice in every decision it makes because without it, every effort or development will come to naught and the circle will repeat itself at a later date. This is what we want to avoid.â€
â€œIt is a shame that the interior minister and his cohorts are offering bribes and incentives to militants in a desperate attempt to get our cooperation in sharing the 50billion Naira budgeted for the amnesty exercise.
â€œWhile it is true that some of us will succumb to the temptation of money as Judas did, there are a majority that will remain steadfast to integrity, honour and a commitment to the people who can not fight for their rights.
We want to reassure our people who are looking up to us that we will never compromise our birthright for a price.
Amnesty should not replace Tech. Câ€™ ttee report â€”Ijaw leaders
The Ijaw elders, including former Federal Information Commissioner, Chief Edwin Kiagbodo Clark, Chairman of the Bayelsa State Elders Forum, Chief Francis Doukpola, Chief Thompson Okorotie, said though the federal government offer of amnesty is one of the rule of disarmament, the offer should have been preceded by the implementation of the recommendations of the report submitted by the Technical committee on the Niger Delta.
The elders and leaders, at the end of a consultative meeting held at Kiagbodo in Delta State , said:
â€œWe hope the acceptance of amnesty will not put the technical report in the dilemma of lack of political will to implement like previous reports,â€ they lamented.
The elders and leaders further reiterated their earlier position that the continued presence of the military in the Niger Delta region serves more of their personal (military) interests and a direct effect on the increased illegal bunkering activities and called on President Umaru Yarâ€™Adua to make public the alleged list of those perpetrating illegal bunkering in the Niger Delta region.
The forum noted that the demilitarization of the region is critical and essential to allow for meaningful intervention by the elders and leaders to create an atmosphere congenial for flourishing economic activities for sustainable development of the region.
According to the forum, the genuine protagonists of the struggle for economic freedom and resource control and management were only constrained to express their dissatisfaction with the Nigerian state through the employ of unorthodox means.
The Ijaw elders and leaders reiterated their strong disapproval of criminal activities associated with kidnapping and hijacking for ransom stressing that recent developments in the country have confirmed their belief on this as criminal elements in other parts of the country have become more ferociously engaged in acts of kidnapping than the alleged Niger Delta militants.
â€œToday, we have more cases of kidnapping in other parts of the country than the Niger Delta. This further emphasizes the need to separate genuine agitators for their rights (economic and political freedom) from core criminals in the Niger Delta crises,â€ they explained.
The forum noted with sadness that seven months after the submission of the Report of the Technical Committee on Niger Delta, the Federal Government has taken no concrete step to implement any of its recommendation which had the prospects of ushering in the much needed peace for sustainable development of region.
The issue goes beyond money â€” Dr JoeÂ Odumakin , National Coordinator, CD
The issues in the Niger Delta go beyond just throwing money. There are real issues like environmental degradation, resource control and reputable resource formula. It has come to a time when the Federal Government should not see the whole of the Niger Delta as oil wells. People have lost everything,Â itâ€™s just a question of voting money that will solve this whole problem.
And why is it that with the money that has been voted into the Niger Delta Ministry has not been able to solve the problems. We still have more and more problems springing up, the N50 billion is just to make oil flow again, without really addressing the fundamental issue and thatâ€™s just like abandoning leprosy to look for the cure for eczema. Not until you cure the whole thing, the disease will eat up everyone.
The step the Federal Government should take is to address all the issues that have been mentioned. The people are talking about resource control, they are also talking about equity derivation, they are talking about degradation; itâ€™s not a hundred meters race, itâ€™s a gradual process. But the people should see the sincerity on the part of the Federal Government to address these degradation of their soil and to also make sure that, itâ€™s not just to provide money for the boys, but for a wholesome solution to all the problems confronting them as a nation.
The amnesty package is not gong to work because itâ€™s like not curing the disease and at the end of the day, the disease will eat everyone up.
Donâ€™tÂ bribe militants out of the struggle â€” Otunba Gani Adams, National Coordinator, OPC
I donâ€™t think bribing the militants out of the struggle, will work .
The struggle started with Isaac Adaka Boro. After his death, people like Ken Saro-Wiwa surfaced and when Ken Saro-Wiwa was killed, people like Oronto Douaglas, Ledum Mitee, the Ijaw National Congress emerged.
A permanent solution should be found to solve the regionâ€™s crisis, like addressing the issue of resource control.
The consequence of this move is that if those currently in the struggle accept this package on the basis of amnesty, other groups will arise and things will be more volatile than what we have now.
My suggestion to the Federal Government is that the issue of resource control, derivation principle, the issue of sovereign national conference should be addressed instead of bribing these people out of the struggle.
Even if they are given N50billion, within the space of three to four months, the money would have been expended and they would in turn go back to the struggle and again, more groups will emerge because the struggle has become lucrative. Itâ€™s no longer a struggle but business.
Marshall plan should accompany package â€”Â Ayogu Eze, Senate spokesman
SENATE spokesman, Senator Ayogu Eze has welcomed the Federal Governmentâ€™s amnesty plan for Niger Delta militants but called for the proposals to be consolidated into a comprehensive development plan for the region.
Responding to the amnesty proposals for aggrieved Niger Delta militants, he asserted that the amnesty plans should be accompanied with development schemes that would assuage the bitterness of the aggrieved people.
According to him:
â€œAmnesty is a form of administration deployed by the President to achieve some result because what is happening in the Niger Delta is quite disturbing. I think that the Niger Delta issue needs a very holistic approach. The President is doing his best, the creation of the Ministry of Niger Delta is in order, the sustenance of the Niger Delta Development Commission is in order.â€
â€œWe need to do a Marshall plan for the development of the region so that we can harness the resources that are going into the Niger Delta both at the level of the state governments and at the level of the Federal agencies so that we can all collectively develop that place, eliminate the poverty in the area and increase the standard of living of the people.â€
â€œI believe that apart from trying to confront the issue of militancy we also need to do a lot of work on the part of government to assuage the feelings of the people.â€
We want genuine pardonÂ â€”Â Ijaws, militants
Felix Tuodolor is the found ing President Ijaw Youth Council, (IYC) and one of the leading activists in the Niger Delta region. He spoke to Vanguard on the Federal Governmentâ€™s amnesty to the militants.
â€œTHE granting of amnesty wasÂ one of the conditions we gave because it would create a conducive environment for combatants to come out of their camps. But we didnâ€™t mean amnesty wasÂ all about pardon for combatants. Amnesty is wider; there are atrocities that have been committed against the region and the combatants. We said for the sake of peace, all parties should over look all the damages committed on both sides. The Federal Governmentâ€™sÂ amnesty is for combatants to come out of the creeks. We want it gazetted so that it willÂ have legal backing, so that another government does not come on board to jettison it.
â€œIf the Federal Government cannot handle it, then it should pass it on to the National Assembly. We want the international community to be part of it. Amnesty is something done all over the world. USA has a framework on amnesty. We believe that when the international community is brought into the whole thing it would make it enjoy the confidence of combatants and other stake holders. It is also our suggestion that the amnesty should include those awaiting trial and in the creeks. All persons that have been part of the struggle to liberate the region from poverty and underdevelopment.
â€œFor the amnesty being offered to militants in the region to be meaningful the government shouldÂ ensure that it also comes with a genuine programme for developing the area.
In his own remarks, a public conflict and crisis management consultant, Bar Anthony Richard who spoke to VanguardÂ in Port Harcourt said the government shouldÂ 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 execution of projects in the region. This will make the people take the Federal Government serious.â€
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 Niger Delta ( TCND).
He continued: â€œYar Adua has tried in terms of consensus building in resolving the Niger Delta crisis. HeÂ is living up to his promises of resolving the crisis in the region.Â This has shown that he is ready to resolve the problem. He is listening to the yearnings of the people in terms of development.