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Amnesty package offensive, says group

By Emma Amaize
WARRI — FRONT for Ijaw Survival and Hope (FISH) has said the brand of amnesty proclaimed for militants by President Umaru Yar’Adua is insulting and markedly different from what Ijaw and Niger-Delta leaders requested from the Federal Government for freedom fighters.

It, therefore, urged the government to shelve the idea of Niger-Delta freedom fighters swearing to an oath as though they were convicted criminals, stressing that the amnesty requested by leaders of Ijaw/Niger-Delta and which was first offered by former President Olusegun Obasanjo and extended by President Yar’Adua was a call for inclusive dialogue for peace in the region.

In a statement, yesterday, by the group’s Director of Operations, Comrade Solomon Aloba, the group warned that the wrong perception of the requested amnesty by President Yar’Adua could destroy the quest for peace in the Niger-Delta.

It noted that President Obasanjo settled for dialogue and didn’t propose to criminalise generation of Ijaw/Niger Delta freedom fighters with a tag of pardoned criminals as President Yar’Adua’s amnesty seeks to do with renunciation oaths.

Asserting that Ijaw name would be tarnished with the present brand of amnesty, FISH tasked patriotic youths in the struggle to think of the  Ijaw name before embracing the insult to the Ijaw nation.

FISH demanded that Ijaw leaders should ask President Umaru Yar’Adua to shelve oath administration that seeks to first convict people as criminals, adding that “genuine peace is possible through dialogue and compromises and without seeking to call the Ijaw nation pardoned criminals over activities the federal government’s admitted neglect caused.”

Stressing that unborn generation of Ijaw would not forgive Nigeria over this avoidable tag, FISH said the limitation of the amnesty for arms surrender to Niger Delta freedom fighters was selective and demanded that President Yar’Adua actualized true federalism, proper democracy and pursue dialogue ahead of a national disarmament process in the interest of Nigeria .

“We share Mr. President’s worry for the economy due to the crisis, not his optimism that selective amnesty seeking to criminalize beyond selectively mopping up arms in the Niger Delta would solve the problem.

“Nigeria would be better with true federalism and democracy which can knock the bottom off the principal reasons for arms build-up nationwide.

“Nigeria has at various times recorded free use of arms in crisis involving the O’odua Peoples Congress (OPC) in the South-West, the Arewa and other groups in the North, MASSOB and Bakassi in the East of Nigeria and among several other ethnic groups in the South-South.

“Have all these weapons been mopped up? Why leave out those arms in other parts of the country and selectively deal with the Niger Delta arms? Isn’t that shadow-chasing? FISH queried.


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