By Emmanuel Aziken, Abuja
Repentant Niger Delta militants are to receive a monthly stipend of N20,000 from the Federal Government which is also setting aside a daily provision of N1,500 to feed each of them during the re-integration process.
The Presidential Panel on Amnesty and Disarmament which unfolded the package yesterday also disclosed that an estimated 10,000 militants from an estimated 60 camps scattered around the Niger Delta region were expected to partake in the presidential prerogative.
The Chief Coordinator of the programme Air Vice Marshall Lucky Ararile at an interactive media session in Abuja further disclosed that the traditional ruler of Gbaramatu Kingdom, HRM Ogeh Gbaran III whose palace was razed at the commencement of the military operation against the militant leader, Government Ekpemupolo (alias Tompolo) is alive.
Ararile affirmed that the traditional ruler was in contact with some of his subjects.
While Ararile disclosed that the panel was making indirect contacts with Ekpemupolo, a member of the panel Dr. Timiebi Koripamo-Agary revealed that the panel was through her in direct contact with Mr. Henry Okah the acclaimed leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND).
She said Okah had made commitments to support the peace process in the region.
Besides Dr. Koripamo-Agary, other members of the presidential panel at the media session included Ibn Mohammed and Commodore T. O. Awoyemi.
Ararile who drew a distinction between the activities of criminal and militant groups in the region affirmed the administrationâ€™s commitment to make adequate welfare provisions for all repentant militants.
â€œFrom the programme they are going to be paid N20,000 per month in addition they will be fed with N1,500 per day per person. We are working on a population of about 10,000 ex-militants.â€
While disclosing that the arrangement was for a tentative period of two months covering the disarmament and demobilization process, he said the reintegration programme for repentant militants was a long drawn one that would extend to an indeterminate time pending the full rehabilitation of the militants.
He said it could involve seeing the academically inclined repentant militants through higher education.
AVM Ararile was, however, insistent yesterday that the programme would not be turned into a cash for weapons affair.
â€œThis amnesty is not a cash for weapon programme. Ours is a weapons for peace, weapons for development.
Whatever type of weapons individuals bring we are ready to collect, the end state is to rid the nation of as many weapons as possible.â€
Responding to a question from Saturday Vanguard on the fate of the traditional ruler of Gbaramatu Kingdom, HRM Ogeh Gbaran III who has not been seen since the commencement of the military operation, he said:
â€œI am aware that he is alive, he is in hiding and he is in contact with his subjects. I had discussions with some of his subjects in Warri and they confirmed that they were in contact with him. So the issue of his safety I will say that he is safe.â€
Against the background of the initial skepticism that greeted the presidential declaration on amnesty, Ararile was hopeful that the panelâ€™s efforts would yield fruits.
â€œInitially with what we were seeing on television and reading in the newspapers it seemed as if people were not interested in the amnesty.
But having gone through the six states and interacted with stakeholders at the state level we came back with overwhelming conviction that everybody is on, that everybody is in support in the States that are affected.â€
Noting that a number of militants had already laid down weapons, he said:
â€A few (militants) have given up their weapons in Akwa Ibom, in Rivers State in Warri,â€ the coordinator said as he added that the panel was also in contact with some groups that are ready to surrender.
Advising undecided militants to heed accept the presidential initiative he said,
â€œMy advice to all the militants is that they should seize the opportunity that the President has magnanimously provided.
Subsequently the course that the government takes is up to it. I think that it is in the interest of everybody, most Niger Deltans are tired, they are now the victims of this struggle making it virtually impossible for development to take place in the Niger Delta area today.â€
â€œThe level of violence at hand it is not just development that is affected, even individual social lives have been crippled.â€
Dr. Koripamo-Agary also pleading with the militants said: