THE recently sacked Commander of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger-Delta (MEND), Bayelsa State Chapter, Mr Ebikabowei Victor Ben (aka) General Boyloaf, yesterday led 32 other leaders of militant group to ASO ROCK to meet President Umaru Yarâ€™Adua, where they publicly accepted the amnesty deal offer from the President at a brief ceremony.
He spoke as President Yarâ€™AduaÂ declared that those expecting the development of the region to be carried overnight should have a rethink saying that â€œdevelopment in the region will be rapid but it will not be over night because it takes time.
If you want to construct a 200 kilometer road it will take between two to three years no matter how hard you try. So it is important to have this peace and securityâ€.
Boyloaf howeverÂ threatened that unlessÂ Â President Yarâ€™Adua, in the shortest possible time adopts aÂ Â holistic developmental approach to region, MEND would not hesitates to take up arms against the Federal GovernmentÂ Â adding that MEND is accepting amnesty following Henry Okahâ€™s release, and as such, Yarâ€™Adua must immediately commence the other part of the bargain.
The demands includes the immediate correction of constitutional injustice, rapid development of the region, massive creation of jobs opportunities for youths and immediate implementation of the recommendations of the Ledum Mittee led Presidential Committee reports.
Furthermore, he said, â€œmay I use this medium to call on this administration to commence the immediate reconstruction of destroyed communities in the cause of the crises (communities in Gbaramatu kingdom in Delta, Odi in Bayelsa, Elem, Tombia in Rivers)â€.
Former Gen. Boyloaf told Yarâ€™AduaÂ that he or any other militant would not have folded â€œour handsÂ and see the future of our generations yet unborn crumble before our eyes when our people are hungry and dying, our infrastructure are in a deplorable state, our communities have no water and light, oil spillage and gas flaringÂ is the other of the day,Â our youths are unemployed, and this is the same region that produces over 90% of our national incomeâ€, He askedÂ Â â€œhow then do we fold our armsâ€.
He however stated that he does not want to put the blame on the present administration of President Musa Yarâ€™Adua, but blamed â€œthe long neglect of past administrations and constitutional injustice by the Nigerian states that got us where we are todayâ€.
He lamented that the people have had promises in the past which got them nowhere but hoped that â€œthat this administration is sincere and will keep to its promise of holistic developmental approach to the region; saying that â€œthe main issues are not about making nice promises, but keeping to themâ€.
â€œWe want to see genuine change and development in the Niger Delta region., the world knows that the people of Niger Delta are not asking the Nigerian state for too much, at this juncture may I use this opportunity to remind this administration of her slogan â€œRule of Lawâ€, it should be noted that in the spirit of rule of law equity and justice comes to play, all we are asking for is correction of injustice done to the Niger Delta regionâ€.
He thanked Governor Timipreye Silva of Bayelsa State who he said directly made their Abuja trip possible following the repeated assurances he gave and for providing the logistics and urged other Governors of the region emulate the gesture of their Bayelsan counterpart. He also thanked the President for the humble gesture and his show of great statesmanship, saying that â€œwe will hold you by your wordsâ€.
Others present at the ceremony include Vice President Goodluck Jonathan, Governor Timipreye Silva of Bayelsa State, members of the Presidential Panel on Amnesty led by Gen. Godwin Abbe (rtd) among others.
Also speaking Governor Silva declared that though heÂ made it possible for the militants to visitÂ Abuja to meet personally with Mr President, he was grateful to Yarâ€™Adua for granting amnesty to â€œour militant youths thereby reintegrating them into the society. He assured that following the assurances he received from the militants, he was sure that they are very willing to surrender all their weapons.
Responding, President Yarâ€™Adua expressed gratitude to Mr. Victor Ben (Boyloaf) and 31 others for coming here this afternoon before me to declare your acceptance of this amnesty, saying that â€œI had made a proclamation and called on all militants and their leaders to take advantage of the amnesty so that we can have peace and security in the Niger Delta states without which development will not be possibleâ€.
He explained that the situation in the region has reached a level, as you know, where even contractors are afraid to take contracts and execute works in the states.; adding that â€œnot only the Niger Delta state throughout the world peace and stability and security are necessary conditions for development and prosperity. So we need this peace a lot in the Niger Delta statesâ€.
â€œAlso, the leaders of the militants and their men they lead are young Nigerians with talents, capacities and abilities to serve not only the people of their states but the people of Nigeria and some of them have the ability and capacity to even serve humanity if given the opportunity. It is disheartening to see that young, energetic, intelligent Nigerians are spending their lives in the creeks which is not allowed for any Nigerianâ€.
â€œNo Nigerian leader will wish to see any Nigeria living that kind of life. I think it is high time we gave the opportunity to our teeming youths in the Niger Delta states that are in the creeks to come out to be rehabilitated, leave a normal life like any other person in this country, and have the opportunity that any other person in this country has. I have confidence that we have youths who are energetic, who can contribute to nation building, who will contribute to humanity, who have great support in seeking the peace and security in this regionâ€.
According to him, â€œwe are concerned about the development of the states. So what we are doing today is to intervene and commend the other leaders you come with it is not a small feat, it is a very courageous act on your part. And again,
I want to thank you and commend you for displaying this extra-ordinary courage for displaying this patriotic zeal for the people of the Niger delta states and for the nation in generalâ€.
He assured that â€œall issues that have given rise to militancy itself, the agitation which culminated in having an arm wing of the agitation, we will collectively look at them and find ways to salvage it in such a way that everybody throughout the country will be satisfied with what solutions we come up withâ€.
The President immediately â€œdirected that Mr. Victor Ben, (Boyloaf) and your men to please work together with the chairman of the amnesty the Minister of Defence to work out the logistics of everything on how your arms and also filling you and your members the renunciation of amnesty forms.
I call upon other militant leaders to please also do same so that after this phase, then we can now sit down and receive you collectively as leaders, to discuss issues that need to be discussedâ€.
â€œMinister of Defence, I hand over Mr. Victor Ben and his men for you to continue to dialogue and to arrange to collect their arms and the signing of the renunciation of the militancy form and then you can discuss other issues of logistics with themâ€.