By Jimitota Onoyume
PORT HARCOURT â€” THE Federal Government has ruled out extension of the October 4 deadline for the submission of arms by militants in the Niger Delta region.
Minister for Defence, General Godwin Abbe (rtd) who made this known yesterday at the graduation ceremony of the first batch of reformed militants under the Rivers state Social and Rehabilitation Committee urged those yet to key into the presidential amnesty programme to do so.
Abbe, among other things, said the amnesty was to promote an atmosphere of peace in the region for accelerated development, noting also that the government was aware of the circumstances that informed agitation in the region which he blamed on failure of past administrations to tackle challenges in the area.
The Minister assured of the Federal Governmentâ€™s resolve to address problems of underdevelopment in the region. According to him, as a proof of this resolve, the government made development of the area a part of its seven-point agenda.
He said after the expiration of the deadline for submission of arms, government would commence counseling of the militants to determine the kind of rehabilitation for each of them and the duration.
Chairman of the Rehabilitation Committee, Chief Albert Horsfall, said a total of two hundred and ninety-nine ex-militants graduated from the rehabilitation programme and were trained in eleven different skills which included seafaring, agriculture, welding, auto mechanic and others.
Continuing, he said some of the graduates had already been given jobs by the state government and some other institutions while he called on the federal government not to fail to address issues that gave rise to the sad situation of militancy in the region.
He added that the government should open dialogue with leaders of the region and should not restrict this dialogue to any particular ethnic group. He said: â€œDo not restrict negotiation to only the militants alone that are from one ethnic group. Extend discussion to the region.â€
He challenged politicians and opinion leaders in the region to rise up to the task of providing credible leadership for the youths. He later presented certificates to the graduates and awards to some of them for outstanding performance.
On his part, Governor Rotimi Amaechi urged the militants to see hard work and prayer as the only way to success.
He challenged them with his poverty background before he rose to the top. According to him, he said after he left the university it took the grace of God for him to overcome the challenge of poverty.
Meanwhile, he promised that 20 of the total number would be employed by the government while the others would pass through a cooperative scheme to be funded by the state government in partnership with some banks.
Some of the ex-militants who spoke to Vanguard expressed dissatisfaction with the resolve of the government to employ only 20 of them.