JUST 24 hours to tomorrowâ€™s amnesty deadline, the most powerful militant leader in Nigeria and the General Officer Commanding (GOC) of militants in the Niger-Delta, Government Ekpemupolo, alias Tompolo is expected to publicly accept amnesty with over 3,000 militants under his command and also handover at least 500 weaponsÂ to the Federal Government today (Saturday, October 3).
The Joint Task Force (JTF) on the Niger-Delta (JTF) was understood to be keyed up about the development, as it sees Tompolo as one of the greatest obstacles to the peace process in the region, but, the Commander, Major-General Sarkin Yarkin-Bello could not be immediately reached for comments.
Saturday Vanguard gathered on good authority that the last of theÂ titans, Tompolo has,Â however,Â decided that the ceremony, which will take place in one ofÂ the creek communities in Gbaramatu kingdom, Warri South-West Local Government Area of Delta State would be devoid of pageantryÂ Â and the Minister of Defence, Major-General Godwin Abbe (rtd), who is also the chairman of the Presidential Panel on Amnesty and Disarmament of Militants, according to accessible information,Â willÂ lead the Federal Government delegation to receive the armaments.
The news that Tompolo will surrender today was first broken to Saturday Vanguard at about 7.00 am yesterday by one of his foot soldiers before a dependable â€œcommanderâ€ inÂ his camp later confirmed the information.
The foot soldier asserted, â€œOga (Tompolo) is going to surrender tomorrow (today), they have sent message to us all the boys to bring back the arms in our possession, we are looking at about 500 apart from the ones the soldiers confiscated during the Cordon and Search operationâ€.
â€œAll the boys are going about to bring out the guns they are holding from where they hide them because we have got orders now to return the arms back to the GOCâ€, he added.
Baring any odd, Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan who traveled out of the country for the Governorsâ€™ Global Climate Summit in the United States of America , but, had been talking to Tompolo on phone to surrender latest tomorrow was expected to have flown in to Nigeria , last night, for todayâ€™s epochal event.
Saturday Vanguard learnt that the minor misunderstanding between Major_General Abbe and Tompolo over the temperament of the former during their first meeting at Oporoza has since been ironed out, as the Minister had spoken to Tompolo after then.
Besides Major-General Abbe and Governor Uduaghan, who may send a representative if he failed to make it today, the Special Adviser to the President on the Niger-Delta, Mr. Timi Alaibe is also said to be one of the key facilitators of todayâ€™s affair. The coordinator of the Sub-Committee on Disarmament, Air-Vice Marshal Lucky Ararile is expected to move the arms that will be turned in by Tompolo and his men away for safekeeping.
Spokesman of the traditional ruler of Gbaramatu kingdom and member of the Delta Waterways Security Committee (DWSC), Chief Dennis Otuaro confirmed to Saturday Vanguard that His Royal Majesty, Pere Godwin Bebenimibo practically prevailed on Tompolo, who is one of his subjects to accept amnesty and surrender his arms to the government.
The chat between Saturday Vanguard and Tompoloâ€™s lieutenant yesterday went thus:
I got a call before this meeting with you earlier today that your boss, Tompolo will formally accept amnesty and surrender arms tomorrow (today)?
Who told you?
One of the boys just called to tell me but is it true?
Well, there is something like that for tomorrow that is why I was asked to meet and brief you
So, where is the ceremony going to take place, here in Warri or Abuja, Ateke Tom went to Abuja on October 1 to surrender to President Umaru Yarâ€™Adua?
Tompolo doesnâ€™t want something like a jamboree; it is going to be a simple and quiet event
Is he attaching any condition because I know he was talking about extension of the October 4 deadline for a proper homework to be done?
All he is doing is in good fate for the people of Niger-Delta but some people were misunderstanding him and he does not want an erroneous impression to be created.
I will come to that later, but, what I can tell you is that Tompolo wants the Federal Government to demilitarize the Niger-Delta.
He does not believe the military has any role to play in the oil and gas sector and he strongly thinks that anything security in the creek communities should be left to the host communities to handle.
You see, what the soldiers do behind the scene in the oil communities is terrible, those who posted them there and stay in Yenagoa, Warri and Abuja do not know what is going on.
For instance, few days ago, there was a shooting incidence where soldiers, who have been occupying Camp 5 since they attacked and took over the place in May, just started shooting indiscriminately at the direction of the village, causing panic everywhere.
Their leader there claimed he got information that some people wanted to attack them, but, the authorities found out it was true, I think they invited the person that gave the order to shoot to discipline him, the point I am making that these soldiers are overzealous in the way they do things and leaving them around will cause more problem.
He also wants the government to give license to qualified members of the host communities to be engaged in the oil business to give them a sense of belonging while Ijaws should be political space in the country.
We want more Ijaw states and local governments since the wealth of the country, which is derived from our areas is shared based on local governments, states and other indices.
Above all, he wants the government to have a concrete post_amnesty plan for the people they are making to lay down their arms.
You cannot tell them to go and form cooperative society of say 10 persons in one group, after which you will give a group N1 million and tell them to start something with it, what will somebody do with N100,000 capital, the government should make adequate plan.
Tompolo asked for extension of time to enable him contact his boys that are scattered in the creeks with arms, has he been able to do that before deciding to hand over?
Well, some people were creating a wrong impression that he was asking for extension of the deadline in order to buy time and acquire more arms to fight the government. But that is not his intention at all.
You see, this is a man that is already rich but he is concerned about the sufferings and deprivations of his people.
He wanted a thorough job to be done because it will be bad for the government if after setting a time to the amnesty programme, the thing fails because some people who ought to accept amnesty and surrender arms did not do so because certain things, which ought to be done correctly were not done.
Now, that they seem to be in so much hurry and people are pressurizing him to surrender, he has reached out to those he was able to reach, and will, therefore, surrender the weapons he has at least to let them know that he is not against amnesty and also prove those who are painting him as a Devil wrong.
I learnt he is going to submit up to 500 weapons?
Let us not speculate on the number yet until he surrenders. He is not a dishonest person. Remember the JTF told the whole world that they invaded Camp 5 and other satellite branches and confiscated all their weapons, which the militants abandoned.
They also told you people (press) that they ransacked our armories all that. If Tompolo was not a straightforward person, he would accept amnesty and leave his arms, claiming he has no arms to surrender since the JTF said they have seized our arms, but, he is desirous to help the government to mop up all the arms in the possession of his men and he only asked for extension of time for a thorough job to be done but since they donâ€™t want to extend the time and want him to surrender whatever he has, he is going to do that.
But is it not true that he and others were planning a counter attack under the auspices of MEND after the deadline?
That is the misinformation and misrepresentation I am talking about. Some people are deliberately misconstruing him and dishing out such information and itâ€™s because he wants to prove them wrong that he has decided to surrender.
He does not want anybody to launch attack on his people under the pretext that he refused to surrender. So the government should take it the way they see it thereafter.