By Mike Ebonugwo
SOME parliamentarians at the Oshodi Bus-stop in Lagos have reason to believe that the amnesty granted Niger Delta militants by the Federal Government will never succeed in halting hostilities in that restive part of the country.
At an impromptu news-stand gathering on Thursday last week, they had argued that justice rather than amnesty was what the Niger Delta needed at this point in time so that the country can move forward peacefully.
According to a parliamentarian who identified himself as Ejiro: â€œAs far as Iâ€™m concerned, they are just wasting their time with this talk of amnesty to militants.
In the first place what crime did the militants commit that you have to offer them amnesty? Is it for protesting and fighting to protect what belongs to the region that the Federal Government have been stealing all these years to develop other parts of the country while the Niger Delta is left to suffer? In fact, we are the ones to offer the Federal Government amnesty after they must have repented and made enough atonement for raping our land and impoverishing our people. Itâ€™s as simple as thatâ€.
Another parliamentarian, by name Frank Chime readily concurred, saying: â€œYes, thatâ€™s right. Look, the major cause of the problem we have in this country is lack of justice.
I donâ€™t know how anybody in his right mind will be talking of granting amnesty to the same people whose land produces the crude oil on which the economy of this country is surviving; the people who have not been enjoying the benefits of the oil wealth as much as people from other parts of the country.
Instead all they have to show for the oil being drilled from their land is poverty and suffering. And when they decided to protest you send the Army to go and bomb the place and kill their people; the same Army that is being maintained with crude oil money from the Niger Delta. Now they are talking of amnesty. Does that make sense? Let anybody show me the justice in thatâ€.
But parliamentarian Bayo Adigun did not share this sentiment. â€œNo, I donâ€™t think youâ€™re right to have described the reaction of the Niger Delta militants as a protest. Those militants are not protesters. How can you call people who are heavily armed and using their arms to blow up oil facilities and also kidnapping people, protesters?
The fact is that everybody sympathises with the Niger Delta people because of what oil exploration has done to their area. And that is why government has been doing so much for them, including setting up NDDC and creating a separate ministry for them. But some people from their area just decided to take advantage of their usual complaint about neglect to start creating problem for everybody.
Government initially ignored them. But when it came to that of blowing up oil installations and kidnapping people for ransom, of course, government has to do something about it. No responsible government will just fold its hands and allow any group to go on rampage like that, killing people and threatening the corporate existence of the country.
In fact, if they had tried what theyâ€™re doing now under Obasanjo he wouldnâ€™t have tolerated them the way Yarâ€™Adua is doing. Yarâ€™Adua reacted by first sending the military to restore order in and the area and followed it up by offering the militants amnesty so that those of them who are genuinely concerned about developing the Niger Delta will accept it so that peace can return there,â€ he submitted at length.
Before either Frank or Ejiro could respond to this, a parliamentarian who gave his name as Dele chipped in, in support of Bayoâ€™s submission.
â€œItâ€™s even these militants that are responsible for the lack of development in their area. All those facilities they have been blowing up, is it not part of the development they are crying for? How can you be demanding for development and when it comes you blow it up in the name of protesting your neglect.
If they are truly neglected, will there be anything like oil facilities there? Instead of them to take advantage of these facilities to better their lives they are busy blowing up everything. To prove that they donâ€™t even know what they are doing they even came to Lagos to blow up the Atlas Cove.
Is that how to protest? In fact, that action can even make we the Yorubas to stop supporting their cause; because we have been supporting them in their struggle all this while but they have spoiled everything by coming to bomb
Lagos…â€ he said before he was interrupted by Ejiro who did not take kindly to Bayo and Deleâ€™s comments..
According to Ejiro: â€œThe facilities the militants have been blowing up are only there for government to explore and drill oil, nothing more.
They have not brought any development to our people except suffering because of the pollution of our land and rivers. But something like the Petroleum Training Institute which will benefit us the more if they turn it into a university, they want it to remain like that.
Instead they want to set up something better in Kaduna to train petroleum engineers; this is Kaduna that does not even produce a single drop of crude oilâ€.
Deleâ€™s response to this was: â€œNa una cause now.
How are we sure that if they turn PTI into a university you people will not go there and blow the place up one day? How many experts will even get the liver to go and teach in the place where they are not sure if their lives are safe?â€ The debate soon turned into a shouting match as Ejiro and Frank quickly responded to counter Deleâ€™s argument.