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Life outside the creeks, by repentant militant leaders

By SAMUEL OYADONGHA

Yenagoa – AFTER nearly three years of Spartan life in the deep mangrove swamp of the troubled Niger Delta, some of the militant leaders in Bayelsa State who, penultimate week, agreed to lay down their arms in deference to President Umaru Yar’Adua amnesty offer, have resorted to lying low for now pending the surrendering of their arms with a view to reuniting with their families while others have since abandoned life in the creeks to live normal life again.

Among them are Joshua Maciver, Commander Lagos Jackson, Gen Africa Owei, Gen Ogunboss and Pastor Reuben Wilson.

Though it was reliably learnt that they have been in touch with the Joint Task Force, JTF, the security forces saddled with the responsibility of restoring sanity in the creeks and waterways of the region, some of the repentant militants have since reconciled with their families in their respective communities.

Sunday Vanguard can authoritatively reveal that Maciver was the first to bid farewell to life in the mangrove swamp way  back in 2008. The Southern Ijaw born militant leader succumbed to pressure from Bayelsa State government through the effort of the Chief James Jephtah-led state chapter of the Niger Delta Peace and Conflict Resolution Committee to quit militancy precisely last year July 18.

This was before President Umaru Yar’Adua mooted the idea of  amnesty to the rampaging militants in the delta whose activities was having a great toll on the nation’s economy.

Maciver has since relocated to Yenagoa where he is sheltered in Government House annex ostensibly due to the series of alleged attempts on his life by some of his former colleagues. The repentant militant leader confirmed this threat penultimate week during a chat with Sunday Vanguard at his temporary abode where he is under 24 hours protection mounted by armed security operatives.

Rated as one of the deadliest militants in the Bayelsa creeks, according to the leaked security document prepared by a former commander of the JTF, Maciver said he decided to leave the world of militants in the creeks on realizing that it was doing more harm than good to the development of the region.

The former militant leader, who said his decision to renounce armed struggle at the time was borne out of a genuine conviction, however, said his resolve almost cost him his life but for divine intervention.

“The decision to lay down arms at that time, I would like to emphasise, was not borne out of any promise of monetary overtures or inducement by the governor of Bayelsa State, Chief Timipre Sylva, but with sincerity of purpose,” he declared, noting, however: “There were several assassination attempts on my life but they did not succeed….I want to place on record that my camp and armoury were ambushed last year October and November by some criminals who took away some of my arms.”

According to him, some of his former colleagues saw his action as betrayal of trust and called him names. He thanked Sylva for providing him the opportunity  to denounce, through the disarmament, reintegration and empowerment programme for all militants wishing to leave the creeks and embrace peace, even as he reiterated his willingness to surrender his arms at the appointed time.

Sunday Vanguard investigations revealed that the once feared militant leader is a man of great taste given his dress sense and the type of cars he uses.

The former militant leader, who took advantage of the state government disarmament and reintegration and empowerment programme for all militants willing to leave the creeks,  has since enrolled at one of the universities outreach centres in Yenagoa where he is currently pursuing a degree programme in the humanities.

A close associate of Maciver told Sunday Vanguard: In spite of his picking up arms against the Nigerian state over what he described as the criminal neglect of the region, he is a man of peace and this explains why he hearkened to Governor Sylva’s plea to militants to do away with militancy by embracing his administration disarmament, reintegration and empowerment programme.

“Maciver has commenced the process of developing himself for the future returning to the classroom. And as you can see during our last encounter with him,  he is serious about ICT and this informed his knowledge of the use of computer.”

It was also gathered that Gen Africa Owei has since relocated from his camp in the mosquito infested mangrove swamp following his renunciation of militancy in the wake of the presidential amnesty. Like others who have expressed desire to surrender their arms at the appointed time, Gen Africa is said to have reconciled with his family at Olugbobiri in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of the state where he is presently engaged in big time farming and community service.

However, not much is known of Commander Lagos Jackson, Gen Ogunboss and Pastor Reuben Wilson who, prior to the amnesty offer, held sway in the Southern Ijaw axis and the Atlantic fringe of Akassa but sources close to the militant leaders told Sunday Vanguard that the trio are waiting patiently for the Presidential Amnesty Implementation Committee on Niger Delta Militants to surrender the arms in their armoury with view to returning to normal life free from harassment of security operatives.

In spite of the assurances from the repentant militant leaders, stakeholders in Bayelsa  have voiced skepticism over the amnesty process. The stakeholders, among them traditional rulers and  religious leaders, drawn from within and outside Bayelsa State, said though they have accepted the amnesty deal being offered as part of the process for peace in the region, they listed, the  issues of the withdrawal of the military from the region, the increase per cent age in derivation fund, the massive development activities of the region and the unconditioned participation of the region in political process of the country as ways in which the amnesty deal would be deemed to have worked.

The Ijaw leaders, including president of the Ijaw National Council (INC), Dr. Atuboyedia Obianime, the secretary-general of the IYC, Engr. Udens Eradiri, and one time president of the IYC, Oyinfie Jonjon, said the people of the region would not be totally liberated and disposed to the idea of successful implementation of amnesty if it is not followed with a review of Federal Government decisions and constitutional amendments.

Obienime advised the government to be sincere in its approach on the issue, saying that the same speed at which the Presidential Amnesty Implementation Committee was set up should be the same to fast track development in the region.

“The speed with which the federal government set up this committee, I hope they will apply the same speed to solve the needed development plan. It will also be good to remove the military and allow civil rule,” he said.

Jonjon noted with concern the speed at which the amnesty deal was put together by the Federal Government, stressing that  lack of review and proper consultations had made past efforts failed.

His words, “We  have, however, accepted the deal but we are worried that the implementation of the amnesty has become a military affair. If the Federal Government disarms the militants, have they disarmed the mind of the people? We have accepted the deal; let the military withdraw from the region.”


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