By Peter Okhiria
THE Federal Government has assured that its amnesty package for militants in the Niger Delta is on course despite threats by governors of the region to pull out of the process.
Dr. Timi Koripamo-Agary, Media Co-ordinator of the Presidential Panel on Amnesty and Disarmament of Militants in the Niger Delta who gave the assurance at a Press Conference in Lagos Tuesday, also said the governmentâ€™s 60-day window for militants to surrender their arms and embrace the amnesty package will open on August 6.
According to Dr. Koripamo-Agary, the governors of the Niger Delta should not express fears on the post-amnesty package for the militants as, according to her, â€œthe exercise goes beyond just the collection of arms.
We have the programme of re-integrating them into the larger society by way of skilling them up,Â giving scholarships to those of them who have the capacity to further their education, assisting them to start small enterprises if they want and assisting their businesses.â€
She said that in spite of fears that the main militant leaders may not embrace the amnesty offer, â€œI cannot tell you if those we are talking to are MEND. But we are talking to some of the very big-time militants. We are reaching out to them and they are reaching out to me. I have spoken to some of them personally.
â€œSome of the big-time militants, I have spoken to personally, have all shown the willingness to accept the amnesty. Of course, they have their concerns which are real.
â€œThey have concerns for their personal security. They have concerns for the genuineness of this offer, whether government is to be trusted. I tell them, yes, government should be trusted. Government promi-sed to release Henry Okah, and has done so and Government is putting structures in place for their security and thatâ€™s why we didnâ€™t start off with collecting the arms. We wanted to make sure that we put structure in place for their security.
I know the boys want tro come out of the creeks, I know they are war-weary and what we are doing is to encourage them.â€
On what the Government would do if the militants failed to embrace the amnesty offer within the 60-day window, Dr Koripamo-Agary assured the window is not an end in itself. According to her, â€œthe window is available to us. I am optimistic that the militants will accept the amnesty. But if you are a good planner, you will review your plan as you move on.â€
She said the Government did not make any distinction in its amnesty proclamation on who a militant is and who would benefit from the package. She said the offer is open to both man who attacks the pipeline in the creeks and the man who kidnaps school children in the name of fighting the cause of the Niger Delta.