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Amnesty to Militants: Will it work? — Prominent Nigerians speak

Few days after President Umaru Yar’Adua proclaimed amnesty for Niger Delta militants who deem it fit to surrender
their arms and embrace peace, there have been different opinions on the government initiative towards bringing
lasting peace to the volatile region.

With varying opinions on the issue  with some considering it as a turning
point and panacea for a lasting peace for the region, while others say sovereignly and genuine sincerity in the
development of the region is crucial to the presence of peace. As militants are being expected to avail
themselves of this opportunity by turning in their weapons, Saturday Vanguard went to town to know the reactions
of poeple on this Amnesty offer, prominent Nigerias spoke.

It’s baldadash

“Until we stop fooling ourselves in this country, nothing will work. If the sponsors of militants in the military
and government aren’t identified and stopped, amnesty will be balderdash. That is dancing with the devil”. — Dr.
Olisa Imegwu,  Former Speaker of Delta State House of Assembly

We welcome the amnesty, but…

“The amnesty in itself is a palliative measure to give way to a genuine all-involving negotiations leading to the
resolution of years of injustices in the area,”

This is what I have been advocating that trustworthy local leaders who can be acceptable to both parties of the
dispute should be involved in the negotiation to an amicable settlement of the problem. The government will table
its position and the boys themselves will articulate their own position and an amicable solution will be worked
out with the selected elders or trusted stakeholders as mediators.

That way, there can be a proper dialogue that
will fashion out a way forward out of the Niger Delta crisis. At the end of the day, both parties could reach an
agreement which will then be signed by representatives of both parties and then it becomes a proper document and
implementation begins.

“For that proper healing, everyone should be granted amnesty including Henry Okah. All the charges against him
and even Alhaji Asare Dokubo should be dropped. That is what I advocate for; because it will then become a
complete amnesty. It is a period of real peace because no nation can genuinely move forward in an atmosphere of
crisis. Everyone now has an opportunity to come together and embrace one another as it happened immediately after
the Nigerian Civil War in 1970 when both parties embraced themselves in the belief that there was no victor and
no vanquished.

“Whatever has happened before now, should be regarded as past and of no significance; should be seen as null and
void. As far as I am concerned amnesty means total forgiveness of past perceived offences. It may not be the end
to the larger problem of the Niger Delta as you well know, because the real issues are still pending and that is
why we call on the Federal Government as well as the oil companies operating in the area to speedily address the
neglect, injustice and the degradation of the area over the years.— Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, National President of
the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, PFN

“It is highly commendable

“It is highly commendable, but the main problem is sincerity of promised implementation on both sides”.— Dr.
Joshua Enueme, Ex-Commissioner/governorship aspirant, Delta state.

“It is a welcome development and a thing of joy to all Nigerians, particularly coming from a Government  that has
development of the Niger Delta region as part of its agenda.  It gives a relieving feeling that the cause of the
agitation/militancy is going to be addressed and our people will not be punished for their effort in drawing
attention of the Federal Government to our plight “

— Chief Barrister Ejaife Odebala, Commissioner, Delta state

Amnesty should aim at development

“Amnesty to those militants that have seen so much money than some local governments should be carefully
considered. The government should apply a strategy to checkmate them in case they decide to display any form of
rebellion to cause havoc in future.

Some of the militants have engaged in activities that have fetched them stupendous ill gotten wealth that they
may become difficult to manage. They could  not be larger than society if well policed and tackled.

The government should not grant amnesty because it wants peace in the creeks and the region just to allow oil
flow for the country to earn revenue. Rather the government should strategise and think seriously of the security
measures to be put in place to halt any misdemeanor from the repentant militants. The amnesty should aim at job
creation and empowerment for them.”

— Dr. Dappa Tamuno-Omi Godwin,  Nigeria’s UN Representative to Kenya and Darfur

It is a welcome development but if…

“The amnesty though a welcome development will not be complete if the alleged sponsors of the militants are not
made public. The government should do the right thing first by releasing the names of those behind the boys.
Several lives have been lost in the last three years. My appeal is that the names of the sponsors be released
then we will know where to start from. Without that I don’t think the amnesty will have any effect. As long as
the backers of these boys who incidentally are government officials are not arrested to face the wrath of the
law, then the boys will not know the game is up.

Look at the case of Ken Niweigha. Here is a young man that was arrested and was in handcuffs. All of a sudden we
heard he was killed. Why should he be killed? We heard the young man had made statement before indicting some
persons in government in Bayelsa State . So why should he be killed like that? If the presidency really wants to
solve the problem, then the sponsors should be exposed.” — Comrade Joseph Ambakederemo, Coordinator of
South-South Progressive Element Union.

‘I’ll drop my arms’

“It is a welcome development. I am willing to embrace the amnesty offer and drop  my arms in consonance with the
policy of the Federal Government. We have been in perpetual political and economic slavery over the years in
spite of the huge resources the country is generating from the region.

“I carried a gun against the Federal
Government and the companies operating in the area in protest against the injustice and what I could term as
modern slavery of the people of the Niger Delta. The offer of  amnesty is a welcome development and we are
prepared to drop our arms provided the federal government is going to be sincere and seriously address our
demands. We are prepared to drop our arms. We are all Nigerians and will think and do reasonable things for
Nigeria.”  — General Africa, Niger Delta Militant Leader.

‘There should be no ulterior motive’

“You cannot talk about amnesty without first demonstrating that you are willing and ready to do it without any
ulterior motive. A clear example was during Obasanjo government. Asari Dokubo was granted amnesty which made him
to go as far as submitting his arms to the federal government. After few months, he was arrested and was

incarcerated for two years. Secondly, if you are talking of amnesty, there are other people you have detained. Who are they? Are they freedom fighters or you are treating them as common criminals? That is the likes of Henry
Okah and the rest of them. If you want to treat them as genuine fighters, I think they should be released. If
they are not genuine fighters, what becomes the fate of those who will accept the amnesty offer and submit their
arms to the president after? These are some of  the questions so many of us have not found answers to. If the
government is sincere, it should begin to demonstrate it. Let us begin to identify those who deserves this

In the first place, their struggle is not about getting amnesty. The government must be prepared to develop the
region. The are not just asking for jobs. There minimum demand is a sovereign national conference and how far has
the government gone in that direction. What happens to the children that have been made orphans because of the
JTF’s presence and who are suffering deprivation under the  guise of fighting criminality in the region? — Alhaji
Yerima Shettima, President Arewa Youths Consultative Forum (AYCF)

‘It’s a gimmick’

“The amnesty is a gimmick by the government to cow them. This is  because the way the government is going
through the JTF, we cannot stop the Niger Delta youths, whose future is being put into jeopardy by the activities
of the exploiters of the natural resources of that region. They know that no JTF or all the bombardments in this
world can stop them from defending their common patrimony.

So, it is a gimmick to let them tarry a while so that
the federal government would be able to instal its own stooges among the people of the region who will continue
to sway opinion against the popular agitation of the Niger Deltans. …The amnesty is a way of making them to
abandon the genuine cause they are pursuing today so that  they  will have a field day in exploiting their common
heritage without anybody raising an eye brow.

The arrest of Asari Dokubo is one of the manifestations of the
deceptive tendencies of the federal government. It they are granting amnesty and sincerely want to implement the
letters of the amnesty, why arresting a youth leader in the same region? If they  have  cause to discuss with
such a youth leader, why not invite him and allow him to come at his own time and convenience?”  — Mr. Debo
Adeniran, Chairman, Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders (CACOL)

‘It’s long overdue’

“I think that the issue of amnesty is another piecemeal attempt by the federal government in solving the Niger
Delta crisis. Who are they granting amnesty? You can only grant amnesty to criminals and these people as far as
I’m concerned are freedom fighters. What they need to do to solve the Niger Delta crisis, including militancy, is
to develop the region, stop gas flaring and  release of Henry Okah. Other issues that have been raised by the
people of the region should also be addressed.

That is what will solve the problem. I see the amnesty as an insult to the people of Niger Delta. They did not beg anybody for amnesty. You cannot talk of amnesty and the
next day you are arresting  an Asari Dokubo who was not firing any gun. …And if government is moving in that
direction in Niger Delta, it is good. But it shouldn’t be as part of the conditions for the amnesty. I see that
as a continuous responsibility of government.

That is what they are supposed to be doing and not doing it as a
special favour for the region. So, it is the constitutional duty of government to train young people who are
jobless to help them see how they can acquire skills and make themselves useful and if government is moving in
that direction, I think it is laudable. But I don’t see how they can connect that to amnesty because it has been
long overdue in Niger Delta and in all other parts of the country.” — Comrade Agba Justin Jalingo, President
Nigerian Renaissance Movement (NRM)

‘No amount of amnesty can change the situation’

“The issue of Niger Delta is economic. It is injustice and unless the Federal Government is ready to demonstrate
the political will to address the issues of injustice,  development  and  welfare of the Niger Deltans, no amount
of amnesty can change the situation of poverty in the region.” — Comrade Moshood Erubami, Former President of
Campaign for Democracy and Chairman of Transition Monitoring Group

‘It is a welcome development’

The issue of amnesty is a welcome development. For a period of time, Ijaw youths have been insisting on amnesty
as part of the “conducive environment” needed for the restoration of normalcy to the Niger Delta region. However
amnesty is just a fragment of the package we are talking about.

Amnesty on its own will not bring about normalcy in the region. What we proposed is sustainable process that involves disarmament, demobilization, re-orientation,
re-organization and re-integration (DDRRR) while amnesty is one of the preconditions for the processes to begin.
…Most of the combatants in the creeks do not have confidence on the pronouncements of the Nigerian government
with respect to resolving the crisis in the region.

We took this point into consideration in drafting the DDRRR
programme. In the DDRRR, we proposed that the amnesty, and the in fact the entire DDRRR process, should be
gazetted or legalised through the National Assembly. In addition, there should be an international arbitrator
such the UN, AU, EU, or ECOWAS. This will bring a good measure of confidence.

•Dr. Felix Tuodolo, Pioneer President of Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) worldwide.


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