By Emma Amaize
WARRI â€” GOVERNOR Emmanuel Uduaghan of Delta State; Minister of Defence and chairman of the Presidential Committee on Amnesty, Brigadier-General Godwin Abbe (rtd.); coordinator of the Presidential Committee on Disarmament, Air Vice Marshall (AVM) Lucky Ararile held a top-secret meeting, yesterday, with militant leader, Government Ekpemupolo, alias Tompolo, in Oporoza, the headquarters of Gbaramatu kingdom.
Also present at the meeting were the Special Adviser to the President on Niger-Delta, Mr. Timi Alaibe who met with Tompolo recently, and a former chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Tony Anenih.
Details of the meeting were not made public but Vanguard learnt that it was President Umaru Yarâ€™Adua that directed that Dr. Uduaghan should lead the government delegation to discuss with Tompolo on the need for him to accept the amnesty offer.
â€œThe involvement of top government officials at the meeting was to assure Tompolo that the Federal Government was sincere with the amnesty programme and to iron out any area of doubt, which was why all the people that matter in the amnesty programme featured at the meetingâ€, a source told Vanguard.
It was also gathered that some people were trying to torpedo Dr. Uduaghan in the amnesty programme in his state by wanting to deal directly with the militants, and the Presidency sensing that the underhand tactics may do more harm than good, insisted on the governor shepherding the process.
My source said the Tompolo gave some conditions to be met before he would accept the amnesty and referred the government delegation to his open letter to Mr. President. It is believed that due to the urgency of the issues that were deliberated upon, Dr. Uduaghan and others may have left for Abuja yesterday to meet with Mr. President and brief him on the outcome of the meeting.
Chief Anenih had, before yesterdayâ€™s meeting with Tompolo, wanted to meet with the militant leader, who recently disclaimed him over the contacts purported to have been made with him on the dredging of River Niger, which was flagged off by the President at Lokoja, a few days ago.
â€œThe meeting afforded him the chance to know Tompolo and he went there to clear any misconception on the dredging of River-Niger, which Tompolo had earlier vowed to confront with all the means at his disposal if the government went ahead with it without carrying out the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of the project on the communities, providing local content package for the communities, among other thingsâ€, our source added.
Before the government team left Warri for the creeks yesterday, they met with a group of six militant leaders who pledged their preparedness to accept amnesty package and surrender their arms with effect from tomorrow (Tuesday).
At Oporoza, Uduaghan and others first met with Pere of Gbaramatu kingdom, His Royal Godwin Bebenimibo and his subjects. They explained the basis of the amnesty programme for militants and the need for the agitators to embrace it. Thereafter, they later went into a closed-door meeting with Tompolo, which was their main reason for the visit.