By Daniel Idonor
ABUJAâ€” President Umaru Musa Yarâ€™Adua yesterday directed the chairman of the Presidential Panel on Amnesty and Disarmament of Militants in the Niger Delta, Gen. Godwin Abbe to immediately begin the process for a formal meeting with detained MEND chieftain, Mr. Henry Okah on behalf of the Federal Government and formally offer him amnesty.
This development is an apparent move to show the Federal Governmentâ€™s sincere commitment to the amnesty deal.
Presidential spokesman, Mr. Olusegun Adeniyi who confirmed this in Abuja last night while fielding questions from State House Correspondents on the highly contentious issue of amnesty to the militants hinted that President Yarâ€™Adua remains committed to solving the Niger_Delta crises once and for all.
According to him, the amnesty was voluntary and could not be done by proxy, it was necessary for Okahâ€™s acceptance of it and its terms to be obtained before government could proceed with the next line of action as far as the issue was concerned.
The presidential image maker explained that the diplomatic side of the Okah matter would be tidied up as soon as his acceptance of the amnesty offer was obtained, pointing out that government was expected to finish with that in a couple of days.
It will be recalled that MEND and some other militant groups in the region had last week expressed reservation over the Federal Governmentâ€™s amnesty offer, describing it as not only a Greek gift, but a ploy to round up the militants for punishment.
The allegation came even as President Yarâ€™Adua and the Presidential Panel on Amnesty and Disarmament of Militants in therepeatedly assured there was no strings attached to the amnesty offer and urged the militants to take advantage of the deal to reintegrate themselves into the society.
The media coordinator of the Presidential Committee on Amnesty and Disarmament of Militants in the Niger Delta, Dr. Timiebi Koripamo-Agary had at the weekend urged the youth and people of the region to discountenance a statement credited to MEND that the presidentâ€™s amnesty to the militants was a Greek gift.
She said the Federal Government had demonstrated enough good faith with its handling of the amnesty issue so far by refusing not only to criminalize the militants, but also use derogatory terms.
â€œI wish to state that the offer of amnesty is unconditional and covers Henry Okah who will be released as soon as the Federal Government concludes its consultations with the governments of Angola and Equatorial Guinea. This is also in the best interest of Mr. Henry Okah.
â€œMilitants and the Niger Delta youths know what is good for them and their communities and I believe they will make the right decisions for themselves and the progress and development of the Niger Delta andâ€, she added.
According to Koripamo-Agary, President Yarâ€™Aduaâ€™s offer of an olive branch should be accepted by all in the interest of the peace and development of the region, which should be of great concern to the militants and for which real steps are being taken by the government to actualise.
She stressed that while the amnesty offer affords the militants the freedom and opportunity to engage in the dialogue that President Yarâ€™Adua has promoted since he assumed office, she added â€œI think aside the amnesty proclamation by Mr. President the fact that he is willing to personally receive any militants that surrenders demonstrates how willing and sincere the president is in ending this crisisâ€.