By Olasunkanmi Akoni
The Action Congress (AC), has described the much-touted Federal Governmentâ€™s amnesty deal for Niger Delta militants as a PDP agenda aimed at giving the party a head start in the 2011 election, instead of bringing peace to the restive oil region.
According to AC’s National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed: â€œThis amnesty deal, which was announced at a PDP function instead of a state function, is a charade!
“The N50 billionÂ allocated to it is nothing but a war- chest for 2011 by the PDP. The guns being supposedly returned by militants may end up in the hands of PDP thugs in 2011,” it alleged.
The party said the clearest indication yet that the 60-day amnesty has failed is the fact that the Niger Deltaâ€™s main militant group, MEND, is not a part of it, and the fact that the key issues that precipitated the Niger Delta crisis â€” lack of infrastructure, massive youth unemployment and the degradation of the environment and resource control – have not been addressed.
â€œForget about criminal groups and armed robbers masquerading as militants, the greatest blow to our countryâ€™s oil production in the past three years or more have come from MEND. Therefore, any amnesty deal that fails to win the hearts and minds of MEND will fail,â€™â€™ AC said.
The party said the showbiz which the federal government is making out of the so-called returned weapons has further shown the lack of seriousness on the governmentâ€™s part, wondering who are those returning guns when the core militants are still out there in the creeks..â€
The party stressed that as of today, the known militants like Tompolo, Farah Dagogo and Ateke Tom have not returned any weapon. MEND has also queried the source of the weapons being showcased on national television. â€œWhere then are these guns and ammunition from? Is it possible that these guns are being sourced by the authorities to lend credence to the amnesty deal?
Or are they from armed robbers seeking to cash in on the deal to make some quick bucks, just like a certain Niger Delta state governor admitted paying 50 million naira monthly for two years making a total of 1.2 billion naira to a supposed militant who turned out to be a criminal?
â€œIs the government not worried at the serious allegation by MEND that some of the guns that were showcased in Bayelsa August 22nd 2009 allegedly belong to the 21 Cameroonian gendarmes who were killed in a clash with the Nigerian military in 2007?â€™â€™ AC queried.
The party accused the government of putting the cart before the horse in its approach to the amnesty programme, saying disarmaments everywhere in the world are preceded by negotiated cease-fires adding that those being disarmed must be adequately rehabilitated.
â€œIn the ongoing charade called Amnesty deal, some key militants like Boyloaf were first flown to Abuja to shake hands with President Yarâ€™Adua and appear on national television, instead of the authorities putting in place a proper rehabilitation programme for them.
We are not surprised, therefore, that some of those who have allegedly disarmed have been protesting in Bayelsa against their total abandonment. They have alleged governmentâ€™s default in the promise of huge payments to them. Is it not clear that this is all a joke? Who does not know that some fat cats in the PDP are â€˜empoweringâ€™ themselves with the amnesty money ahead of 2011?â€™â€™ AC queried.
The party also expressed concern at what will happen to the many weapons that have been paraded, especially since an internationally-accepted system of tagging, securing and eventual destruction of such weapons is not in place.
â€œWho is keeping those guns? Where are they being kept? Which well-acknowledged and relevant
The party therefore, urged the government to reflect deeply on the situation in the Niger Delta and work out an acceptable solution in collaboration with all stakeholders, warning that if MEND makes good on its promise to resume attacks on oil facilities at the end of its unilateral ceasefire on September 15th, the nationâ€™s oil earnings could plummet further, with dire consequences for all.â€ AC stated.