By Emma Amaize, Jimitota Onoyume & Daniel Idonor
PORT HARCOURT â€”THE crack in the rank of militants further deepened, yesterday, with a statement from the Joint Revolutionary Council (JRC), an umbrella body of militants in the region which distanced the body from the recent action and pronouncements of the Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta (MEND).
The statement signed by Cynthia Whyte said some persons within MEND had become self-centered in the name of pursuing the struggle for the region. The statement which noted the right of Boyloaf to embrace the amnesty by the Federal Government reaffirmed the commitment of the JRC to the struggle of the region
â€œThe JRC has no relationship whatsoever with the â€˜entityâ€™ tagged Gbomo Jomo. Our campaign is not driven by the despicable penchant of self seeking elements to arrogate to themselves virtual powers. We will not allow the struggle for the liberation and emancipation of the Niger Delta to be wholly hijacked by self-seeking elements. MEND is a clearing house. Jomo and some others hold the key to some of the storage boxes within that clearing house.
â€œWe do not have any relationship whatsoever with that MEND even though we have a real relationship with commanders within its virtual structure.
â€œGeneral Boyloaf is an outstanding hero of the Ijaw and Niger Delta struggle. The attempt to malign him and rubbish his name is the handiwork of a dubiously ungrateful cabal who have soiled their hands with filthy lucre which they have collected from a presidential aide.
â€œIt is the height of ingratitude for anyone to try to undermine General Boyloaf. If he wants amnesty like any other, he should go for it. What is good for the goose is also good for the gander.
11 militant leaders disown Boyloaf
However, eleven militant leaders who claim to be unit commanders of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger-Delta (MEND) yesterday in Warri, Delta state disowned â€œGeneralâ€ Boyloaf, who led over 30 militant leaders to Abuja, at the weekend to surrender and accept the amnesty offer of the Federal Government, accusing him of deceiving the public on the amnesty programme.
However, one of those said to have signed the statement discrediting Boyloaf, John Togo, disowned it, yesterday, when he was contacted by Vanguard, saying it was not true that he and others were not in support of Boyloaf and acceptance of the amnesty programme.
Another militant leader in Agge, Commander John said he was approached by a colleague militant leader over the weekend and told that a politician (names withheld) brought some money for them to discredit Boyloaf.
He said he was promised N150,000 to append his signature but he refused to be used, as he saw that the plot was a wicked one and borne out of envy against Boyloaf by the politician and others.
In the statement signed by the commanders: Togo, Smarth, Etale, Ekiere, Julius, Panya, Abi Labor, Freeborn, Ebiotu, Pius and Afekuro, theyÂ dismissed the insinuationÂ there was a crack in MEND, saying the recent tirade by a former leader of the group, â€œGeneralâ€ Boyloaf against Henry Okah was unfounded, unauthorized and misguided
But John Togo stated, â€œSome people are angry because we have decided to accept amnesty and be part of the Federal Government decision to bring peace to the Niger-Delta, they are lying, some people are using them, it is not true, those people are fake,â€ he said.
The unit commanders in their statement said they were amazed at the manner â€˜Generalâ€™ Boyloaf was conscripted to Abuja by the Governor of Bayelsa State, Chief Timipreye Sylva to purportedly represent their interest and that of other militants in a meeting that was held with President Umaru Yarâ€™Adua in Abuja.
The militants asked the Federal Government to desist, henceforth, from dealing with Boyloaf as their representative, but, consider him in his individual capacity as a repentant militant.
The group of militants said it was ready to surrender its arms if the Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta Matters, Mr. Timi Alaibe could make a public statement, assuring its members of their safety and other promises of the government.
â€œHe is the only one we have confidence in and he is the only one we can hold responsible if all these promises failâ€, they added.
Criminal militants flushed out of Rivers â€” Amaechi
Meanwhile, Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers state says criminal elements that hitherto held the state hostage under the guise of agitating for better federal government attention for the Niger Delta region have been flushed out of the state.
Governor Amaechi who spoke in Port Harcourt at a ceremony organised by Etisalat network to flag off its operations in the state capital said peace had fully returned to the state. According to him, the era when hoodlums under the cover of militancy held Port Harcourt under siege and shot indiscriminately was over.
The governor who was represented by his deputy, Mr. Tele Ikuru said those into hostage taking and other related crimes should not be misconstrued to be militants. For him, militants are those genuinely fighting for better attention for the region.
â€œKidnappers are criminals. We have brought these criminals in the state under control. You canâ€™t shoot guns again in Port Harcourt and go free.â€
2011: Why we initially pulled out of amnesty deal â€” Uduaghan
In Warri, Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan of Delta State also gave, at the weekend, the reasons why the South-South Governors threatened, last month, at Asaba, to pull out of the Federal Government amnesty programme for militants, saying the heroic resolution had nothing to do with the speculated 2011 agenda of the governors.
Dr. Uduaghan who spoke exclusively to Vanguard asserted, â€œPeople keep talking about 2011, there are six governors that took this decision and out of the six, for now, at least, four of the governors, even if they are coming back to office, it may not be 2011 because of the various court cases, re-election and all that, so when some people talk about 2011, I just laugh, all the elections involving the governors will not come in 2011, so it has nothing to do with 2011â€.
N-Delta women give conditions for accepting amnesty
Women from the six states of the Niger-Delta have said they would not be part of the amnesty programme until the Federal Government rebuilds the communities destroyed by the Joint Task Force (JTF) on the Niger-Delta in Gbaramatu kingdom in Delta State and adequately compensate the evacuated women.
They took the resolution at a roundtable organised by the Gender Action Group (GAG), a coalition of womenâ€™s rights and development groups in Warri, Delta State at the weekend.
In a communiquÃ©, signed by about 50 women representatives, led by Hilda Dokubo, they said, â€œThe concept of amnesty must be holistic addressing the demands of the Niger Delta peopleâ€, pointing out, â€œEvery weapon surrendered must be in exchange for jobs, educational scholarships and other forms of development for the region, otherwise, women will have to surrender their pots, pans, buckets of pepper, grinding stones, mortar pestles etc asweapons of their warfareâ€.
The women observed, â€œThe amnesty offer by the Federal Government has no potentials of addressing the root causes of the agitations/violence in the Niger Delta, it is simply a noose over the head of the Niger Delta people.
â€œDue to the huge amount allocated for amnesty and militants by the Federal Government, other regions are beginning to develop their own militant groups and claiming all sorts of havoc and ownership of weapons.
â€œWomen suffer the most during times of conflict, violence and war but are always left out during negotiations and settlement; and though women do not know the exact daily oil production and the revenue generated from oil, they bear the brunt of the activities of oil companies and the destruction of the environment,â€ they observed.
Amnesty on course â€” Presidency
However, the Presidency yesterday declared that it is delighted with the response from militants and their leaders and the consequent progress recorded so far, saying that contrary to what few people assume, the process is having a smooth sail in the creeks.
Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to the President, Mr. Olusegun Adeniyi who fielded questions in Abuja from State House Correspondents stated that â€œI can assure you that the Amnesty process is going on very well to the delight of the President, contrary to what some people assumeâ€.
According to the Presidential spokesman, â€œthe disarmament we are talking about is a painstakingly technical process which requires behind-the-scene negotiations that would ultimately lead to ridding the Niger-Delta of armed camps so that peace can return for developmentâ€.
He commended Mr. Ben Victor aka Gen. Boyloaf, his comrades and the entire leadership of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger-Delta for choosing the path of peace and development which gave rise to their acceptance of the amnesty.
â€œThat is why I must commend not only Boyloaf and his comrades who were the first to publicly accept the Amnesty but indeed the entire MEND leadership, who have shown clearly in recent days that they are for peace and development in the Niger-Deltaâ€, he said
In fact, he was optimistic that, â€œif the on-going negotiation continues the way they are going, this whole amnesty process can be tidied up before the 60 days official period.
â€œThe Presidentâ€, he noted, is â€œvery delighted with the renewed commitment of the Niger-Delta Governors and leaders some of who have made critical interventions in the last one weekâ€.
He therefore â€œadvised the media not to judge the success of the exercise by the number of arms or militants who turn-up at the collection centres just as I want to make it clear that the Federal Government is not negotiating with groups or individuals who want payment for armsâ€.
He pointed out that â€œthe negotiation is with MEND and other militant leaders who are seeking genuine commitment to the development of the Niger-Delta which is basically the principal agenda of President Yarâ€™Aduaâ€.