By Daniel Idonor
ABUJAâ€”FOUR days after President Umaru Yarâ€™Adua directed the Presidential Panel on Amnesty and Disarmament for Militants in the Niger-Delta meet with the leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger-Delta (MEND), Mr. Henry Okah, Chairman of the panel, General Godwin Abbe (rtd) yesterday acknowledged that his panel was yet to carry out the presidential order.
Abbe who made this known in a statement he personally signed, did not give reason for the failure of the panel to meet with Okah, even as he was not present to take questions from State House Correspondents.
According to him, â€œI already have the mandate of the President for the amnesty panel to reach-out to Henry Okah and offer him the amnesty. We are on course with regard to the implementation of this directiveâ€.
Reacting to reports that men of the Joint Millitary Force (JTF) were preventing panic-striking residents of Gbaramatu kingdom from returning home, General Abbe explained that the Task Force was only preventing criminal returnees from entering the villages so as not to compound the security situation in these towns.
â€œThe task force is, however, taking necessary measures to keep criminal elements out of the communities, ensure that only the genuine inhabitants return and that the people are protected from the activities of criminal opportunists who may want to take advantage of the situationâ€, he said.
Returnees who were denied entry into their communities had raised an alarm at a stakeholdersâ€™ meeting of residents, some militant leaders and community leaders, Tuesday, in Port Harcourt, that their people were being prevented by men of the JTF from returning home.
General Abbeâ€™s statement is coming on the heels of a summon of the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Air Chief Marshal Paul Dike, by President Umaru Musa Yarâ€™Adua to brief Federal Executive Council (FEC) members on the implementation of the recently approved amnesty deal.
Dike who arrived a few minutes after the FEC meeting presided over by President Yarâ€™Adua started, was said to have briefed FEC and later excused from the meeting. He did not talk to the press due to time factor.
There was however a promise that Gen. Abbe would brief the press. He did not do so but sent a statement.
â€œThe Presidential Panel on Amnesty and Disarmament of militants in the Niger Delta today (yesterday) briefed the Federal Executive Council on the progress of its work and its meeting with Stakeholders in Port Harcourt yesterday.
â€œThe briefing was well received by Council members and the committee was urged to work diligently for the speedy and successful conclusion of its important assignment to facilitate the restoration of law and order through the granting of amnesty to militants who want to embrace the peace and security required for the development of the Niger Delta.
â€œWhile the Federal Government remains fully committed to establishing these prerequisite conditions of peace and stability essential for the implementation of President Umaru Musa Yarâ€™Aduaâ€™s developmental agenda for the Niger Delta, it will continue to do everything within its powers to mitigate the impact of unavoidable security measures on law abiding inhabitants of the region.
â€œIn this regard, I will like to say that todayâ€™s report by a national newspaper that the military Joint Task Force (JTF) is stopping persons, displaced in the course of recent operations against militants who killed and abducted its men, from returning to the their villages, is incorrect.
â€œContrary to the report, in compliance with the directive by President Yarâ€™Adua that everything possible be done to facilitate the speedy rehabilitation of affected communities and their inhabitants, the JTF is taking steps to ensure that displaced persons can safely return home.
â€œThe task force is, however, taking necessary measures to keep criminal elements out of the communities, ensure that only the genuine inhabitants return and that the people are protected from the activities of criminal opportunists who may want to take advantage of the situation.
â€œPresident Yarâ€™Adua has shown commendable goodwill with this amnesty offer and I appeal to all patriotic Nigerians and friends of Nigeria to support its implementation to create the requisite enabling environment for lasting peace and development in the Niger Delta.
â€œI already have the mandate of the President for the amnesty panel to reach-out to Henry Okah and offer him the amnesty. We are on course with regard to the implementation of this directive.â€