June 23, 2009

Amnesty: Govs to compile names of militants

No ‘arms for money’ deal, panel insists
By Jide Ajani
LAGOS — GOVERNORS of states in the Niger Delta where militants are either domiciled or operate from would be required to compile the list of militants who seek to take advantage of President Umaru Yar’Adua’s amnesty offer, Vanguard can reveal.
Also, it has been made very clear that the concept of “Arms for Money” would not be entertained in any form.

These are some of the propositions contained in the report of the Presidential Panel on Amnesty and Disarmanent of Militants in the Niger Delta which would be discussed by the National Council of State when it meets in the next 48 hours.

The 63-page document made it expressly clear that in the place of “Arms for money”, the new concept expected to be embraced by the militants would be freedom and full rehabilitation.

In Chapter One of the report, which deals with the issue of amnesty, the committee suggested thus:

“The state governors should be required to compile the list of militants that seek to take advantage of Mr. President’s reprieve and forward same through the Hon. Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation to the Presidency.”

The report further stated that granting full “amnesty to all categories of militants in the Niger Delta, including those presently undergoing criminal prosecution would engender confidence in the process and encourage every militant to participate and remove any fear of a hidden agenda and discrimination”.

In explaining its concept of disarmament, the Presidential Panel on Amnesty and Disarmament of Militants in the Niger Delta said:

“There is the need to define the concept of the disarmament process to prevent the militants from re-arming.  The concept of “Arms for money” must never be entertained.”

The Panel then placed its own preferred concept on the table:
“The recommended concept is the return of arms for full rehabilitation and freedom from prosecution.

“In addition, the slogan of ‘Arms for freedom and full rehabilitation’ should be employed by the information sub-committee.”

To back up its suggestion in the area of massive enlightenment, the Panel recommends that “all forms of media are used to disseminate the details of the amnesty being offered by the government, and to spread the message of peace for development.

The publicity will be done at the community level but national medium are included because it is important that all Nigerians are aware of the amnesty policy, appreciate the message of peace, and collectively participate in the peace process. It is obvious that what happens in the Niger Delta now could act as a template for other hot pocket areas, if they are to ever develop in any other part of Nigeria”.

As a measure of assurance, the panel goes ahead to state that “what emerges from this panel will be the basis upon which the militants in the Niger Delta will be judged as being in keeping with the law or law breakers”.

The Committee then went ahead to implore that “every effort must be made to saturate the consciousness of every Nigerian, through every means available/possible, to ensure that the expectations and outcome of the process are communicated to all so that no one can claim ignorance of what Government is doing”.