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Day 2: Militants shun arms collection centres in Delta

By Emma Amaize and Festus Ahon
MILITANTS appear to have shunned the call by the Federal Government to turn in their arms in Delta State , as none of them showed up, yesterday, at the arms collection centres on the second day of the renunciation exercise.

At two of the Federal Government Colleges , Warri and Otu-Jeremi arms collection centres, yesterday, the security agents manning the centres sat doing nothing, as there was no militant willing to surrender his arms. The third arms collection centre in the state is at the Warri North Local Government Council secretariat.

Saturday Vanguard was told the Presidential Committee on Amnesty did not carry out effective consultation with the militants before setting up the arms collection centres and so, it was difficult for them to readily embrace it without knowing the legal implications.

President Umaru Yar'adua flanked by Vice President Goodluck Jonathan (l) and Mr. Victor Ebikabowei a.k.a. Generaal Boiloaf when the President received the first batch of militants that accepted the Federal Government amnesty at a ceremony in Abuja. Photo by Abayomi Adeshida
President Umaru Yar'adua flanked by Vice President Goodluck Jonathan (l) and Mr. Victor Ebikabowei a.k.a. Generaal Boiloaf when the President received the first batch of militants that accepted the Federal Government amnesty at a ceremony in Abuja. Photo by Abayomi Adeshida

A source at the Federal Government College arms collection centre in Warri, however, said, “The exercise was just beginning, give them some time, they will come to accept amnesty and drop their arms. This is just the second day, it is too early for you to make conclusions.

One of the leaders of the deadly underdogs, whose leader, Ezekiel had formally declared his acceptance of amnesty told Saturday Vanguard when contacted, yesterday, “My master has accepted amnesty, we are finalizing the details. He would hand over, and there is still time to do so”.

To qualify for the presidential amnesty and unconditional pardon, all those who participated directly or indirectly in militant struggles or the commission of offences in the course of militant activities in the Niger-Delta are expected to turn in their arms, register, and take oath of renunciation.

. . lull activities at Bayelsa

For two con-secutive days, the arms and ammunition collection centres in Bayelsa State recorded a lull in activity, even as Governor Timipre Sylva has expressed confidence that the Federal Government’s Amnesty and Disarmament plan, which came into effect last Thursday, would work.

Sylva also noted that the plan was the foundation for a more stable investment climate in the Niger Delta.

Though no fewer than five militant  leaders, including Gen Boyloaf, estranged MEND Commander in the state, Commander Joshua Maciver, Commander Africa Okpurasia, Commander Ogunbos, and their followers in the state have made up their minds to embrace the amnesty, they are yet to surrender their arms, ostensibly due to apprehension of the soldiers.

The arms’ collection centres, it was, however, learnt would be a beehive of activities next week if information reaching  Saturday Vanguard was anything to go by, given the series of consultations between some concerned community leaders and youths on the need to ensure the success of the programme.

Also, the military high command, through the Joint Task Force, yesterday reassured the militants that none of them would be arrested or molested during the amnesty period and called on them to avail themselves of the opportunity offered by President Yar”Adua’s amnesty aimed at bringing lasting peace to the region. development to the region.

An senior military officer said:   “No militant would be arrested, given the amnesty granted by President Umaru Yar’Adua.  If a militant comes with his arm at the gate of the venue and refused to come in to surrender the arms, we will not arrest him.

“Reports from across the four designated arms’ collection centres at Ekeremor, Nembe, Oporoma in Southern Ijaw local government and Sagbama is not encouraging and there is need for government to embark on a sensitization tour of the communities to draw the boys out of the creek.”

But a freedom fighter and Ijaw youth activist in the state, Nengi James, insisted that genuine freedom fighters do”t need amnesty because they were not criminals and convicts.

James argued that amnesty was not the problem of the suffering Niger Delta indigenes, stressing that he would continue to fight for the region’s struggle till he dies.

“I have committed myself to fighting for the less privileged as a human rights activist in the Niger Delta. As far I am concerned, Niger Delta issues are yet to be addressed by the federal government. Amnesty or no amnesty, Niger Delta freedom fighters are agitating that the Nigeria state should be restructured.

“We should have self determination, there must be resource control and we should be developed,” James explained.
In far away United States of America (USA), Governor Timipre Sylva expressed confidence that the federal government’s Amnesty and Disarmament plan would work, adding that it was the foundation for a more stable investment climate.

He told officials of the World Bank at the Bank’s head office in Washington DC that “the next three months will be transformational as a result of the implementation of the amnesty package.”

Chief Sylva told the forum that his administration initiated the federal government’s disarmament plan, adding that Bayelsa has adopted what he called the ‘Triple E’ policy of Education, Empowerment and Enforcement to ensure a holistic rehabilitation of the militants.

He said in addition to the adoption of the Triple E” policy, the government funded the recent report by Coventry cathedral on the potential for Peace and Reconciliation in the Niger Delta.

Meanwhile, the state government has called on natives in communities hosting the arms’ collection points and rehabilitation centres to remain calm, in spite of the heavy military presence in their domain.

Secretary to the State Government, Gideon Ekeuwei, made the appeal at a meeting with representatives of the communities.

Ekeuwei, who pleaded with the communities to help sensitize their folks not to panic due to  heavy military presence, said the soldiers would be responsible to properly secure arms surrendered and protect the militants that will be coming to drop their weapons.

Appealing to the militants to come out and surrender their arms, he said anyone who dropped his weapons, proper documenting will be made and such militant will be re-integrated into the society.

Lamenting that criminal elements have taken over the struggle, Ekeuwei warned that such criminals would be distinguished from the actual militants in the struggle and treated accordingly.

He  noted that anybody who wants to surrender his arms must pass through a well recognized militant camp.


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