By Jimitota Onoyume
PORT HARCOURT â€” The foursome of Ateke Tom, Farah Dagogo, Soboma George and Ebikabowei Victor Ben (aka Boyloaf) say they would only surrender their arms after a meeting with President Shehu Musa Yar Adua where they intend to raise some grey areas bothering on the amnesty granted militants in the region.
The militants who spoke through their representatives in Port Harcourt yesterday said the proposed meeting would be by proxy.Â Meanwhile, they described the amnesty granted militants in the region as an offer of peace, adding that it should not be misconstrued to mean that they (militants) were criminals.
They assured they would work towards ensuring enduring peace in the region.
â€œWe see the proclamation of amnesty strictly as an offer of peace, this is because the Niger Delta militants are not criminals, but freedom fighters who have over the years given their time, money, energy, liberty and lives, towards ensuring that Niger Delta people receive a fair treatment from the oil companies and the federal government, that the God given resources of Niger Delta people are controlled by them and that the Niger Delta environment is restored and fully protected from further degradationâ€
â€œThe leaders of the Niger Delta struggle represented by us and all the militants with them hereby accept peace as encapsulated in the said offer of amnesty, and pledge to work towards ensuring that an enduring peace and development is restored to the Niger Delta regionâ€
â€œThat all the leaders of the Niger Delta struggle represented by usÂ hereby request that their representatives be granted an immediate audience with President Umaru Yar Adua so as to brief him first hand, reach a consensus with him on all issues agitating our minds with respect to the issue of the amnesty proclaimed by him and so as to engender the perception of transparency and openness in the entire process with a view to immediately resolving all areas of doubt and with a view to quickly fast tracking the entire process, towards an immediate restoration of peace in the Niger Delta.â€
â€œThat after the meeting of the representatives of the leaders of the Niger Delta struggle with Mr. President and depending on the out come of the said meeting the leaders will then announce when they will begin to handover the arms and ammunitions in their possession to the federal governmentâ€Bar Ikenana Enekweizu represented Ateke Tom, Mr. Innocent Iboroma stood in for Farah Dagogo,Â Chief Cletus Arerebo was for Boy Loaf and Pastor Success Jack represented Soboma George.
In a related development, Niger Delta Non Violent Movement has said the amnesty granted militants in the region would not achieve the desired result. According to President of the group, Mr. Onengiye Erekosima, the federal government failed to engage in wide consultations with militants and other stakeholders in the region to harmonize on fundamental issues to the success of the amnesty
â€œThe movement is of the view that discussing the operational methods with the so called militants does not in any way lower the sovereignty of government rather will make it feasible for total surrender of arms. Now that government is talking about surrendering arms, do they know the number of arms in the possession of the so called militants? Do they know how many the so called militants are? Do they know the caliber of weapons in the possession of the so called militants? The best bet is for government to work with their representatives so that each so called militant leader will declare the arms and types h has, the number of his boys. With that, a surrendering centre will be approved for each of the leaders and his boys. At the site to receive the leaders and his boys will be members of the civil society, representatives of the government, members of the international organization and the press. If the security men want to be there to ensure tranquility, they are welcomeâ€
â€œThe movement is also not happy that the president never mentioned the time of the release of Henry Okah and others before the deadline of the amnesty. It is equally sad that two months given for the surrender of arms is unrealistic and suggested duration of six months. If this is not so history might repeat itself â€œ
â€œThe amnesty did not address the fears of the boys of the so called militant leaders that exposure of their identity would make it difficult for them to be rehabilitated in societyâ€
Meanwhile, PENGASSAN has hailed the amnesty granted militants in the region.Â Spokesman of the oil body in the zone, Comrade Chika Onuegbu said thus, â€œwe are happy about the amnesty offer especially as it is unconditional and extended to those on trial. We hope that it will signal a new beginning in the Niger delta. A new beginning of peace and development, hope, mutual trust and understanding. Everybody living in the Niger Delta appreciates the urgent need for peace and development of the region. We appeal to the youths and elders of the Niger delta to reciprocate the gesture. We also urge the federal government to immediately begin the massive development of the Niger Delta in the spirit of reconciliation. This will further demonstrate their resolve to address the issues that gave rise to the crisis and ensure that those profiting from the crises will not have an opportunity to do so again. We need peace, harmonious co existence and development in the Niger delta