By Daniel Idonor
WITH the release of the leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger-Delta (MEND), Mr. Henry Okah, the Presidential Panel on Amnesty and Disarmament of Militants in the Niger-Delta, Tuesday declared that its next assignment now is to beginÂ the recovery of weapons from militants across the troubled region.
The committee also foreclosed any arrangement that would facilitate President Umaru Yarâ€™Adua receiving any repentant militant as earlier suggested.
It argued that doing that would amount to playing to the gallery; because none of the militants had the courage to come out when the President personally declared his intention to personally receive the first militant to accept the amnesty deal.
The panel had also reinstated governmentâ€™s commitment to implement the amnesty projects, so long as a majority of militants accept the governmentâ€™s grant.
stating that though the recent serial unprovoked attacks on oil facilities have inflicted serious financial injuries on the Federal Government, such attacks do not in any way affects the smooth implementation of the amnesty.
According to the panel, the Federal government is very optimistic on the workability of the decisions reached at the end of negotiation with MEND leader even as it reaffirmed absolute confidence on the person of MEND leader, Mr Okah to calm the frayed nerves of his men; saying that as part of the deal with Okah he signed an undertaking to be of a good behavior at all times.
This was disclosed to Vanguard by the Chairman of the Amnesty panel, General Godwin Abbe (rtd) who was in the Presidential Villa, in company of other committee members to brief President Yarâ€™Adua on the progress so far made by the committee and the next line of action such as weapon recovery which the president has also approved and adopted.
General Abbe who spoke to our reporter after the meeting with the Presidents maintained that with the Okah saga now over the committee would in the next few days come out with workable measures on how to embark on the crucial issue of arm recovery from armed militants, with the established camps serving also as receiving centers.
Contrary to speculations that the President is scheduled to meet the just released MEND leader, Okah, the chairman who also the countryâ€™s minister of interior, noted that doing that would only portray the president as playing to the gallery as many other militants have since accepted amnesty and none of them was received by Mr President; and asked why Oka now.
The minister who disclosed that he was with the dreaded Okah on Monday night, precisely at about 8:00pm hinted that in the nearest future the panel would be holding more talks with a coalition of militant leaders across the region; saying that â€œit is only those who embrace amnesty that will benefit from it.
Abbe said that Okah, whose organization has been bombing oil facilities in the creeks and lately Lagos, had assured him of his cooperation in returning peace to the Niger Delta.
He acknowledged that though Okah is not God and could not do everything about it, the militant leader would all the same play a pivotal role on Nigerians request to God for a peaceful country.
His words; â€œOkah assured me that he was going to contribute to make sure that he facilitates and to do everything possible to bring about peace within the region and Nigeria.
â€œBut he is human, he is not God. The country is demanding for peace from God. But he (Okah) is going to be a useful facilitator in that requestâ€.
On the series of recent attacks by MEND in the southern part of Nigeria, especially the most recent in Lagos State, Gen. Abbe went philosophical and said â€œwhen two people are fighting and you want to separate them, as you enter in between them, your effort at separating them would not stop them from raising the last blow against each otherâ€.
According to him, such attacks are not the immediate concern of the government but that governmentâ€™s concern right now is to tackle the problem from its very root which will bring about a permanent end to the crises, saying that as soon as truce is struck between the Federal Government and the militants â€œall these will stopâ€.