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MEND opens can of worms

*Accuses Amnesty Committee, JTF of fraud

*Soldiers, policemen turn ‘emergency’ arms dealers

By Emma Amaize
MOVEMENT for the Emancipation of the Niger-Delta (MEND) opened a can of works, yesterday, on the amnesty programme of the Federal Government for militants, squealing that it was approached by the Nigerian government to own up to thousands of weapons belonging to the Nigeria Army, which would, thereafter, be delivered clandestinely at night to the arms collection centre to give a phoney impression that militants were truly turning in arms.

Spokesman of MEND, Jomo Gbomo in a statement said, “This desperate measure, which aims to give the amnesty program some semblance of progress has the input and connivance of the Amnesty Committee, Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, Ministry of Defence as well as the Joint Task Force (JTF) on the Niger-Delta”.

But the coordinator of the Amnesty Implementation, Rehabilitation and Re-Integration Committee, Air Vice Marshal Lucky Ararile and the commander of the JTF, Major-General Sarkin Yarkin-Bello said there was no iota of truth in the allegation when they were contacted by Saturday Vanguard.

AVM Ararile said there was no secrecy in the arms surrender process, as everything was being done in the open at the registration centres, adding that the committee did not negotiate with militants to turn in arms belonging to the Nigeria Army.

He said that a repentant militant, George surrendered his arms on Thursday at one of the arms collection centres and it was not delivered secretly.

Major –General Yarkin-Bello said he would not want to join issues with MEND on the matter, saying there was no iota of truth in the claim.

He said, “We have not called anybody, we are not part of the negotiation by the Presidential Committee on Amnesty. Honestly, I am not aware of what you are saying”.

The JTF commander said the task force just want the amnesty to succeed and asked the militants to embrace the magnanimity of the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, Alhaji Umaru Yar’Adua, which has been applauded all over the world.

He said there was no need for MEND to dissipate energy on propaganda against the security agencies, adding that the best thing to do now was for the militants to embrace the amnesty programme in their own interest and the unborn generation in the Niger-Delta.

But MEND spokesman, Jomo Gbomo maintained, “The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) has been approached by the Nigerian government to own up to thousands of weapons belonging to the Nigerian Army which would be delivered secretly at night to an arms collection centre if we agree to the plan”..

According to him, “We know that some unscrupulous individuals will participate in this scam because of the money involved and as such we are using this opportunity to raise the alarm before Nigerians and the international community are hoodwinked”.

“For a government that has perfected the art of rigging elections, this latest fraudulent attempt does not come to us as a surprise.

“MEND believes in a holistic process where the root issues that prompted the unrest are addressed and weapons are freely given up in exchange for justice”, he stated.

The militant group, however, said, “We are happy to note that the military has vacated the Gbaramatu communities to allow the displaced people return home and hope that the government will go a step further by rebuilding the damaged homes or compensating those whose property were wantonly destroyed”.

In an exclusive response to an electronic mail inquiry by Saturday Vanguard, MEND pointed out that it was not against the acceptance of amnesty by anyone, including its ousted commander, “General” Boyloaf, as “Henry Okah has also benefited from it”.

But it said it would not be any arms surrender for cash deal, submitting that the proper thing the government should do was to come out with a holistic programme that would tackle the root cause of the problem.

Investigation by Saturday Vanguard showed that it was this lacunae that the South-South governors saw when they threatened to pull out of the amnesty programme on the grounds that there was no concrete post-amnesty plan by the Federal Government but President Yar’Adua begged them not to abandon him.

MEND, nevertheless, said it was prepared to give the government opportunity to do the right thing. In its words, “We are prepared to give the government a chance, which is why there is a ceasefire in place and negotiations are ongoing with the Special Adviser, Timi Alaibe. There are also others who do not have faith in the amnesty and we are equally not against them”.

He also revealed, “Already, we are being contacted by soldiers and policemen who have constituted themselves into emergency arms dealers that want to sell AK47 assault rifles for as low as N50, 000 knowing that militants who are paid N300, 000 can still make a profit. The armouries of the armed forces and police will be emptied and many guns will be stolen from individual law enforcement officers”.

According to him, “MEND will also prefer that combatants are empowered with skills and education over houses as requested by the group that tried to impersonate us. Let me use this opportunity to dissociate MEND from one Prince Harry who claimed to represent us as a negotiator”.


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