…As 61 N’Delta agitators decry fund diversion
By Dayo Johnson & Jimitota Onoyume
AKURE—FORMER militants in the riverine areas of Ondo State, yesterday, issued a 21-day ultimatum to the Ondo State government to return their guns and ammunition collected under the guise of incorporating them in the Amnesty Programme of the Federal Government last year.
This was as no fewer than 61 ex-agitators in the Niger Delta region alleged diversion of their stipends by the amnesty office and calling on the House of Representatives to investigate the alleged fraud.
No fewer than 2,000 ex-militants were asked to surrender their arms and ammunition in Ondo State following the intervention of the state government which then promised that they would be incorporated into the Amnesty programme.
For reneging on the promise and alleged deceit by the state government since November last year, the former militants declared the riverine communities of the state a no-go area for the 2019 electioneering campaign.
Speaking on behalf of the aggrieved former militants in Ilaje and Ese-Odo Local Government Areas of Ondo State, General Ogailo Ibory said: “We are saying this because if at the end of the 21 days the government does not return our guns they deceived us to take, we will hold the entire riverine areas of Ondo, Ogun and Lagos states to ransom.
“Especially for Ondo State, no one should come to the riverine areas for any electioneering campaign. We are prepared for the worst.”
Ibory said: “We are issuing this statement because we are tired of the unfulfilled promises of the Ondo State Government that collected our guns since last year without any effort to make us benefit from the Amnesty Programme of the Federal Government.
“Last year, we heeded to the appeal of the Ondo State Government through the Deputy Governor, Agboola Ajayi and the Commissioner for Lands and Housing, Donald Ojogo, who came to the creeks to carry the six Epe students we kidnapped in protest.
“That time, they promised to work out an amnesty for us and we, thereafter, agreed to drop our guns. Up till now, we have been abandoned and no one is talking to us, they have used and dumped us in the creeks and since last year, amnesty is not coming.
“We are using this medium to request the Ondo State Government to kindly return our guns that they took from us since last year within 21 days. We are very serious and we are prepared for anything that will follow.”
61 N’Delta agitators decry fund diversion
Meanwhile, in a letter addressed to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Yakubu Dogara through their counsel, N.S. Egin, the ex-agitators, under the aegis of Niger Delta Ex-Agitators Forum, alleged that names of genuine ex-agitators were replaced by fraudulent officials in the amnesty office, thus robbing them of their stipends.
Their lawyer said: “Our clients have records of our members, who have been denied their financial entitlements ranging from monthly stipends of N65, 000 to refusal for enlistment into the amnesty training programme.
“Our client believes strongly that the money meant for this category of ex-agitators was diverted. Most of the genuine beneficiaries of the programme have been stepped down while their slots were filled with either fictitious names or names of cronies, who were never part of the programme from the onset.”
“In many cases, the names of genuine beneficiaries are used by some of the militant generals to siphon funds with the active participation of the officials of the amnesty office. Our client made several attempts to get the amnesty to carry out a comprehensive internal audit/investigation so as to fix this problem but to no avail.
“In view of the foregoing, our client has instructed us to call on you to invoke your constitutional powers to set in motion an investigation with a view to unravelling the way and manner the funds of the amnesty office is utilized.”
Amnesty office reacts
Reacting, Chairman of the Publicity Sub- committee of the Amnesty Programme in the state, Donald Ojogo appealed to the aggrieved former militants to exercise patience with the Ondo State government
Ojogo said: “It is true the Ondo State Government brokered the arms surrender deal that was approved by the Presidency. As I am talking to you now, the Deputy Governor who risked his life to drive that process is on top of the situation.
“We cannot come to press and give details of his efforts that are ongoing. But I can assure you that very soon, their expectations would be met. They should not just allow themselves to be used by selfish politicians and crisis entrepreneurs who tried but failed in their desperate moves to frustrate the amnesty offer for them.
“What we did was to engender peace and ensure there is an enabling environment for investors in the riverine areas of not just Ondo State but Ogun and Lagos states.”