By Henry Umoru
ABUJAâ€”ONE-time Federal Commissioner for Information, Chief Edwin Clark, said yesterday that if the Federal Government amnesty programme must succeed, the idea of taking the finger-prints of the militants must stop.
Addressing newsmen in Abuja yesterday, Clark, who warned that amnesty by President Umaru Yarâ€™Adua must not be mistaken for prisoners being freed, stressed that at the end of the day, there must be dialogue and they should be engaged as supervisors of the pipelines, security men in the flow stations in their own areas as well asÂ pay them adequately.
The elder statesman, who called for the withdrawal of soldiers from the region if there must be genuine reconciliation and replaced with mobile policemen, said the government should involve elder statesmen, community leaders and other stakeholders from the region in the peace process.
â€œA period should be set up for dialogue between the militants, the elders in the area and the government to know where are we going to;Â amnesty is not an end in itself it is a means to an end. So, I congratulate the Federal Government onÂ making the move but the elders of the Niger Delta, the leaders of the Niger Delta want a stake in involving a system that will be of benefit to everybody in this countryâ€, he said.
According to him, â€œWell, in principle, we have all accepted Mr. Presidentâ€™s amnesty of providing peace or amnesty to the boys. But let me clear one point; people should not look at the amnesty as an attempt to free prisoners or to forgive prisoners who have committed offence and therefore amnesty is not appropriate at this time. I say no.
â€œAfter 1970, after the civil war every Ibo man or every easterner was given amnesty. They did not commit offence they were fighting for their own survival in the country.Â Those who were in the army, immigration or police who were working for Biafra returned to their jobs after the pardon or after the amnesty.
I was in NPN when we thought that we can enhance our political status by inviting Ojukwu from Ivory Coast to join NPN and he came.
â€œAnd, Ojukwu contested election some time ago. So, what Iâ€™m trying to say is that amnesty per se is good, we want peace to return to the Niger Delta but the question is; what is the aftermath of the amnesty? We want to know what will follow?”
Itâ€™s not enough to quarter the boys in dormitories and so on. They must be told that you were fighting on behalf of their people because of the criminal negligence of their area. At the same time there must be dialogue.
I remembered the federal attorney general said in Jos that â€œOkar, you have now been released this will create a forum to dialogueâ€. That has not come. So you find that the rush to implement the amnesty is not in our own interest.
â€œNumber two there have been series of reports from 1958 to this day. A summit was to be held in the early part of this year and the leaders and the elders of the Niger Delta said no weâ€™ve had enough of these reports, let us set up a committee to examine all the reports and these was done. And we thank Mr. President for yielding to our advice.
â€œA 45-man committee was set up which will review all the reports of how and why these people have been neglected and what should we do, what will be the solution. One should have expected that by now that report by the 45 man technical committee should have been implemented.
And the last point how do you have amnesty and asking the militants and their leaders to come out when JTF is still pointing guns at them in Gbaramatu. Itâ€™s there. And weâ€™ve heard about cases where some of these boys were shot to death.
So the JTF must now move out of the Niger Delta first of all from the creeks and they should return to their base.
â€œA situation where you have road blocks mounted by soldiers in Warri, in Yanegoa and in Port Harcourt is not healthy enough. We are a part of this country. We are not a conquered people. There are enough police men; The Inspector General of Police did recently; he sent 600 of his men to Anambra State to combat the rate of crime.
Similarly, there are very well trained mobile police men who should go into the creeks there. And the dialogue we are talking about we should be able to discuss; what do we do to these boys?
â€œAnd Iâ€™m one of those who believe that these militants they know everywhere in the creeks; engage them as supervisors of these pipelines; security men in these flow stations in their own areas; pay them adequately and youâ€™ll be surprised there will be peace in Nigeria.
Thatâ€™s the way I look at it. Because this was the issue we discussed before in 2005 to 2007 that these boys are human beings; some of them are graduates so when you say you want to train them; somebody was making a statement the other day that weâ€™ll put them into various compartment; those who want to goto primary school, those who want to go to secondary school. Is that an issue? You are underestimating the qualities of these boys.
â€œThe main fact that they agreed to hand over their ammunition they should be treated with respect. And I do not think, quote me that it is necessary in the interest of this growing boys to take their finger prints, thatâ€™s a very serious case. By now they should drop their guns you should take their photographs in whatever forms they are filing, their photographs should be attached to it but not take their finger prints like criminals or ex-convicts. I think this is all I want to sayâ€.