*Development can’t be achieved overnight – President
* Logistic problem hampers return of militants’ arms
By Daniel Idonor and Jimitota Onoyume
Repentant militant, Victor Ebikabowei alias General Boyloaf declared on Friday that his faction of the Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta (MEND) would not hesitate to return to the creeks to resume hostilities should the Federal Government fail in living up to its promise of delivering holistic development of the region.
Boyloaf, leading 30 other members of the group to a meeting with President Umaru Yarâ€™Adua in Abuja listed his groupâ€™s demands as immediate correction of constitutional injustice, rapid development of the region, massive creation of job opportunities for youths and immediate implementation of the recommendations of the Ledum Mittee Presidential Committee report.
But President Yarâ€™Adua told them that much as he and his administration were committed to rapid development of the region, â€œit will not be overnightâ€, because as he said, development takes time. â€œIf you want to construct a 200 kilometre of road, it will take between two and three years, no matter how hard you try. So, it is important to have peace and securityâ€, he stressed.
Boyloaf, explaining why militants took up arms in the first place, said they could not fold â€œour arms and see the future of generations yet unborn crumble before our eyes when people are hungry, and dying; our infrastructure are in a deplorable state, our communities have no water and light; oil spillage and gas flaring is the order of the day; our youths are unemployed; and this is the same region that produces over 90 per cent of our national income.Â How then do we fold our arms?â€
Past promises, he said, were in vain but was confident that the present administration would match its word with action. â€œWe want to see genuine change and development in the Niger Delta region. The world knows that the people of Niger Delta are not asking the Nigerian state for too much. At this juncture may I use this opportunity to remind this administration of her slogan â€œRule of Lawâ€.Â It should be noted that in the spirit of rule of law, equity and justice come into play. All we are asking for is correction of injustice done to the Niger Delta regionâ€, he said. He thanked Governor Timipreye Silva of Bayelsa State who he said made their Abuja trip possible following repeated assurances and for providing the logistics.
Others present at the ceremony were Vice President Goodluck Jonathan, Governor Timipreye Silva of Bayelsa State and members of the Presidential Panel on Amnesty led by Gen. Godwin Abbe (rtd). President Yarâ€™Adua expressed gratitude to Victor Ben (Boyloaf) and his entourage for their acceptance of amnesty, saying â€œI had made a proclamation and called on all militants and their leaders to take advantage of the amnesty so that we can have peace and security in the Niger Delta states without which development will not be possible.
The leaders of the militants and the men they lead are young Nigerians with talent, capacities and abilities to serve not only the people of their states but the people of Nigeria and some of them have the ability and capacity to even serve humanity if given the opportunity.
It is disheartening to see that young,Â energetic, intelligent Nigerians are Â Â Â spending their lives in the creeks which is not allowed for any Nigerian. No Nigerian leader will wish to see any Nigerian living that kind of life. I think it is high time we gave the opportunity to our teeming youths in the Niger delta states that are in the creeks to come out to be rehabilitated, leave a normal life like any other person in this country, and have the opportunity that any other person in this country has. I have confidence that we have youths who are energetic, who can contribute to nation building, who will contribute to humanity, who have great support in seeking the peace and security in this region.
â€œWe are concerned about the development of the states. So what we are doing today is to intervene and commend the other leaders you come with it is not a small feat, it is a very courageous act on your part. And again, I want to thank you and commend you for displaying this extra-ordinary courage for displaying this patriotic zeal for the people of the Niger delta states and for the nation in generalâ€.
The President asked the repentant militants to â€œwork together with the chairman of the amnesty the Minister of Defence to work out the logistics of everything on how your arms and also filling you and your members the renunciation of amnesty forms. I call upon other militant leaders to please also do same so that after this phase, then we can now sit down and receive you collectively as leaders, to discuss issues that need to be discussedâ€.
*Amnesty Committee faces logistic problem in Bonny: Meanwhile, there was no sign, Friday,Â at the designated centre in Bonny for the collection of arms indicating its readiness for the exercise. The Federal Government Primary School, Shell Road, in Bonny, venue of the exercise was under lock and key. One community source said, â€œNo personnel from the committee or even the security are here. The school has been locked because of the ongoing holiday for studentsâ€.
When contacted, the state coordinator of the amnesty project, Mr. Bestman Woke blamed the situation on lack of logistics.Â But he promised that the problem would be solved soonest and advised militants willing to surrender to contact the Joint Task Force in Bonny. There are four centers for the collection in the state. The others are Government Secondary School, Ogoloma, Abonnema Girls Secondary School, Abonnema and Government secondary school, Ka, in Gokana local government area.
Investigations at all the centers revealed that no surrender was made by any militant on Friday. The story was the same on Thursday, nobody turned in arms. A militant who was simply called Osama Bin Laden was the first to surrender in the state. He did a day after the presidential amnesty was announced. His arms and ammunition were received by the former Inspector General of Police, Mr.Â Mike Okiro in the state.