By Emma Amaize and Festus Ahon
EX-MILITANTS who are undergoing different skill acquisition programmes in Sapele, Delta State, Monday, abandoned their training activities and laid siege to the Warri-Benin road for up to three hours.
The ex-militants, drawn from Bayelsa, Delta, Rivers and Edo, according to our findings, were protesting the poor feeding arrangement by the Federal Government and non-payment of housing allowances, which they put at between N300, 000 to N350, 000 for each of them.
They barricaded the road with woods and tyres, forcing motorists coming into Sapele to turn back. Only motor-cyclists were able to access the town while the protest lasted.
Nevertheless, soldiers and other security agents were deployed to monitor the ex-militants and ensure that they did not take laws into their hands.
The Chairman of Sapele Local Government Area, Mr. Godwin Atose, reportedly came to address the ex-militants and pleaded with them to accept N3, 000 each from the council for feeding but they refused.
It was gathered, however, that they started dispersing as at 2:00 p.m. and one of them told Vanguard: “We are heading to the Sapele Local Government Council”.
A member of the Presidential Committee on Amnesty, Mr. Kingsley Kuku, who spoke to Vanguard on the demonstration said he was just returning from the United Kingdom and got the news of the protest barely 10 minutes after.
He said he had spoken with an ex_militant leader, Mr. Ezekiel Akpasubio from the area to find out what the grievances were and from what he was told, the boys were asking for a housing allowance of between N300,000 – N350,000.
Mr. Kuku said the Presidential Committee did not make provision for such an allowance but whatever name it is called, the case the ex_militants were making was that they should be paid some allowance to take care of their wives and children, who they have left behind at home to participate in the government’s peace training programme.
“Except for the name they are calling it, I don’t see anything wrong in their demand, it can be called a transitional allowance or whatever but speaking for myself, I think the government should look into their demands so as not to scuttle the amnesty programme”, he said.
He said the Presidential Committee on Amnesty had duly informed the Presidency of the demand of the ex_militants and was waiting for further instruction, pointing out that the demonstration by the ex_militants for housing allowance started with the first batch of the 20,192 that were trained in Obubra in Cross River State .
Kuku asserted that even if the amount is N350, 000, it was not too much for the Federal Government to pay to the 20,192 registered ex_militants, as the consequences of allowing them to continue with the protest would disastrous to the country.
He, on the other hand, cautioned the boys to be patient as the Presidential Committee had made a request on their behalf and they should allow some time for the Federal Government to attend to their matter.