SOME ex-militants have served the Federal Government a seven-day deadline to act decisively on the Boko Haram insurgency and on the activities of other ethnic militias or see them return to the Niger Delta creeks.
Their ultimatum was contained in a seven-point communiqué issued yesterday in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, by the Coalition of Ex-Concerned Agitators and the Social Restoration Foundation (SOREF).
Besides the ultimatum, the ex-agitators alleged in the communiqué that the amnesty process had been hijacked by people who did not mean well for the youths of the Niger Delta.
According to them, most of the people being trained and empowered under the amnesty programme by the committee had nothing to do with the struggle that brought about the amnesty.
The communiqué was signed by “Commander” Bestman Probel, representing the ex-agitators; Dr. Terry Bagia for SOREF, as well as Ronald Onuosa and Comrade C. Opurum as consultants.
But the Amnesty Office, through its Head of Media and Communication, Dan Alabra, described the allegations as spurious and unfounded.
Alabra, in a telephone chat last night, warned that security men would do their job, if the ex-militants decided to return to the creeks.
Alabra said: “Unknown ex-militants could issue ultimatum but they should remember that some of them who returned to the creeks after the Federal Government’s amnesty offer regretted doing so.”
The ex-militants’ communiqué reads: “We wish to sternly warn all ethnic militias threatening the peace of the nation, especially the Boko Haram boys, that ours was not an ethnic agenda and that all ethnic nationalities have the constitutional rights to rule this country.
“We hereby issue an ultimatum of seven days to the Federal Government to look into the issues raised, to forestall the breakdown of law and order and sustain the peace, tranquillity and the ambient business environment enjoyed in the Niger Delta today.
“The members of the committee (amnesty) bring in relatives and friends and people they owe favour, short-changing the real fighters. We hereby condemn this action and call for an independent investigation to confirm this.
“The few genuine fighters who have been trained have not been properly re-integrated into the society, as they are trained and not to be able to put food on their table or secure gainful employment.
“This portends grave consequences, as the people have no other means of livelihood, even as the NDDC (the Niger Delta Development Commission) has vehemently refused to listen to the boys, except some few leaders. We condemn this in totality, because the Niger Delta belongs to us all and not just few persons.
“The foremost lieutenants in the struggle have not been trained or benefited from the process so far. All attempts to secure such training have being futile, in form of insensitivity on the part of the people handling the amnesty process.
“The committee (amnesty) only trains people to become artisans and low-income earners. If you wish to go for degree programme or masters’, you will wait endlessly even after fulfilling all requirements and passed necessary examinations.
“The process has been so mismanaged, to the point that even the monthly stipends meant for the boys are being shared by most leaders and their accomplices in the amnesty office. They have their allowances being short-changed by the same system that was meant to empower them.”
The ex-militants claimed to have uncovered a syndicate, which slashes their monthly stipends. They called for an investigation of their claims.
The amnesty office’s spokesman, however, stated that the Special Adviser to President Goodluck Jonathan on Niger Delta Affairs, Kingsley Kuku, who oversees the amnesty programme, would never be distracted by some disgruntled youths.
Alabra insisted that the few protesting Niger Delta youths were being used, stressing that it was all about politics, while the amnesty programme had received global acclaim, with the template set by the United Nations (UN) being used.
He maintained that the amnesty office did not owe any ex-militant monthly stipends, except a few, who had issues with their papers.
Alabra said: “They (protesting ex-agitators) will be shocked that the programme will end in 2015 and they will not be captured, an indication that they may eventually not benefit from the programme while they continue with their agitation.
“President Goodluck Jonathan gave approval for 3,642 more Niger Delta ex-militants to be absorbed into the amnesty programme, which some people call the third phase, bringing the total to 30,000 youths, but they must be verified, based on arms submitted to the verification committee put in place by the Chief of Defence Staff Vice Admiral Ola Ibrahim and not merely submitting dane guns, but Ak-47 and GPMC, among other weapons.
“Why are they bothered about slots? They just want to make money from the amnesty programme and not to be properly trained. We know the genuine ex-freedom fighters. Persons who signed the communiqué with fictitious names should not be taken seriously. Where are their camps in the Niger Delta? Are they just waking up to make claims?”
Alabra admonished Niger Delta youths to be law abiding so as to benefit from the Federal Government’s transformation agenda.