By Emma Amaize
WARRI â€” MILITANTÂ leader, Government Ekpemupolo, alias Tompolo , who was declared wanted by the Joint Task Force (JTF) on the Niger-Delta, May 21, has contacted Ijaw leader, Chief Edwin Clark, from his hideout saying he was prepared to accept the Federal Governmentâ€™s amnesty offer.
He however pointed out that if it were a serious battle between him and the JTF, the security outfit would not win.
Chief Clark confirmed yesterday in his country home, Kiagbodo, Delta State, when the State Governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, paid him a visit to enlist his support for the amnesty granted militants by the Federal Government that Tompolo sent him a note that he had always wanted peace and so was not opposed to the acceptance of amnesty.
He said Tompoloâ€™s objection was the manner the JTF went about the entire process.
Governor Uduaghan had earlier commended the Ijaw leader for the fatherly role he played during the crisis between the military and militants and disclosed that government had set up a refugee camp at Ogbe-Ijoh to cushion the hardship faced by the victims.
â€œWe are doing everything humanly possible to ensure that the victims live in peace in their permanent abode. The JTF has also assured me that the victims will go back to their various homes in the next few daysâ€, the governor said.
Dr Uduaghan told Chief Clark that he decided to visit him so that he (Clark) could prevail on the youths to embrace peace and the Presidential amnesty, explaining that Mr. President meant well by granting the amnesty without prejudice.
â€œWe have gone beyond the level of engagement process. We are dealing with issues of marginaliaation as well as maintenance of peace, increased business activities and securityâ€, said the governor, stressing that Delta has been enjoying peaceful atmosphere since the last two years.
Responding, Chief Clark who took a critical look at Federal Governmentâ€™s amnesty to militants said the gesture could only be realistic if the oppressed people were emancipated from the grip of marginalisation, pandemic poverty and wanton killings and maiming of innocent persons.
He, however, lauded Mr. President for his efforts, but maintained that his people were waiting to know what he (Yarâ€™ Adua) has in stock for them.
â€œWe applaud Mr. Presidentâ€™s gesture and I have equally urged all our youths to embrace the amnesty but Yarâ€™ Adua should know that the Niger-Delta is the poorest and most underdeveloped oil producing part in the world, according to the United Nationâ€™s report of 2007.
â€œAfter amnesty has been granted, what is the next line of action? I am urging your Excellency to prevail on President Yarâ€™ Adua to pull out the military from Gbaramatu area so that the displaced victims can go back homeâ€, the elder statesman said, adding the President should take positive steps between July and December.
He also called on the President to implement the reports of the Niger-Delta Technical committee; headed by Mr. Ledum Mittee, saying, â€œNobody should sit in Abuja and start accusing the elders of being the brains behind the militantsâ€.
We won’t surrender now â€” Boyloaf, Tom, Dagogo
A senior commander of the Movement for Emancipation of the Niger-Delta (MEND), â€œGeneralâ€ Boyloaf, yesterday, gave an insight into why big-time militant leaders in the region, including himself, leader of the Niger Delta Vigilante Movement, Ateke Tom, â€œCommanderâ€ Farah Dagogo and others have not given up their arms to the Federal Government under the amnesty deal.
He told Vanguard on phone, â€œWe are still watching the Federal Government to know if it is sincere in the amnesty it recently proclaimed for militants. It is not that we are against amnesty, you know I was the first person to say that I will embrace amnesty but I told you (Vanguard), some weeks ago, that I would closely study the terms. Right now, we are still studying and monitoring to know whether the government is genuineâ€.
Boyloaf refuted a news report in one of the Lagos-based television stations, yesterday, claiming that he had rejected the amnesty, saying he never spoke to the media house.
â€œI want to tell you that itâ€™s a lie, I did not tell anybody that I will not accept amnesty, we only said that we are watching government to know whether it is sincere before we hand over our arms.
I did not speak to anybody from that television station and I wonder why they are fabricating an interview with me when I did not grant them any interview. If I want to speak, I only speak to Vanguard, BBC, CNN, Reuters. Not the station that is shouting my nameâ€, he said.
â€œFor now, what I will tell you is that we are not in the position to surrender our arms.
We donâ€™t know why the Federal Government has not allowed the persons that were displaced from their homes in Gbaramatu Kingdom, Delta stateÂ by the Joint Task Force (JTF) to return home and why the Federal Government is not interested in rebuilding the homes that the JTF burnt downâ€, he said.
N-Delta leaders meet Saturday in Warri
Meantime, leaders of the Niger-Delta are expected to meet, on Saturday, in Warri, Delta State to brainstorm and proffer a way forward for the region after the proclamation of amnesty for militants in the region by President Yarâ€™Adua.
Vanguard learnt, yesterday, that invitation messages to the meeting had been dispatched to the leaders expected at the meeting to be hosted by former Federal Minister of Information, Chief Edwin Clark.
Contacted, yesterday, Chief Clark confirmed that he was, indeed, the convener of the meeting and the idea was for the leaders of the region to chart a way forward.
It was gathered that between six to 10 representatives may come from each of nine states of the Niger-Delta, while the decisions reached would be communicated to the Federal Government for prompt action.