Niger Delta: President Umaru Yar’ Adua’s declares Amnesty

Niger Delta:  President Umaru Musa Yar’ Adua’s Amnesty for the Niger Delta militants but insists that militants who do not give up their arms and embrace offer of amnesty by October 4, 2009 will be considered “criminals” thereafter.

The details of the amnesty, signed by the President a 5pm yesterday, are to be released to the media tomorrow by 11am at a press conference by the Presidential Committee on Amnesty and Disarmament.

The unconditional pardon granted by the President also covers Mr. Henry Okah, who is currently undergoing trial in Jos, Plateau State, and Chief Government Kpemupolo (Tompolo) and other militant leaders declared wanted by the Joint Task Force (JTF).

Yar’Adua said the offer of amnesty is predicated on the willingness and readiness of the militants to give up all illegal arms in their possession, completely renounce militancy in all its ramifications unconditionally, and depose to an undertaking to this effect. 
This offer of amnesty is open to all militants for a period of sixty days. 

 Yar’Adua, in his amnesty proclamation, said after due consultation with the National Council of States and in exercise of the powers conferred upon him by the provisions of Section 175 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, “I hereby grant amnesty and unconditional pardon to all persons who have directly or indirectly participated in the commission of offences associated with militant activities in the Niger Delta;
“The pardon shall take effect upon the surrender and handing over of all equipment, weapons, arms and ammunition and execution of the renunciation of Militancy Forms specified in the schedule hereto, by the affected persons at the nearest collection centre established for the purpose of Government in each of the Niger Delta States;
“The unconditional pardon granted pursuant to this proclamation shall extend to all persons presently being prosecuted for offences associated with militant activities; and
“This proclamation shall cease to have effect from Sunday, 4th October 2009”.
He said the twin-challenge of democratic consolidation and economic regeneration “calls for unbridled patriotism and single-minded, people-focused, results-oriented, resolute and courageous leadership at all levels.  We cannot afford to fail.  Let us use today’s proclamation of amnesty to herald a new beginning for our Fatherland.
“As I append my signature to the Proclamation, I pray that Almighty God continues to bless our dear country, Nigeria.”

The National Council of State had earlier endorsed the much-anticipated proclamation of amnesty, but denied reports that the Former Chief of General Staff (CGS) Lt.-Gen. Oladipo Diya and 67 others convicted for the alleged attempt to overthrow the regime of the late Head of State, Gen. Sani Abacha, were to be pardoned by Yar’Adua.
The body, at the two-hour meeting which described the amnesty initiative as the boldest step taken by government in the history of Nigeria towards tackling the Niger Delta crisis, gave Yar’Adua the nod to announce the details and terms of the amnesty to the nation via nationwide wide broadcast.
Briefing State House correspondents after the meeting, Governors Timipre Sylva (Bayelsa); Ikedi Ohakim (Imo) and Modu Sherriff (Borno) disclosed that the approval followed exhaustive deliberations and commendation of Yar’Adua for adopting the approach.
Sylva commended the “boldness” of the initiative and said the “genuine militants” in Bayelsa State, for instance, have expressed willingness to take up the amnesty but stressed that at the lapse of the stipulated time, “criminals elements will be weeded out”.
The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Chief Michael Aondoakaa, described the amnesty offer as evidence by the Yar’Adua administration to show commitment and respect to human rights and resolve the Niger Delta crisis.
On the reported presidential pardon to be approved for Diya and co., Aondoakaa said: “I was surprised to see on the pages of newspapers today that the council will give pardon to certain categories of military officers. That did not come before council today it was not part of the agenda. It can be considered on a later date after due consultation with military authorities. Then it can be presented to council.”
He however disclosed that the Council approved pardon for some civilian prisoners, especially those that had been on death row for prolonged periods of up to 20 years.
He said the Council took note of an earlier circular issued by former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Alfa Belgore, instructing judicial officers to convert to life jail sentences any capital punishment not executed within two years.
“Let me clarify on the issue of amnesty. The Council is not the right body that is supposed to constitutionally advise Mr. President on Section 175 on the issue of the amnesty to the militants. The matter is being decided by the highest body (NCS) today to assure the international community and all Nigerians that we are prepared to follow the due process. We are prepared to respect human rights and follow the law in resolving this issue of Niger Delta,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Chief Coordinator of the Implementation Committee of the Presidential Amnesty for Niger Delta Militants, Air Vice Marshal Lo Ararile, will today address the media on the modalities for actualising the President’s proclamation of Amnesty for Niger Delta Militants.