By Emma Amaize & Simon Ebegbulem
BENIN CITYâ€”MOREÂ than one thousand ex-militants in Edo State, yesterday, protested in Benin City, following the alleged failure to absorb them into the post amnesty programme of the Federal Government, five months after they laid down their arms.
The angry former militants, led by one of their former commanders, Felix Idowu, lamented that they had suffered untold hardship since they laid down their arms and that all efforts to get the attention of the Federal Government to their plight had failed.
This came even as youths from Akoko Edo Local Government Council of the state, under the aegis of Edo Youth Vanguard, AYV, called on the people of the State to disregard the report of panel of enquiry instituted by the state government to investigate the Chairman of the council, Chief Johnson Emeasealu.
The youths said that the aim of the commission was to witch-hunt Emeasealu because of his relationship with Chief Tony Anenih, the former Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Board of Trustees.
Accommodation in programme
Meanwhile, the protesters who blocked the Ugbowo-Lagos road and the gate of the Federal Government Girls College, for several hours, described the post- amnesty programme of the Federal Government as a failure and called on Acting President Goodluck Jonathan to accommodate all the ex-militants into the post amnesty programme so that they will not have to go back to the creeks.
Idowu said, â€œwe are also appealing to the state government to assist us talk to the Federal Government on the matter. We decided to lay down our arms for months now and we have not received any salary from government. Some of us have families we cannot feed because we have no money. We will not stop this protest until something is done to assist us. We are strongly appealing to our Comrade Governor to come to our assistance.â€
A statement signed by the AYV president, Comrade Topa Okomayin, Mr. Desmond Obaro, Kayode Alabi and eight orders, asserted that Chief Emeasealu was the best Chairman the council had ever produced, stressing that the â€œpeople of Akoko Edo have no confidence on the enquiry because the members were set up by the Governor, whose aim is to witch hunt Emeasealu who is an in-law to Chief Tony Anenih.â€
The statement said: â€œFrom what we have seen so far, the commission of enquiry is only taking speech from members of the Action Congress, AC, and there is no fair hearing. When did the Governor become EFCC or ICPC boss? When did the Governor become a member of the state House of Assembly? We are waiting for the Governor to give us the break down of his own stewardship and stop witch hunting Peoples Democratic Party Local Government Chairmen who refuse to defect to Action Congress.â€
Jonathan to meet with ex-militant leaders
Meantime, Acting President Goodluck Jonathan is expected to meet with ex-militant leaders in Abuja shortly to review the post-amnesty programme and the circumstances that led the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger-Delta, MEND, to disrupt the post-amnesty dialogue, organized by Vanguard Newspapers, March 15 in Warri.
Vanguard learnt that having dissolved the Federal Executive Council, FEC, the Acting President wants to take full charge of the post-amnesty programme and needed to get inputs directly from ex-militant leaders on how the programme would succeed.
An ex-militant leader told Vanguard yesterday: â€œI have been contacted that the Acting President wants to meet with us on his direction concerning post-amnesty programme and Niger-Delta, as a whole but I donâ€™t know the date for the meeting yet.
â€œThey will communicate us later when they are ready. It could either be this week or next but I know that as somebody from Niger-Delta, he will not allow the post-amnesty programme to fail.
â€œHe was not happy with what happened in Warri during the Vanguard post-amnesty dialogue and I think it was in the Vanguard also that I read he asked the former Minister of Niger-Delta, Chief Ufot Ekaette how was Warri after the bomb blast.â€