By Daniel Idonor
ABUJAâ€”APPARENTLY not interested in further briefing on how the Vanguard Post-Amnesty Dialogue in Warri was abruptly terminated following the detonation of two bombs near the venue of the event, Acting President Goodluck Jonathan, yesterday, pointedly asked his representative to the Dialogue and Minister of Niger-Delta Affairs, Obong Ufot Ekaette: â€œMinister, how is Warri?â€
Ekaette, like many other members of the Presidential Steering Committee on the implementation of the Amnesty in the Niger-Delta, had arrived at the conference room of the Acting President, yesterday afternoon, for the review meeting of the committee; but rather than the usual felicitation, he got what he did not bargain for.
As the Acting President walked into the venue of the meeting to take his seat, he shook hands with the Minister of Defence, General Goodwin Abbe (rtd), but on seeing the Niger-Delta Affairs Minister, Jonathan, perhaps still in disbelief, asked, â€œHonourable Minister, how is Warri?â€ a question that heralded laughter by all those in attendance.
While the laughter lasted, Jonathan was observed to have shaken his head, an indication of the rejection of the Warri incident by the Federal Government; even as he requested attendees to take their seats and settle down for the business of the day.
Others in attendance at the meeting included the Ministers of Finance and National Planning, Dr. Mansur Muhtar and Dr. Usman Shamsudeen respectively, and Minister of State for Niger-Delta, Elder Godswill Orubebe.
FG says Vanguard meant well
Meanwhile, the Federal Government has described as regrettable, the bomb blasts incident in Warri on Monday, insisting that the convener, Vanguard Newspaper meant well for the troubled region, hence it decided to pull resources together to organize the event.
Fielding questions from State House Correspondents, the Minister of Niger-Delta Affairs, Obong Ufot Ekaette, who represented Acting President Jonathan at the conference, but could not deliver his message, stated that no matter the reason by those who carried out the attack, the convener meant well.
Ekaette said: â€œThat a meeting that was convened by one of their members to dialogue on sustainable development of the Niger Delta had to end up that way, we felt very, very, sad because the convener meant well. They wanted to put all of us together to sit down and talk, identify the problems and the challenges and come up with the way forward and that was why the Acting President sent me to represent him.
â€œBut that things happened the way it did and I could not even read his (Ag. President’s) paper, and why they had to do that is still a mystery to me till today (yesterday).â€
The Minister debunked claims that the Amnesty has failed, saying that it was either such people were speaking out of ignorance or were simply trying to make mischief out of the globally acceptable commitment of the Federal Government towards addressing the age-long Niger-Delta question.
He noted: â€œI hear people say amnesty has failed; amnesty has not failed. They donâ€™t know the steps government is taking to ensure that amnesty is on course and that forum could have provided that missing link between what the various committees set up by government are doing and the perception of the people that say amnesty has failed which is wrong.â€
Asked if the incident would hinder the overall attainment of governmentâ€™s objectives towards the implementation of the amnesty programme, Ekaette maintained that no matter the situation, the government would not be deterred by such action or any other related to that.
He said: â€œwell, not, it will not stop us from doing what we are supposed to do, we will continue to work hard to actualize the programme of the amnesty and that is the best we can do under the present circumstances.â€
The minister, however, refused to be dragged into whether or not the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger-Delta, MEND, does exist, saying that â€œI have no comment on that. I have no comment whatsoever;â€ but noted that he had heard some people say that MEND does not exist, adding that â€œI heard that too but I have no comment on this.â€