The Federal Government’s refusal to adhere to internationally acceptable disarmament, demobilisation and rehabilitation (DDR) process as suggested by the Niger Delta Technical Committee has been blamed for the apathy towards the amnesty offer by militants in the region.
Chairman of the Niger Delta Technical Committee and head of the technical committee sub-committee on DDR, Mr. Anyakwee Nsirimovu, said the DDR process that the Niger Delta Technical Committee recommended did not envisage an arm buy-back strategy.
Nsirimovu explained that the apathy recorded so far towards the disarmament process is due to government not taking into consideration a long-term view of an internationally acceptable DDR process, which includes a just peace that is based on sustainable livelihood in the region, reduction of the level of small arms in circulation, punishing merchants of violence and oil bunkerers, and, ensuring that those who used their official positions to enthrone criminality for their personal selfish profits are made to face the law of the land.
He observed that the amnesty agenda is already succeeding in its very negative essence, by way of placing highest premium on individual militant leaders, over and above the real issues of contention by millions of citizens of the region. He said it is therefore critical for a participatory dialogue that produces a just peace for the people of the region, who have not only been at the receiving end, but from some real and unreal militants who turned their weapons on unsuspecting citizens and communities, to a large extent trapping their political economic and social freedom as well.
Meanwhile the Guardian reports that six days into the implementation of the amnesty package for militants in the Niger Delta, the Federal Government is seeking better ways to keep the exercise on track.
Senior government officials, who reviewed the progress made by the implementation panel yesterday, asserted that something needed to be done to check the poor response of militants to the state pardon. The officials said if the current tempo of response by the gunmen persisted, the government’s resolve to rid the region of arms and violence, and usher in development might not be realised.
And in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital yesterday, residents and workers in both the public and private sector did not observe the stay-at-home order of some elders of the Niger Delta, who declared August 11 as a non-violent day. The leaders led by elder statesman, Chief Edwin Kiagbodo Clark, last week slated a series of rally in the region to draw public attention to its exploitation by the Federal Government.
A source at the Ministry for the Niger Delta confirmed to The Guardian in Abuja yesterday that a retool of the amnesty deal was imminent.
To get the militants to surrender their arms, the official said the government would send delegations to meet state governors in the South-South and other top functionaries to seek their full support for President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua’s commitment to the amnesty deal.
He said officials had been selected to liaise with the nine state governors in the region to woo more militants to embrace the disarmament scheme.
It was learnt that some of the teams would leave Abuja today to commence the four-day talks with the region’s chief executives.
He said the teams would persuade the governors to use their offices to make the doubting militants of the government’s sincerity to embrace the disarmament process.
The amnesty deal started last Thursday and militants were asked to surrender their arms at designated areas and sign the disarmament register to benefit from the offer within 60 days.
The situation in Delta State was described by the official as very disturbing as no militant was yet to surrender arms at any of the centres in the state.
“The President has done his part by declaring the amnesty…more work needs to be done to make the militants respond to the amnesty…” he said.
In its response to the project yesterday, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) described it as a charade, claiming that it was tainted with bribery and corruption.
Also yesterday, the leader of the Niger Delta Vigilante, Ateke Tom, blamed the delay in his camp’s embrace of the offer on the failure of the Rivers State government to guarantee his safety in the post-amnesty period. But the government has denied the charge.
MEND spokesperson, Jomo Gbomo, who again dissociated the group from one Prince Joseph Etella Harry, who claimed to represent a faction of MEND controlled by Government Tompolo said: “MEND has no faction and has never interacted with this individual over the amnesty issue. Our integrity/reputation is something we will guard jealously at a time when criminals have tainted the amnesty programme with bribery and corruption.”
He alleged that certain individuals had been compromised to put up a show aimed at deceiving the public that the programme was on course. According to him, “MEND is watching the charade from a distance and can predict the outcome.”
So far, none of the known militant kingpins such as Dagogo Farah and Soboma George of MEND has surrendered his arms at the designated disarmament centres in the state.
Meanwhile, the Bayelsa State governor, Timipre Sylva, has denied allegations that he was giving substantial sums of money to militants to surrender their arms.
In a statement yesterday by his Chief Press Secretary, Diofie Ola, the governor said he never paid N250 million to repentant militant leader, Mr. Ebikabowei Victor Ben, a.k.a. Boyloaf, to facilitate his acceptance of the amnesty offer.
Boyloaf was among 32 militant leaders led by Sylva last week to meet with the President to formally renounce militant activities and accept the state pardon. But a national daily (not The Guardian) had alleged that Boyloaf was induced with payout to accept the peace deal.
He said: “Boyloaf was not induced or cajoled. In fact, people with deep understanding of the state of militancy in the Niger Delta know perfectly that payout is not an option. No money was paid to Boyloaf.”