WARRI â€” THE Joint Task Force, JTF, on the Niger-Delta vowed, yesterday, to consume the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger-Delta, MEND, should the group make good its threat to commence fresh attacks on oil installations in the Niger-Delta even as the National Assembly has appropriated a total N10.2 billion for the settlement of allowances of over 10,000 militants who have accepted the Federal Governmentâ€™s amnesty.
The National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG, has also warned the Federal Government that the Niger Delta crisis is not over despite the acceptance of amnesty by militants leaders including Tompolo, Ateke Tom, Farah Dagogo and Boyloaf.
JTF warns MEND
JTF Commander, Major-General Sarkin Yarkin-Bello, who spoke exclusively to Vanguard yesterday on the latest threat by MEND, advised the group to rescind its threat to commence fresh attacks on oil installations because any militant or group that carries out such action would be consumed.
He also urged newsmen to ignore the faceless spokesman of MEND, Jomo Gbomo, and the statements purported to be from him because there was nobody known as Jomo Gbomo.
He said that instead of causing fresh violence in the region, MEND, Jomo Gbomo and every other Nigerian should give peace a chance by joining hands with the Federal Government to consolidate on the gains of the Amnesty programme.
The JTF boss said he was surprised that journalists in Nigeria were publishing electronic mail statements from a Jomo Gbomo they donâ€™t know and have not met, asking why those publishing the statements from the faceless entity have not bothered to meet him face-to-face to know who he is.
He asserted that the identities of the spokesman of the Talibans, which is one of the extremist groups in the world and even terrorist, Osama Bin Laden are known and wondered why the Jomo Gbomo, who claimed to be the spokesman of MEND, was hiding his identity.
Major-General Yarkin-Bello challenged the media to find out if Jomo Gbomo who issues the statement was a human being or fake.
N10.2bn allowance for ex-militants
Meanwhile, Chief Coordinator, Federal Government Inter Agency Coordinating Committee on Amnesty, AVM Lucky Ararile disclosed yesterday that the National Assembly has appropriated N10.2 billion out of the N50 billion proposed to it by President Umaru Yarâ€™Adua for the amnesty package.
AVM Ararile who disclosed this while briefing the newsmen on the end of the 60-day amnesty offer in Abuja, explained thatÂ N958,612,000.00 has already been spent on the benefiting ex-militants.
He said, the number of ex-militants may rise to about 14,000 or 15,000 and that if they come up to 15,000, â€œwe will talk about N975 million per month as allowances to themâ€
According to him, â€œyou can recall that the President submitted a supplementary bill recently to the National Assembly and they approved it before they went on recess. It was public knowledge and was widely reported. So, I still canâ€™t understand why the issue of N50 billion is still coming upâ€.
â€œThat was not what was appropriated. You can propose whatever you will want, you can propose N100 billion, and you can propose N500 billion, if they give you N5 billion that is it. What the National Assembly has given to you, that is what you will use.
â€œIt will be recalled that the President proposed N50 billion supplementary bill to the National Assembly but the sum of N10.14 billion was approved. The National Assembly has appropriated the sum of N10.14 billion to the agency I can remember correctlyâ€.
On the agencyâ€™s expenditure so far, he said, â€œas at 7th October 2009, the total sum that has been released to the agency is N958,612,000.00. Now, there is a sum of N1.273 billion that has been approved but has not been credited to the agencyâ€™s account. As at yesterday, it has not entered our account, but we are aware it has been released.
â€œThis amount that we are expecting is feeding allowance, when it enters our account, we will use it to offset both outstanding and future allowances to the ex-militantsâ€, he said.
He added that â€œthe original budget was worked on an estimate of 10,000 ex-militants and you know that if ex-militants accumulated in terms of feeding allowances and monthly stipends is N65,000 for 10,000 militants you are talking about N650 million.
â€œBut the N1.2 million is actually for two months allowances of the ex-militants. But as I have just told you now, we are expecting about 14, 000 to 15, 000 ex-militants. If they come up to 15,000, we will talk about N975 million per month as allowances to the ex-militantsâ€.
On what the government intends to do with the arms and ammunition surrendered by the militants, AVM Ararile explained that there are options available to the government on how to handle the issue of the arms and ammunitions, adding, â€œbut the government has not decided yet.â€
Speaking earlier, Media Coordinator of the agency, Dr. Timiebi Koripamo-Agary, eulogized the success recorded by the Presidential amnesty programme, noting, â€œthe number of the militants that accepted the amnesty offer were so many that the capacity of the Amnesty Committee was pushed to its limitsâ€.
She said, the huge quantity, quality and sophistication of the arms recovered under the amnesty programme shows that the Niger Delta and Nigeria is a safer place now.
â€˜Amnesty not end of N-Delta crisisâ€™
Also NUPENG has urged the government against believing that the disarmament of some militants is an end to the Niger Delta crisis.
The union argued that â€œfor the simple fact that organisation like the Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta, MEND, is still threatening and breathing fire, means that the government has more work to do to ensure that not only MEND, but other unknown groups and individuals that may not have embraced peace and abandon violence are encouraged to do soâ€.
President of NUPENG, Comrade Peter Esele, called on the Federal and state governments and other agencies saddled with the development of the region to embark on massive development of the Niger Delta if there must be enduring peace.