By Samuel Oyadongha
Commercial activities were paralyzed in early hours of Friday in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, as repentant militants went on rampage in protest over recurring delay by the federal government to pay the agreed allowances meant for their upkeep.
A mobile policeman attached to Bayelsa State Police Command who ran into the mob narrowly escaped being lynched.
They, however, set ablaze his motorcycle while residents were forced to run for their dear lives.
The mobile policeman was reported to have released volleys of gun shots into the air in fear of being mobbed which angered the protesters who set his motorbike ablaze.
The quick intervention of the Chairman of the Peace and Conflict Resolution Committee, Chief James Jephtah, who contacted some of their leaders to prevail on the boys to avoid break down of law and order prevented the situation from degenerating into bloodbath.
Though all the recognized camps in the predominantly riverine state have surrendered their arms, the rehabilitation aspect of the amnesty for the repentant militants hds been a source of concern to many residents.
At the time of filing this report, the repentant militants have deserted their Imiringi rehabilitation centre, fueling anxiety among residents of possible upsurge in crime in the state capital, given the recurring delay in the payment of their allowances by the federal government.
The protest, which caught many residents of the capital city, including security agencies, napping was learnt to have started at 6:00am, as the aggrieved ex-militants barricaded the Akenfa and Agudama-Epie section of Mbiama-Yenagoa road, the only gateway to the heart of Yenagoa.
Most of the commercial banks and other business outfits in Yenagoa metropolis hurriedly shut their gate to prevent possible invasion of their premises by the rampaging repentant militants.
The protesters later moved towards the Amarata suburb of the city with placards querying the reason for the delay in their monthly allowances.
The protesters not only openly complained about the preferentialÂ treatment given to their erstwhile leaders who are quartered at Government House annex while they (foot soldiers) are abandoned to their fate, but also cried against the politicization of the whole process in the state.
Though the youths were billed to collect their allowances on September 21st, it was delayed due what sources blamed on the long holidays as well as attendant delays in clearance from the apex bank.
It was also learnt that the military officer attached to Bayelsa State Amnesty Implementation Committee, was last month issued a directive from Abuja that payment should be made directly to the youths instead of the earlier indirect payment in the past.
The directive was said to have been handed to the state committee, following petitions received from aggrieved repentant militant youths that their funds were being diverted.
Based on their earlier protests, the repentant militant youths in the state capital were asked to move back to their former camps until proper rehabilitation centres were completed and that the when the payment of allowances was ready, they would be asked to come to the state capital for it.
It was further learnt that the youths were asked to come for their allowances on September 21, but the delay in payment as at yesterday angered the agitated repentant militant leading to the violent protest that engulfed the capital city.
Reacting to the ugly development, the Chairman of the State Peace and Conflict Resolution Committee, Chief James Jephtah, explained that the delay by the state Amnesty Implementation Committee to effect payment of allowances to the repentant youths was caused by bureaucratic bottleneck.
He appealed to the youths to exercise some patience and assured them that their allowances would be paid soonest.
â€œWe had to intervene and link up with the militant leaders to prevail on the boys to stay calm and allow the amnesty committee to resolve the existing bureaucratic difficulties.
â€œThe agreement on payment of allowances through the leaders still stand and it will not fail,â€ he assured.