By Emma Amaize & Daniel Idonor
ABUJA â€” Leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger-Delta (MEND), Mr Henry Okah, who is standing secret trial in Jos, Plateau State, on the charge of treason, yesterday, bowed to pressure from leaders of the Niger-Delta when he finally met the Federal Government representatives and agreed to accept the government’s amnesty deal.
To this end, President Umaru Yarâ€™Adua who was delighted by this development, has directed the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Michael Aondaokaa to effect the immediately release of the MEND leader.
President Umaru Yarâ€™Adua had,Â last week, ordered the Internal Affairs Minister, Godwin Abbe, to extend the amnesty offer to Okah and promised to release him if he accepted.
Specifically, the President wants the AGF to set in motion all the necessary legal measures for the release of the detained MEND leader.
â€œThey offered it (amnesty offer) to him yesterday. Okah welcomed the amnesty,â€ one of Okahâ€™s lawyers, Wilson Ajuwa, said by telephone. â€œWe are in the process of finalising it. Hopefully, it will be resolved early next week.â€ He declined to say when he expected Okah to be freed.
Presidential spokesman, Mr. Olusegun Adeniyi who made the disclosure when he spoke to reporters yesterday said the president has mandated Aondoakaa to work with Okahâ€™s lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana, to tidy up the legal process so that the MEND leaderâ€™s release could be effected without further delay.
Adeniyi said the president who is currently attending the G-8 Summit taking place in Lâ€™Aquila, Italy particularly commended the role played by Falana in the entire process leading to Okahâ€™s acceptance of the amnesty offer.
â€œThe president is delighted to hear that he has accepted the amnesty offer and commends the role played by his lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana, in the entire issue,â€ said spokesman Olusegun Adeniyi on the sidelines of the G8 summit. â€œWith his acceptance, he will be released when the formalities are concluded.â€
Following the development, President Yarâ€™Adua, according to him, had called on the remaining militant leaders to avail them of the amnesty offer so as to pave the way for peace and rapid development in the Niger Delta for which he (president) had repeatedly pledged his commitment.
However despite several appeals to it to call off its bombing of oil installations in the Niger-Delta, Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger-Delta (MEND), yesterday, ruled out an immediate ceasefire on its intensified offensive, which was upgraded from Hurricane Piper Alpha to Hurricane Moses, some days ago.
It also said the six expatriates who were recently abducted from a chemical tanker would be kept in its custody till October 4 and that the release of Henry Okah had nothing to do with its ongoing war with the Joint Task Force (JTF) on the Niger-Delta.
In an exclusive online interview with Vanguard, spokesman of the militant group, Jomo Gbomo explained why leader of Camp 5, Government Ekpemupolo, alias Tompolo, who was declared wanted by the JTF would not surrender himself on the excuse that the government had proclaimed amnesty.
He said the militant group was more than ready to cripple the nationâ€™s economy and would achieve the target before calling off the war.
Cause of fresh offensive
According to the spokesman, â€œwhile the amnesty offer is being celebrated publicly, the JTF has been carrying out covert arrests, killings and destruction of communities with a policy to deny everything. The fact that our government (federal and state) refused to carry out any investigations on complaints or accusations is worrisome.
â€œThe disdain in which the blatant video killing of Boma and Stanley by the JTF in Bonny received, abduction of the Egbema monarch and the foot dragging over the displaced Gbaramatu civilians returning home means we must be alert. Because the Federal Government declared a unilateral amnesty offer that is cleverly delaying the release of several persons still held in its captivity means we should just follow our plan in the interim.â€
He said: â€œThe release of Okah has nothing to do with MEND because he is an individual adult who can choose to accept or reject the terms of his pardon. Mandela was offered freedom many times but chose to remain in prison until the terms were favorable to the cause he was fighting. If Okah comes out alive and goes for his treatment and asks us to cease fire, we will obey. Okahâ€™s release was never tied to MENDâ€™s acceptance.â€
On whether some MEND leaders would want to be paid for the arms they surrender and governmentâ€™s refusal to do so, the spokesman said; â€œMaybe some MEND commanders are making unilateral negotiations we are not aware, but as a group, the issue of buy-back has not even been raised by the group because the amnesty as presented by the President could not have been directed at freedom fighters but common criminals.â€