Post Amnesty: Why The ‘Boys’ Are Angry

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Perhaps the first to recognise the signs were the militant leaders. Even before protests of the ex-militants flared out in tandem in various states, leader of the Niger Delta Vigilante Force, Ateke Tom, alarm about the failure to pay the ex-militants in camp their stipends as at when due and claimed to have supplemented from his pocket. Another militant leader from the Delta State axis, Chief Government Ekpemupulo aka Tompolo reacted similarly.

There is palpable discontent over  the post-amnesty deal for ex-Niger Delta militants.  At least two Niger Delta states hosting the rehabilitation camps, Rivers, Bayelsa as well as Edo have been given rude reminders that a leopard does not easily loose its spots as unhappy “ex-militants” registered their discontent over the manner the post-amnesty deal is panning out.

Just last Monday, March 15, the venue of a post-Amnesty conference hosted by the Delta State government of Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan was rocked by two succesine bomb blast forcing the governor, three of his fellow governors, former Chief Army Staff, General O. Azazi (rtd) and other disguitaries to run for cover. The Movement for Emancipation of Niger Delta (MEND), which claimned responsibility said its intent was to end “the deceit of endless dialogue.”

Expectedly, there is unease in communities that host rehabilitation camps and in deed the states that suffered the effects of militant activities as the boys, begin to rumble, raising the spectre of another era of militant activity occasioned by a possible failure of the post-amnesty deal. It is a prospect nobody wants to contemplate but it seems, from the way  the deal has proceeded so far we are systematically plodding towards another amnesty failure.

Spokesperson of the Amnesty Committee, Timiebi Koripamo-Agary had earlier made some statements to try to reassure the increasing number of Nigerians apprehensive about the post amnesty drift still it is looking more like a case of deja vice when  in 2004, former President Olusegun Obasanjo struck a deal with militants then spearheaded by Mujahid  Asari Dokubo. The deal hinged partly on a arms for cash arrangement unravelled and Asari Dokubo was hurled  into detention and subjected into a  seemingly endless energy sapping trial; while nothing substantial was done to address the cause Asari and company had claimed to be fighting. But some of the ingredients that led to the failure of that deal are already discernible.

Perhaps the first to recognise the signs were the militant leaders. Even before protests of the ex-militants flared out in tandem in various states, leader of the Niger Delta Vigilante Force, Ateke Tom, alarm about the failure to pay the ex-militants in camp their stipends as at when due and claimed to have supplemented from his pocket. Another militant leader from the Delta State axis, Chief Government Ekpemupulo aka Tompolo reacted similarly.

A visit by The Tide On Sunday to the rehabilitation camp for the ex-militants at Aluu, Rivers State was blunted to the extent that the reporter was denied access to the camps by soldiers, but what could be seen easily was the expression of frustration on the faces of a couple of the inmates sighted.

Sources around the camp, said the ex-militants in the camp threatened to pull down the camp out of anger over the irregular payment of their allowances and such reports add to concerns earlier expressed.

In the wake of the Warri Bombing, the National Assembly lent its voice to the call that the post Amnesty process be reinuigorated. Even so, there were invication that the federal government ws planning a reaction to the groming concern about the pace of the post-Amnesty programme

Since his ascension as Nigeria’s Acting president, Goodluck Jonathan has taken two steps to douse the discontent.

Firstly at the last National Ijaw Day celebrations held in Yenagoa with the theme “the New Kaiama,” he reiterated that all issues bordering on development in the Niger Delta region would be addressed.  

Jonathan, who spoke through the presidential adviser on parastals, Braeyi Ekiye, told the gathering with representatives from seven Niger Delta states including Ondo that, “We have received the Ledum Mitee report and we are looking into the recommendations to guarantee the development of the various communities”. If the wholesale delivery of the Justice Uwais report to the Senate recently could serve as a reference point then there was something to cheer about the Acting President’s reassurance.

Secondly, according to reports  published Friday, March 12, the Acting President had directed then Finance Minister, Dr. Mansur Muktar, to immediately approve fundsfor the rehabilitation and reintegration of the ex-militants in the Niger Delta following complaints by the Sub-committee on Disarmament, Rehabilitation and Reintegration of rependant militants that lack of funds was frustrating efforts to make the programme take-off fully.

In all, N56.2 billion was approved for the training of the ex-militants said to number 20,192, registered with the Presidential Amnesty Committee. Though statements credited to then Minister of Internal Affairs Godwin Abe, a retired Major General, that only 1,500 “genuine”  ex-militants will be given the training elicited a firestorm of protest from militant groups and opinion leaders in the region.

Still, a top member of the Presidential Sub-committee on Rehabilitation and Re-integration of the militant was billed to see the ex-militants encamped at “rehabilitation” centres in Aluu, Rivers State and Agbarho and Egbokodo-Itsekiri in Delta State next month (April) one of the issue tht would confront them is whill you refirm that the structure of financing the post-amnesty rehabilitation programme seemed designed to benefit resource persons more that it benefits the ex-militants.

Also redolent of the Obasanjo-Asari Dokubo amnesty deal was the accusations that trailed the militant leaders then and led to its breakdown. Then some factions accused others of benefiting at their expenses , eventually Asari was arrested on  charges of treason and like an intractable monster, the militant movement became hyra-headed  with many groups carving out territories for themselves like ganglords. Even the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) which claimed commands actually seemed a federation of militant leaders. When the amnesty deal came, the vocal face of MEND balked at the idea, but virtually all of its touted commanders embraced the 60-day amnesty programme for militants and even criminals pretending otherwise to lay down their weapons and be immune from prosecution.

Factional leaders that benefited from the programme include Ateke Tom, Farah Dagogo, Soboma George, Soboma Jackreece, Boyloaf and Tompolo. Henry Okah who like Asari in the past, had become the public force and head of MEND following his arrest and deportation on gun running charges from Angola also gained freedom as he was released from his treason trial, while Okah went abroad to reunite with his family, Boy loaf  and others made statement to underscore how lose and bond weak the how was between the so-called MEND commanders. Of course Mujahid Asari who querried the blanket amnesty maintained that he and his Niger Delta Peoples Volunteer Force are not militants but nationalists.

Now, on the one hand, the ex-militants are frustrated because the man, President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua who granted them the amnesty with promises to meet their demands has been away not because he reneged but because of his poor health, they also seem at a loss as to how exactly to key into the emergence of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan their “Niger Delta son,” as acting president. But on the other hand, the obvious signs of mistrust amongst the groups and between the leaders and the foot soldiers are manifesting.

A group of militants announced recently that it had broken ranks with MEND, which has continuously portrayed itself as the mainstream militant group in the region. The group which calls itself as the Niger Delta Survival Movement averred that the mainstream group had lost focus and pointedly inferred that MEND goals were not in tandem with the aspirations of the Niger Delta people it claimed  to represent.

“We have arrived at this painful but necessary decision, after watching in utter dismay as MEND, which was formed to lead a revolution for the freedom and development of the region, become an avenue for the perpetration of the same evil it was set up to fight,” Black Gold stated as he justified his movements reasons for breaking away.

“we are ashamed indeed to disclose that MEND has become a tool for self enrichment and aggrandisement.  The deception and manipulation of our courgeous fighters for the personal benefit of a few leaders in MEND will emerge as the saddest experience in the history of the Niger Delta struggle,” the statement sent to The statement further stated.

The Niger Delta survival movement alleged that rather than be with the boys in the camps, MEND leaders were hibernating in government houses doing contracts and cruising in choice vehicles while trying to portray itself as a moderate movement. But it warned that it would be a “regretful error to misread this position as weakness”.

“We will cooperate with the federal government as long as there is irreversible commitment to the logical conclusion of the post amnesty programme. To this end, we will restrain our fighters and remain faithful to all programmes directed at the improvement of the lives of majority of Niger Deltans”, the statement added while expressing the hope that those it described as the “enemies within” will turn a new leaf.  

 

Noble Ikpamii