By Jimitota Onoyume
RESPONSE of militants in Rivers State to the presidential amnesty has been very positive. A day after it was pronounced in Abuja , a dreaded militant leader, Mr. Solomon Ndigbare aka Osama Bin Laden was the first to embrace the exercise in the state.
He surrendered his arms before Mr. Mike Okiro who then was the Inspector- General of Police and other principal security officers in the state at a ceremony in his Ogoni village.
And two weeks later Osama Bin Laden who told Vanguard that his name has changed to Brother Solomon led over twenty of his boys to embrace the amnesty at the arms collection centre in Okrika. He ensured his boys were documented that day. The boys too looked excited to be quitting militancy and other related crime.
In an interview later with newsmen that day Brother Solomon as he now choses to be called said he was willing to take the message of peace round communities in the three local government areas of Ogoni land. According to him, there was no alternative to peaceful life. He said since he abandoned militancy he had found peace with himself and his soul. He passionately appealed to other youths still in the creeks to come forward to embrace the offer.
Osama or Brother Solomon and his group were not the only ones there that day. Prince Wisdom Amachree aka General Adekunle and Worgu Justice aka General J.J also led about fifty boys to key into the amnesty project.Â Prince Wisdom said he is from Buguma in Asari Toru local government area of the state and was the second in command to Asari Dokubo.
He said he led the boys that held the state hostage for several years under a militant platform founded by Alhaji Asari Dokubo. Like Osama Bin Laden he too said he had embraced the pardon for militants in the region by the federal government. His boys were documented that day as well.
General Adekunle led the police to recover 26 brand new AK47, seven used AK 47 riffle, one K2 riffle, nine hundred rounds of live ammunition, and 7.62 mm in eleven boxes allegedly belonging to the Asari group where he said he was the second in command.
Worgu Justice told news men that he was in charge of militant activities in Omuma and Etche local government areas of Rivers State. He said he had about forty eight boys under him. He said he was a graduate from the Rivers State Polytechnic Bori,. According to him, he submitted a land riffle and twenty five pieces of ammunition to the amnesty committee.
On that day about seventy ex-militants with their leaders were documented by the amnesty committee at the arms collection centre.
The euphoria brought about by this development had hardly died down when Soboma George led over twenty of his boys toÂ key into the amnesty project at the office of the State Security Service in Port Harcourt. On hand to receive them were the Honorary Special adviser to the President on Niger Delta, Mr. Timi Alaibe, Coordinator of the amnesty Committee, Air Vice Marshal Lucky
Ararile and other top security officers in the state.Â Soboma George submitted over twenty riffles and several rounds of live ammunition. He said he was happy with the amnesty project just as he urged the state government not to make real its threat to demolish water fronts in Port Harcourt .
According to him, it would generate more crisis and conflict for the state.
Soboma was the head of the Outlaws and a frontline member of the Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta (MEND). Before he floated the Outlaws, he was reportedly with Ateke Tom where he was said to be his second in command.
Soboma George escaped from a jail break at the Port Harcourt prisons in the early life of the administration of the civilian administration of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo as President and Dr Peter Odili as governor of Rivers State
Media Coordinator of the Committee for the implementation of the presidential amnesty, Dr Timiebi Koripamo Agary was very elated that day.
In chat with Vanguard while the documentation was going on, she wondered the degree of havoc the reformed militants would have been able to wreck on society with the amount of arms and ammunition in their possession. â€œNine hundred rounds of ammunition is big.
It can over run the country. I want to appreciate the militants that came up to surrender. I want to appeal to the militants to feel secured. I know they are worried about personal security, they are safeâ€, she assured them that day.
It is necessary to note that positive response from the circle of militants to the amnesty has brought about an appreciable reduction in the level of hostage taking and other related crime in the state. Despite the heavy presence of men of the Joint Task Force in Port Harcourt hostage taking before the pronouncement of the presidential amnesty was a regular feature in the state.
It kept reoccurring but soon as the militants keyed into the exercise it dropped. In the last three weeks or more there has been no reported case of abduction which is an indication that the crime index has really dropped.
Meanwhile at the time of this piece, nothing much in connection with embracing the amnesty project seem to be coming from the camp of Farah Dagogo, another militant leader in the state said to be in control of Tombia and other neighbouring areas.
Sobomabo Jack Reece aka Egberipapa is another name that would probably have keyed into the exercise at the early stage. Before the federal government came up with the amnesty pronouncement he had submitted himself for a peace talk at the palace of the Amanyanabo of Kalabari where he was picked up by men of the Joint Task Force. Sources say he is still languishing in the custody of security operatives.
Ateke Tom at press time was yet to key into the amnesty project. Sources close to him said he was not sure of safety after the amnesty in the state.
Governor Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi on his part continually assured him and other militants that would genuinely key into the amnesty project of the strong resolve of the state government to welcome them back into the state as responsible citizens who were now set to contribute meaningfully to the growth and development of the state.
At the time of this report, the media director of the amnesty committee, Dr Agary said Ateke had shown convincing interest to embrace the amnesty. She said the committee was already documenting his boys. And she was sure he would submit himself and his boys for the exercise before it expires on October 4
However, Asari Dokubo, was not in the state. For people like Prince Amachree, Asari started the militancy movement in the state and the region with him as the second in command. But Asari some time in Port Harcourt said he was not a militant and as such did not need the amnesty.Â He could not be reached for comment on his mobile line.
According to the media coordinator of the amnesty committee, Dr Agary the amnesty project is in three phases, disarmament, demobilization and reintegration. However, there were fears, that the federal government does not seem to have a clear programme of reintegration and rehabilitation for the militants.
References are hastily made to the occasional acts of rampage by ex militants in Bayelsa for their allowances. How true this is only time will tell.
But the general advice is that the government should take practical steps to consolidate on the peace the amnesty has brought to the region by ensuring that none of the repentant militants or other youths in the area would have any reason to go back to militancy or criminality.