By Kinsley Omonobi
Frontline militant leader in Delta State, Chief Government Ekpemupolo, alias Tompoloâ€™s call on the Federal Government last week, to extend the October 4, deadline fixed by the Amnesty Committee for Niger Delta militants to lay down their arms and ammunition and embrace peace, is aimed at ensuring a smooth and enduring peace process and not targeted at arm-twisting the Presidency, a group, the Niger Delta Peace Delta Restoration Initiative (NDRI), has said.
In a statement made available to Vanguard, in Abuja yesterday, and signed by its President-General, Mr. Pupagha Ekpedekumor, NDRI declaring its support for an extension of the disarmament time-frame, the group posited that if the request is acceded to by the government, a conducive atmosphere would be created for a period to calm frayed nerves as well as for proper reintegration, re-orientation and holistic commitment to the peace process by most of the militants who are still scattered all over the creeks.
Recalling that the Joint Military Task Force [JTF] offensive, which preceded the Federal Governmentâ€™s amnesty offer primarily affected communities in Gbaramatu kingdom of Delta state while communities in Bayelsa, Rivers, and other state in the Niger Delta continued with their normal lives, NDRI argued that the circumstances therefore, makes it imperative for the presidency to consider Tompoloâ€™s reasons for requesting an extension of time.
The statement reads: â€œAs a group committed to the restoration of peace and the lost glories to the entire Niger Delta region, we deem it necessary to join in the calls by several patriotic groups and individuals for an extension of the October 4 deadline which the Federal Government had fixed for all willing militants to lay down their arms and embrace amnestyâ€.
â€œBesides these key reasons, our position is further reinforced by the incident that occurred Wednesday, 23rd, at the Sagbama junction along the Mbiama â€“Warri road in Bayelsa state, where some aggrieved repentant militants barricaded the road and vandalized both commercial and private vehicles in protest against the non-payment of allowances promised them by the Amnesty Implementation Committee, an act which indicated the shabby handling of the reintegration process.
Evidently, this is one of the scenarios Tompolo wants to avoid by calling for an extension of time. First, since his commanders and boys have all been scattered in the creeks with their weapons in the wake of the military bombardment of his camp and communities in Gbaramatu kingdom, he needs some more time to assemble them and mop-up the arms. After-all, the most essential element of the amnesty package is the disarmament.
Therefore, of what use will it be to the Federal Government if Tompolo accepts the offer without retrieving arms in the hands of his boys and as well carry them along in the entire peace process? Do not also forget that this man had been in hiding after being declared wanted by the JTF. He presently has no home to lay his head, and is severely disorganized.
In the circumstances, Tompolo needs time to organize himself and do a thorough job that would enthrone enduring peace. Again, hundreds of thousands of displaced residents of communities razed by the military in Gbaramatu kingdom are still in the process of returning to their land where they have to build their homes afresh and start a new live. At the moment, they are yet to get over the trauma, and are therefore, not in the right frame of mind to key into the ongoing peace process.
If the Federal Government is genuinely committed to ensuring an enduring and holistic peace in the Niger Delta area, especially in Delta state, we urge to exhibit more compassion and patience by allowing some time for the broken hearts of the agonizing returnees of Gbaramatu kingdom to heal a bit, as well as give room for Tompolo to effectively re-assemble and pull out his boys from the creeks for reintegration to a new life of peace.
An extension of the October 4, 2009 deadline for disarmament is not an indication of weakness or cowardice on the part of the Federal Government, but a show of compassion, good leadership and above all, total commitment to the ongoing peace process in the Niger Delta.â€